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The Friends of Hemlock Gorge

Minutes of Meetings in 2020

January February March
April May June
July: No Meeting August: Picnic Meeting September
October November December

The Friends of Hemlock Gorge

Minutes for January 7, 2020

Next Meeting: Tuesday February 4, 2020  at 7:15

Present: Don Ross, Jean Fisher, Robin Dexter, Evan Weststrate, John Mordes, Emily Gelbert, Vaunita Schnell, Lauren Commando, Paul Roberts, Sheila Purdy

The January meeting focused on long and short term goals for the year ahead as well as recognition of the past year’s accomplishments and challenges.

Treasurer Report: Robin stated that the account balance was $5,603. 35. This included the donations from the holiday yearly report and mailing. A fee of$25.00 will be due to pay the state for a change in status to 501c3  non profit.The paperwork has finally gone through.

April 25 was picked as the tentative Spring cleanup day.

Outreach: In an effort to increase volunteer efforts and possible new Friends members, John, Andreae, and Robin attended the Newton Volunteer Day. A request was made for materials to use for future visibility events such as poster boards, flyers, and business cards.  3 people had expressed interest in participating in future cleanups. Although 80-90 people are on the mailing list, very few attend the monthly Friends’ meetings. Sheila suggested networking with local non-profits such as churches and schools to increase awareness of the park and possible attendance at meetings.

Suggestions were made about events which could be advertised and bring new people to learn about the park. These included: scheduled tours, concerts, art shows, exhibitions, other events that could be publicized in the Tab or Upper Falls newsletter. Emily suggested linking up with  Newton Serves, a city-wide volunteer day. Also, to reach out to people at Village Day, Earth Day, and the local Soup Social.  Other suggestions included outreach to local Scout troops for projects and birding expeditions.

“The Hemlock Gorge Project”: Wellesley College student, Laura Prebble, sent John a copy of her school paper. She had met with the Friends last year as part of her background research for the project. John summarized some of the points raised by the paper and encouraged members to read it. He tried to email the paper but it was too large a data file to reach everyone and it is protected by a password.  Laura made a number of suggestions and points including the fact that the park is a “neglected” asset because of it’s perceived inaccessibility. 

She made a number of suggestions for landscaping and upgrades to increase the ease with which people could use the park and find it more user friendly. These included trail markers which indicated dead end trails, a crosswalk to the echo platform, cleaning out the vistas and invasive plants, public art, rebuilding the Friends Bridge, placing boxes of maps at the entrance, making trash cans and picnic tables available.  She included a significant number of  thoughtful  observations and suggestions for improvement. Some of these suggestions were more workable than others, especially if they involved private property.

She is currently open to suggestions and reactions from Friends who have read the paper.

Old Business: Other ongoing business was tabled until Erica could attend a future meeting.

Respectfully Submitted,

Sheila Purdy, Secretary

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The Friends of Hemlock Gorge

Minutes for February 4, 2020

Next Meeting: Tuesday March 10, 2020 at 7:15

Present: Evan Weststrate, Jean Fisher, Emily Gelbert, Rena Getz, Lee Fisher, Robin Dexter, Sheila Purdy

Administrative Business: As John Mordes could not be present, Evan Weststrate chaired the meeting in his absence. The meeting for March will be rescheduled for 3/10 because of the local election. Carol Stapleton will need to be notified of the change. Robin presented an update on dues and tax filings. The IRS filings are currently up to date. The response to the method of collecting dues and donations gave a mixed result. Some Friends wanted to continue the mailings, while others preferred an online option. There was no overriding consensus. The issue of changing the regular meeting day was raised as the city council met at the same time, and councilors were not available to attend Friends’ meetings as well. It was decided to leave the current schedule unchanged for the present.

Recruiting New Members: The group discussed the materials to be used for outreach events. Evan is helping with this effort to redesign business cards and posters. Rena has used a graphic designer who might be able to assist the Friends to prepare for outreach events. Proposed events included the March Soup Social and Village Day in the Fall. Emily volunteered to help with outreach at these events. Lee suggested a free tour of the Gorge to be scheduled after Village Day to familiarized residents with its attractions, history, and charm. The tour will be restricted to Friends and potential new members. Non-members would be charged a fee. Visibility materials need to be ready for distribution at f the March Soup Social. Sheila is helping to coordinate with Tzu Chi. No one is currently connected with Mary Immaculate to act as liaison. A revised map could be printed including some newly designated sites such as Reservoir Hill. This map could show new trails and be ready for distribution soon.

