Annual Letter to Members, 2007

Dear Friends of Hemlock Gorge:

As 2007 draws to a close, we again write to update you on the activities of the Friends. In addition, we appeal to you to renew your membership and your personal and financial commitment to our activities in 2008.

In 2008, we will continue to work with the Department of Conservation and Recreation and its Urban Park Bureau. We will also continue our partnership with newly appointed Site Supervisor Erica Uramkin and former supervisor Kevin Hollenbeck who is now a DCR manager. We hope you will share our pleasure in the accomplishments of 2007 and our hopes for 2008.

Rescuing the Echo Bridge Promenade

On March 17, 2006 the Massachusetts Water Resources Authority (MWRA) closed Echo Bridge. However, in response to the efforts of the Friends and local officials and residents, the MWRA installed temporary fencing and re-opened the Bridge. To secure a permanent solution, the Friends and community leaders have worked through with the legislature to secure funding for the needed repairs, and $250,000 for the “Echo Bridge Safety Project” was appropriated in 2007 and is now in the hands of the MWRA.

As the photo shows, walks on the Bridge are still possible, but action to repair the railings is imperative.

The MWRA has conducted a study of possible repair strategies. Historically correct repairs would cost $1 million. The Friends plan to assist the MWRA to secure the remaining $750,000 that is needed. One possibility is to secure Community Preservation Act funds from Newton ($500,000) and Needham ($250,000). We will also continue to seek out alternative strategies to possibly repair and preserve the existing railings in place. The full text of the MWRA report is available as a PDF file for downloading at our website.

The Friends’ Web site ( )

The Friends’ Web site, online since 1996, continues to generate interest and inquiries from far and wide. There have been nearly 26,000 visitors to our site and more than 5,000 visitors to Ken Newcomb’s book on the history of Newton Upper Falls, Makers of the Mold. The web site continues to be one of our major assets.

Combating the Woolly Adelgid (

The long struggle to save the trees in Hemlock Gorge is in the hands of Mother Nature. In 2001 we released 15,000 ladybugs to eat the adelgids. Since then we have conducted periodic inspections of the trees during our cleanups and found some reason for optimism. Several “sentinel trees” show some evidence of a reduction in adelgid infestation, and many trees that seemed imperiled show new growth. However, a number, perhaps a half dozen, of the hemlocks have died, and the prognosis for the hemlocks is still guarded. We will keep everyone apprised of the state of the trees.

The Stone Building

Restoration of the Stone Building off Rte. 9 will continue in 2008. We have already made the floor level and safe by pouring a concrete floor. DCR management assures us that the DCR will replace the three windows overlooking the circular dam with historically correct, secure replacements. The bricks in the openings slated for new windows have already been removed and replaced with plywood. Funding for the windows came from the trustees of The Charles River Neighborhood Foundation, Alderman Amy Mah Sangiolo and John Sangiolo, who have generously provided a grant of $1,000.

The faulty electric service in the building is on priority repair list of both the Friends and the DCR. The failure of nearby streetlights is being investigated by the Newton Fire Department.

Cleanups of the Reservation

We again conducted spring and fall cleanups of the Gorge. In addition, in an effort spearheaded by Rick Pearson, we have also worked to clear brush. These efforts, together with regular attention by DCR staff, have kept the Reservation clean and appealing. Graffiti continues to be a serious a problem in , and there is defacement that we will work with DCR to remove in the spring. We also met with local police at our October meeting to formulate a plan for better surveillance of the property. We have also asked DCR for better signage to discourage trespassing after dark with its attendant vandalism.

Our Annual Picnic becomes a Concert Event

In 2007, for the second time, we had live music at our Summer Picnic. Greg Burroughs, a 21 year old vocalist, and his accompanist Kenny Silva provided the music for us. Friends member Karen Osborne Shanley provided generous support for the event.

Farewells to Hank and Sarah

As many of you know, Hank Lysaght passed away suddenly in October. He was a long time member, supporter and activist for both the Friends and other community organizations. His contributions were many and his good humor was unfailing. He will be sorely missed.

We also lost our poet laureate Sarah Hannah who passed away suddenly in May. Sarah was a long time supporter of the Friends and her unique literary contribution to our efforts will also be sorely missed.

Please give us your financial support so that we can continue to send out mailings, maintain our website, and feed volunteers at our cleanups. Funds beyond those needed for routine operations will pay for the specific physical improvements described above. Enclosed is a return envelope to make your response easy. Please fill out the membership card and return it. Dues categories are listed on the card. We ask that you give us your email address to help reduce our postal costs and get you information faster; it is never shared with anyone.

Our ability to enhance Hemlock Gorge is limited only by our imagination and enthusiasm. If you’d like to take part, please call or email us or attend one of our monthly meetings in the Emerson Community Center on Pettee Street in Upper Falls. Meetings are held at 7:30 p.m. on the first Tuesday of most months. Exceptions are for elections or holidays. Dates are given in the meeting minutes sent to members, and the web site has up-to-date information. Your attendance is always extremely welcome!

Except for the loss of Hank and Sarah, 2007 was a good year for the Friends. We trust 2008 will be even better. Please be part of our work. Your support is needed more than ever.

With best wishes,

Brian Yates, President

John P. Mordes, M.D., Membership Coordinator and Webmaster