Annual Letter to Members, 2009

Dear Friends of Hemlock Gorge:

As 2009 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 2010, 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 2009 and our hopes for 2010.

News about The Stone Building

Fall cleanup crew in the Stone Building with the new picnic tables and restored lighting

We hope that restoration of the Stone Building will take a major step forward in 2010 with the installation of new windows for the Stone Building. These  have been fabricated and are just awaiting installation! Congratulations to Erica and DCR manager Kevin Hollenbeck for bringing this long planned effort ever closer to a successful conclusion. Thanks again 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 addition, the Friends purchased two picnic benches with seating for our events on the property. These were assembled during the fall cleanup and greatly enhanced the luncheon we had for the volunteers. Thanks to Bonnie and Rick Pearson for orchestrating the purchase. Together with the repaired lighting and new concrete floor in the building, the Stone Building is now a major asset,  The addition of the windows will make it a new treasure in Hemlock Gorge.

The picture to the right shows some of the fall cleanup crew in the Stone Building with the new picnic tables and restored lighting.

Do note that all of these improvements to the Stone Building have been made possible by your financial support!

Rescuing the Echo Bridge Promenade

The Massachusetts Water Resources Authority (MWRA) continues to keep Echo Bridge open to pedestrians. 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 open, secure, and attractive for many years to come without further investment is a gratifying achievement. We again thank State Representative Ruth Balser for her legislative advocacy on behalf of this project.

Insect Wars: the Woolly Adelgid and new pests

Hemlock Gorge retains its beauty
Dead hemlock tree

As seen in the photo of the dead tree to the left, the outcome of our long struggle to save the trees in Hemlock Gorge remains uncertain. In 2001, we released 15,000 ladybugs to eat the adelgids, but we have found no evidence to date of their survival. We continue to conduct periodic inspections of the trees during our cleanups, and we now estimate that about a third of the hemlocks have died and another third appear unhealthy. State Forester Charlie Burnham made his last assessment of the park one year ago. and we await his next report. Hope springs eternal. The Boston Globe carried an article on November 16, 2009 describing a new method of biological attack on the adelgid, the Laricobius nigrinus beetle.

Note that, as seen in the photo to the right, despite the threat to the hemlocks, the property retains its beauty.

To read read more about it and to read Charlie Burnham’s last report 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. To date there is no report of their presence in eastern Massachusetts.

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, about at the level seen in previous years. 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 2009, for the fourth time, we had live music at our Summer Picnic. The Friends’ 2009 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 music. Site Supervisor Erica Aubin provided everything needed for our cookout, and a grand time was had by all. Click here to see the photo album.

The Friends’ Web Site

The Friends’ Web site, online since 1996, continues to generate interest and inquiries. There have been more than 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 a 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, 2009 has been a good year for the Friends. We trust 2010 will be as good or 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