Projects: Rena said that there are 3 boxes of documents from Brian’s estate that need to be stored. Evan offered to digitize them. Erica was not present, so the roof project could not be updated. Rena pointed out that Wellesley was building an extensive housing and office project on Route 9 that may affect the park indirectly.  

A list of projects -summarized by John in the agenda-was addressed by the group. There were a large number of small and large projects. Some of these were more long term and extensive.


Current concerns discussed included:

1.    Invasive plants, especially poison ivy. Evan had been investigating goatscaping as a solution. This could also be used to clear vista sightlines . 

2.    The Friends Bridge could be made more rustic to recreate the ambience of the earlier bridge. Replacing the bridge would be too large a project at this time.

3.     According to Lara Prebble, the Echo Platform is not safe and needs to be more readily visible. The stairway to the platform is also unsafe. An organization, the Student Conservation Association, has been used in the past to help with projects. Erica needs to be consulted about the downed tree and resulting safety hazards.

4.    4. Lee suggested that some volunteers spruce up the painted signs before spring cleanup day scheduled for the last Saturday in April.

Wheelchair accessibility and working with private property owners were not addressed at this time.

Respectfully Submitted,

Sheila Purdy, Secretary ry

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The Friends of Hemlock Gorge

Minutes for March 10, 2020

Next Meeting: Tuesday April 7, 2020 at 7:15. This will be a distance Zoom meeting.

Present: Bill Humphrey, Maureen Riley-Meagher, John Mordes, Besty Hewitt, Erica Aubin, Emily Gelbart, Tom O’Connor, Robin Dexter, Evan Weststrate, Vaunita Schnell, Don Ross, Sheila Purdy

 Spring Cleanup: The spring cleanup is scheduled for 4/25. Maureen said that Newton Serves is helping with invasive plant removal for their group. John is maintaining the mailing list and trying to keep it free of spam. Evan has been looking into “Goats to Go” as a method of controlling invasives. They were used successfully in Middlesex Fells.

 Stone Barn: Ruth Balser is wondering if we need more than the allotted $50,000 for the barn roof. Estimates have come in for $70,000-$80,000 for a roof of cedar shingles. Friends discussed possibly contributing funds to the roofing project. Friends are restricted to DCR contractors and cannot compare to outside providers.  Erica stated that the state needs to vet all contractors that provide service to DCR parks. Andreae and Ruth are working on the sidewalk project. Betsy stated that there has been considerable progress. Erica is optimistic that the project will be completed soon. A $50,000 grant has also been provide to the Friends of Quinobequin. Because these grants have time limits, Erica is monitoring the process.

 Artifacts: Vaunita is in touch with Brian’s cousin to retrieve any relevant historical material from Brian’s House. Rena, and Bob Burke are also helping with this. Vaunita was trying to trace some of the artifacts from the barn that were stored with Rob McArthur from DCR during the earlier renovation. These may be at Elm Bank or elsewhere. She has identified some stencils that were part of the industrial history of the barn.  The archivist from DCR has written a letter to John.

Outreach: A soup social has been scheduled for 3/21 at the Emerson. Emily has offered to provide the outreach connection at the event. Evan has prepared business cards and a display to be set up. Sheila is maintaining contact with Tzu Chi, and John has connected with Upper Falls Newsletter.

 Administrative Business: Robin said there were no changes to the finances at present. Pertinent website links could be provided in upcoming minutes to connect Friends to relevant organizations and projects.

 Bridge Railings: Lee was not present. An update on this project will be available at a future time.

 Other Business: Sheila suggested that Lara Prebble be invited to a future meeting to follow up on the suggestion in her paper. It would be convenient if Friends could access the report prior to the meeting since it was not available to everyone online.

Respectfully Submitted,

Sheila Purdy, Secretary 

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The Friends of Hemlock Gorge

Minutes for April 7, 2020

Next Meeting: Tuesday May 5, 2020 at 7:15

Present online: John Mordes, Rena Getz, Bob Burke, Robin Dexter, Betsy Hewitt, Lee Fisher, Jean Fisher, Evan Weststrate, Sheila Purdy

Administrative Business: The New P.O. Box has been renewed for a year. John, Robin, and Evan are working on establishing a working Paypal link on the website, and John is working on updating the website. The corona virus pandemic has necessitated more online activity including the monthly meetings. This was the first online meeting. John is looking into getting password protection for future meetings to avoid unwelcome interference. There are now two informal members lists: one for general members and the other for people only interested in organized cleanups.

