Annual End-of-Year Letter to Members, 2019

Dear Friends of Hemlock Gorge:

2019 was a year of transition and renewal and accomplishment for the Friends.

 On March 15 our founder and president, Brian Yates, passed away. Since then much has been written about him and his contributions to his constituents, community and Hemlock Gorge. He is very much missed, but his vision and determination live on.

 At our April meeting, a new leadership team was elected to continue Brian’s Work. John Mordes was elected President. Evan Weststrate now serves as Vice-President, Robin Dexter as Treasurer (succeeding Jim Purdy who retired), and Sheila Purdy as Secretary.

 Our first order of business was the granite bench that we had fabricated and installed with the help of the DCR under the leadership of Site Supervisor Erica Aubin. The memorial was dedicated on August 6 before our annual summer picnic. Nearly 60 people attended, including some of his closest friends and colleagues. Remembrances were given by Rep. Ruth Balser, Newton Mayor Ruthanne Fuller, Amy Mah Sangiolo, Bob Burke, Rena Getz, Vaunita Schnell, Rob MacArthur and one of Brian’s cousins. The Picnic was held at the Stone Building with music provided courtesy of Karen Osborn, who also landscaped the Stone Building for the event. 

 At the dedication, Rep. Balser made an announcement that will have a major impact on Hemlock Gorge and Brian’s legacy:

  • As a direct result of her efforts and those of Sen. Cynthia Creem, Ruth Balser announced that the new state budget includes a $50,000 appropriation for restoration of the roof of the Stone Building.
  • In September Erica announced that the DCR was beginning the design process.

The Friends’ new leadership team undertook some long-deferred actions:

  • We applied for and were granted status as a Massachusetts non-profit charity.
  • We applied for and were approved as a 501(c)(3) organization by the IRS. This means that any contributions to the Friends will be tax-deductible. It is our hope that this will facilitate fundraising for some of our future projects.
  • We rented a post office box to give the Friends a permanent address.
  • We now have a bank account and federal identification number at Village Bank in Waban to formalize our finances.
  •  In September we decided that our future picnics and regular meetings in warm weather will be held at the Stone Building to increase its usage and visibility to the community.

We also want to recognize another special accomplishment in 2019. Under the leadership of Lee Fisher, working with Erica and the DCR, new signage was created and installed at both the northern and southern entrances to the park. It is far more informative and inviting to visitors than the old signs that were replaced.

In 2020, the Friends of Hemlock Gorge will continue our past activities, maintain our partnership with the Department of Conservation and Recreation and others and develop new ones to preserve and enhance Hemlock Gorge. Major goals that need your support include:

  • Seeing that the Stone Building gets its new roof.
  •  Investigating the possibility of getting a sidewalk installed on the Rte. 9 ramp to connect the Stone Building with the Ellis Street parking lot.
  • Archiving the many artifacts that we have found in the Stone Building and in Brian’s collection of Hemlock Gorge memorabilia.
  • Supporting the work of the Echo Bridge Railings Committee, led by Lee Fisher, to build on their success in getting the Bridge designated as an endangered historic property by Preservation Massachusetts. This is a step towards getting it designated as a National Historic Landmark and securing funds to restore the railings.
  • Participating in the Charles River Cleanup sponsored by the Charles River Watershed Association in the spring and doing an independent cleanup in the fall, working with our Waban neighbors to continue the cleanup along Quinobequin Road
  • Working to eliminate as many invasive plants as possible in the Gorge.
  • Continuing our tradition of a summer picnic and concert with the continued generosity of Karen Osborn.
  • Working on the redesign our website and an online dues/contribution option.
  • Revisiting the “Friends’ Bridge” project.

To do all of this and more, we need your help to build on our success.  

  • Our spring and fall cleanups need your continued participation.
  • Visit our web site at and visit us on Facebook to stay informed
  • Attend our monthly meetings, usually on the first Tuesday of the month, at the Emerson Community Center on Pettee Street in Newton Upper Falls.

We hope that you will send in your membership form and financial support in the accompanying stamped envelope.

Next year, to reduce expenses and paper use, we would like to offer the options of receiving this Annual Report by email and of paying dues at our website. If this option works for you, please tell us by checking the box at the top of the accompanying membership/contribution form.

Thank you for all you have done for Hemlock Gorge Reservation in 2019 and for all you will help the Friends do in 2020. We look forward to seeing you at our meetings and events.

John Mordes, MD, President

Evan Weststrate, Vice-President