Annual Letter to Members, 2008

Dear Friends of Hemlock Gorge:

As 2008 draws to a close, we 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 2009.

In 2009, we will continue to work with the Department of Conservation and Recreation and its Urban Park Bureau. We will also continue our partnership with Site Supervisor Erica Aubin and former Site Supervisor and DCR administrator Kevin Hollenbeck. We hope you will share our pleasure in the accomplishments of 2008 and our hopes for 2009.

Wonderful News about The Stone Building

Restoration of the Stone Building will take a huge step forward in 2009. After years of advocacy by the Friends, site supervisor Erica Aubin has announced that the new windows for the Stone Building  have been fabricated and are just awaiting installation! Congratulations to Erica and DCR manager Kevin Hollenbeck for bringing this long planned effort close to a successful conclusion. Thanks also to John Sangiolo and Amy Mah Sangiolo, whose Charles River Neighborhood Foundation Trust made a gift of $1,000 to the DCR to help pay for new windows. In anticipation of the window installation, the bricks in the openings have already been removed and replaced with plywood. We have poured a concrete floor in the building. Lastly, the faulty electric service in the building has been repaired. The Stone Building promises soon to become a major asset and new jewel of Hemlock Gorge.

Rescuing the Echo Bridge Promenade

New safety fencing installed last winter

We are pleased to report that we have reached a very satisfactory interim agreement with Massachusetts Water Resources Authority (MWRA) to keep Echo Bridge open to pedestrians. Not only is the bridge open, but the temporary fencing installed to achieve this goal has turned out be not only safe but also esthetically pleasing. In this period of financial constraints, having the Bridge Promenade likely to remain open, secure, and attractive for many years to come without further investment is a gratifying achievement. We thank State Representative Ruth Balser for her legislative advocacy on behalf of this project. The proto shows the new safety fencing installed last winter.

Insect Wars: the Woolly Adelgid and new pests

A dead hemlock surrounded by healthy trees

The long struggle to save the trees in Hemlock Gorge remains in the hands of Mother Nature. In 2001, we released 15,000 ladybugs to eat the adelgids. We continue to conduct periodic inspections of the trees during our cleanups, but the news is mixed. Many “sentinel trees” show some evidence of a reduction in adelgid infestation, and many trees that seemed imperiled show new growth. However, a number, of hemlocks have died, and the prognosis for other hemlocks is still guarded. The photo shows a dead hemlock surrounded by healthy trees. State Forester Charlie Burnham visited Hemlock Gorge in November to review the status of the adelgids and the hemlocks, and we are awaiting his report. For more information, see We will keep everyone apprised of the state of the trees and of the new pests like the Asian Longhorned Beetle that are threatening to attack the hardwood trees of eastern Massachusetts after having been discovered in Worcester County.

Cleanups of the Reservation

We again conducted spring and fall cleanups of the Gorge. These efforts, together with regular attention by DCR staff, have kept the Reservation clean and appealing. Graffiti continues to be a problem, and there is defacement that we will work with DCR to remove in the spring. At our request, DCR has installed better signage to discourage trespassing after dark with its attendant vandalism. We are also working to eliminate invasive plant species from the Reservation.

Our Annual Picnic and Concert Event

In 2008, for the third time, we had live music at our Summer Picnic. The Friends’ 2008 Summer Picnic took place under clear skies on Tuesday August 19. About 50 people came. Thanks to the generosity of Karen Osborn Shanley, we enjoyed a program of live jazz.  Site Supervisor Erica Aubin provided everything needed for our cookout, and a grand time was had by all.

A highlight of the evening was the dedication of a memorial bench dedicated to the memory of Hank Lysaght who passed away in October 2007. The memorial is located on the Needham riverbank just downstream of the Mills Falls Dam.

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 30,000 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.

Please give us your financial support so that we can continue to send out mailings, maintain our website, and feed volunteers at our cleanups. 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 and 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!

Despite the financial crisis, 2008 was a good year for the Friends. We trust 2009 will be 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