Outreach: Business cards have been printed but not picked up yet due to the lockdown. Poster boards are being constructed but potential visibility events have been cancelled because of the pandemic. This includes the soup social and possible future events. The park is more heavily used because of the quarantine restrictions. Outdoor activities are more popular. Evan is posting maps to let people know more about the park and to reference The Friends.

Historical Activities: Rena is continuing to follow artifacts in Brian’s estate which is getting more difficult over time. Bob Burke is researching articles in the former Newton Graphic newspaper for background information useful for research. John is trying to establish a connection between the Friends and the Mass State Archives. Formal arrangements for storage of materials is still being planned for 2020-2031. The Massachusetts Historical Society and Historic Newton are also available to store archival materials. Locating artifacts that have been previously stored and be very challenging.  Sean Fisher at DCR has written about archiving but was “not encouraging”.

Ongoing Projects: Lee updated the group on the bridge railings. That project was refused National Landmark status which was a roadblock to that avenue of funding. The group offered suggestions for other avenues or possible appeal of the decision. Betsy has been following the Friends Bridge project and the Barn roof and reported on progress. Vince McKay wrote an email to the group about unfinished work at Hamilton Place following the reconstruction of the historic bridge there. Should DPW be notified? Graffiti continues to be a problem on Echo Bridge and MWRA needs to be notified. Lara Prebble was unable to attend the April meeting but may be present for the meeting in May to discuss the findings in her paper.

Footnote: John has included Mark Bridger’s bluegrass performance of “Echo Bridge” on the website. He played it for the group.

Respectfully Submitted,

Sheila Purdy, Secretary

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The Friends of Hemlock Gorge

Minutes for May 5, 2020. This was a virtual Zoom meeting due to the coronavirus.

Next Meeting: Tuesday June 2, 2020 at 7:15

Present Online: John Mordes, Bill Humphrey, Evan Weststrate, Rena Getz, Don Ross, Robin Dexter,

Lara Prebble, Bob Ellertson, Sheila Purdy

 Administrative Business:

 The website has now been upgraded to allow for online donations. Robin reports no changes in the current bank balance. The Friends have been contacted by Kim Windyka for inclusion in her book about historic places in Boston “you must not miss”. She was asking for permission to include Echo Bridge, but no permission was required to list it.

 Spring Cleanup Report:

 Because of the pandemic, the spring cleanup was held as a more informal event.  The weather was good and the turnout was moderate. Lee helped to repaint some path signs. Evan posted an updated park map and bar code at the entrance to the bridge and also online. Emily and her son pitched in to help collect trash. Other volunteers also collected trash bags and left them by the stone barn. Some have not been collected yet. Jerry Riley was written up in The Boston Globe about his  naturalist scavenger hunt posted for the park. Pictures of some of the volunteers were also posted on the website.  Attendance at the park and use of the trails has been enhanced by the pandemic. A dead raccoon was discovered and needs to be removed. 

Lara Prebble:

 The meeting was attended by Lara Prebble, a recent Wellesley graduate, who wrote an extensive report on the Gorge as her senior project. The detailed report was entitled “Redesigning a Forgotten and Hidden Gem: Hemock Gorge Reservation”. The report was made available to members as a PDF but did not include all of her extensive maps, drawings, and historic photographs. She made numerous suggestion for enhancement projects, both large and small. Some of her suggestions have already been implemented e.g. signage upgrades. Lee has followed through with a number of sign improvements to the park and the trail markers.  The group was interested in clearing some of the brush to enhance the overlook vistas as Lara suggested and possibly installing a bench. There was also discussion about rebuilding the Friends’ Bridge to reproduce it original Z configuration. Members were also interested in planning a use for the Stone Barn after the roof was repaired in June, as scheduled. Robin suggested the building be used as a visitors’ center. It has electricity but no plumbing. Lara said that her advisor at Wellesley might be interested in contributing some ideas. Sheila offered to contact Lara’s advisor at the school to invite her input into future uses for the stone barn. One of the suggested projects was safer street crossing to the echo platform due to very poor street sight lines. This would be difficult . Ellen Katz was reported as working with the city traffic council on this issue.  Graffiti has been mostly removed  but requires ongoing attention.  Also, people are starting to attach locks on the bridge which need to be discarded. John offered “an industrial boltcutter” to aid in this effort.

Future Meetings:

John asked if the Friends should continue offer Zoom meeting participating in the future when in person meetings resume. This might increase participation. Thoughts on this subject are welcome.


