Annual Letter to Members, 2020

Dear Friends of Hemlock Gorge:

Because of Covid-19, 2020 has been a year unlike any other for the Friends. Our last in-person meeting was in March. Since then we have met by Zoom, and our summer picnic was canceled.

BUT…in a testament to the beauty and power of nature in the face of adversity, Hemlock Gorge has been very much visited! FoHG secretary, Sheila Purdy, has called it, “a source of outdoor beauty and spiritual sustenance.” We’ve seen many families, new visitors, and old friends on the paths.

Some of those visitors have visited our website, signed on to become members, and contributed to our treasury. The Friends’ leadership wants to give credit to you, our members, whose efforts have made the park such an important part of our local environment. Here is the list of those efforts:

Our outstanding achievement was the repair of the roof of the Stone Building. Thirty years after Brian and Vaunita rescued the building from dereliction, a new and beautiful new roof is in place. It will preserve the building for a new generation and set the stage for the creation of a Visitor Center that, post-Covid-19, we will use for our meeting and picnics. We are indebted to Representative Ruth Balser who secured the funding needed to rescue this historic treasure. After the pandemic, we will hold a dedication ceremony for the new roof and acknowledge our debt to Rep. Balser.

In 2020 we had two very successful clean-ups in the reservation in April and October. They have helped keep the park in pristine condition and make it attractive for all many visitors.  

Under the leadership of Lee Fisher, working with State Rep. Ruth Balser, the Hemlock Gorge DCR signs at both the northern and southern entrances to the park were replaced with new signs adding Echo Bridge to the signs. This should increase public awareness of this hidden gem in the reservation.

The Ellis Street Stairway that leads up to Echo Bridge has undergone some temporary ‘old age’ repairs, thanks in large measure to the efforts of the Friends. The owners of the stairs, the Department of Conservation and Recreation, has conducted an assessment of the stairs and a report to Rep. Balser is expected soon. Again, see our website for details.

The Ellis Street Parking Lot, created only a few years ago through the efforts of the Friends, has this year been added to the City of Newton Parks and Recreation maintenance schedule. We want to acknowledge the efforts of Philip Arpino and Maria P. Rose of the City of Newton for their efforts to maintain the lot. The City has also made efforts to remove graffiti on the Echo Bridge platform, thanks also to the efforts of Friends members Jerry Reilly and Emily Gelbert. We also want to thank Erica and City Councilors Bill Humphrey and Andreae Downs for their support of our efforts.

The Friends have submitted a proposal for new crosswalks to Rep. Balser to improve safety for pedestrians walking between Hemlock Gorge and the Quinobequin Trail at the intersection of Quinobequin Road and Ellis Street. A joint meeting of representatives of the Department of Transportation, the DCR, and the City of Newton organized by Rep. in November has green lighted the project.

There have been disappointments. Our Letter of Intent to the DCR to apply for Public-Private Partnership funding to improve the interior of the newly repaired Stone Building was rejected (details at our website). Despite this setback, we have been making progress. Thanks to Erica, the DCR is going to repair the second floor of the Stone Building. New lumber is already on site. Also, at the fall clean-up Evan Weststrate replaced two missing screens on windows at the Stone Building. With these fixes in place, we plan to install new flooring and make the Stone Building our location for future picnics and warm weather meetings, and perhaps to make it a real Visitor Center on weekends. Rep. Balser is also working to secure state funding to support these efforts.

Next year the Friends of Hemlock Gorge will continue our annual activities, maintain our partnership with the DCR and others and support new projects to preserve and enhance Hemlock Gorge. Major goals for 2021 that need your support include:

  • Installing one or two benches at scenic locations.
  • A sidewalk on the Rte. 9 ramp to connect the Stone Building with the Ellis Street lot.
  • Archiving the artifacts found in the Stone Building.
  • Working to eliminate invasive plants in the Gorge.
  • Continuing our tradition of a summer picnic and concert.
  • Maintaining and modernizing our website

To do 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 or visit us on Facebook to stay informed. You can make a contribution to us at any time on the website.
  • Attend our monthly (now Zoom) meetings, usually on the first Tuesday of the month.

If you have not already done so by check or at our website, please to click here to provide us with your financial support for 2021 by PayPal,

You can also mail your contribution to our P.O. Box 62, Waban MA 02468.

Thank you for all you have done for Hemlock Gorge Reservation in 2020 and for all you will help the Friends do in 2021. We look forward to seeing you at our monthly meetings and other events.

John Mordes, MD, President

Evan Weststrate, Vice-President