Respectfully Submitted,

Sheila Purdy, Secretary 

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The Friends of Hemlock Gorge

Minutes for June 2, 2020

Next Meeting: Tuesday June 30, 2020 at 7:15

Virtual Meeting Via Zoom

Present online: John Mordes, Robin Dexter, Evan Weststrate, Rena Getz, Bill Humphrey, Don Ross, Lara Prebble, Karen Osborne, Sheila Purdy       

Administrative Business:

        Robin said that the balance of the Friends’ account is currently $5,603 and had not increased from last month.

Stone Building Update:

        Ruth Balser wrote to say that work on the stone building roof will begin in early June. No one has seen any activity so far, but Ruth is reported to be monitoring the progress of the project. Evan offered to keep a photo journal barn project activity. Some objects have disappeared from the barn premises: e.g. handiwipes. It was suggested  that important objects be stored in the geohydrology room and that they be carefully labeled. John suggested that the barn site be used for the summer picnic planned for August 7. John would oversee compliance with state pandemic regulations about social distancing.


        Sheila said that the Buddhist church is currently closed because of the pandemic and there is no recent contact. She will reach out to Martha McNamara, at Lara’s suggestion, to begin to plan for the stone barn once the roof has been completed and to get an outside perspective . Robin suggested that the barn be used as a visitors’ center for the park.

Summer Projects:

       Trail Markers. Trail markers using bar codes can be placed to direct visitors, identify plants, and warn of poison ivy. Evan has used them to integrate the updated map of the park and also the Friends’ website.

       Overlook Bench. Lara identified a scenic overlook that would be an ideal place for a bench. It would be a difficult site for placing the last granite bench but might be a good place for a wooden bench of some type. Lara offered to make suggestions about what type of bench would be a good fit.

       Redesigning the Friends Bridge. The scenic bridge would be a great project to recreate the original historic Z configuration of the bridge. It is a very large and complex project and may not be feasible at this time.

       Granite Bench at the Stone Barn. Erica has one slab of granite left that could be used in front of the renovated barn as a “Friends’ Bench”.  The barn could also benefit from window screens.

       Reworking Trails. Placing walking trails closer to the river could be a “DCR project for the future”.

       Echo Platform. The platform is reported to be in good condition for the moment. Some updated signage and bar coding could upgrade the site.

      Other Issues: Emily has reported the constant problem of graffiti. Prior removals were just painting over it with gray paint.  It occurs between 12 and 2 am. Different suggestions were made about security such as solar panels for lighting and motion sensitive security cameras. Rena and Karen have some original drawings and documents that have been saved from Brian’s estate which could be used for future projects. A Friends meeting has been planned for July to prepare for the August picnic. This is a change from past years when there was no meeting scheduled in July.

Respectfully Submitted,

Sheila Purdy, Secretary

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The Friends of Hemlock Gorge

Minutes for Special Meeting on June 30, 2020

Next Regular Meeting: Tuesday September 8, 2020 at 7:15

June 30 Special Meeting: Present: Bob Burke, Don Ross, John Mordes, Robin Dexter, Jerry Riley, Erica Aubin, Sheila Purdy

A special meeting was called by John to address 2l issues concerning both the Stone Barn and the Echo Staircase. John had just been made aware of an opportunity to apply for public-private partnership funds from the DCR. The time of the meeting was influenced by the imminent PPP deadline to apply for funding. The agenda of the meeting was restricted to these two subjects. \\

The Stone Barn Floor: John is applying for a PPP grant to enhance the concrete floor with the addition of waterproof tile flooring and the creation of a French drain to help eliminate the excessive dampness in the building. Since the due date of the application is July 10, the Friends needed to approve the proposal in advance of the regularly scheduled meeting for July 7. John included pictures of the proposed tile flooring which will cost $1,500. No preparation of the existing concrete flooring is required. The existing concrete floor was installed 12 years ago. That floor did not include the installation of a French drain to eliminate water in the building. A drain can be installed for $7,000. John has spoken with a contractor to estimate the work of installing the drain. Erica signed off on the project with the support of the Friends. Pictures were made available of the proposed flooring which is easy to install in the form of tiles.

The Echo Staircase: The staircase is markedly deteriorating and had been temporarily unsafe. Pictures of the structure were included with the agenda. The wooden stairs are coming off, but the underlying metal frame is becoming unstable for affixing the wooden stairs. Evan and Jerry repaired some of the stairs, but it was agreed that this was a temporary fix for the summer The staircase is property of the MWRA. The staircase is used regularly with increased traffic during the pandemic. A long term plan needs to be proposed to keep the staircase safe and usable for the future.

Other Business: During the repair of the stone barn floor and roof, repairs can also be made to the 2nd floor of the barn which has totally deteriorated including the supporting beams. Erica will look into supplies and labor for this project. The question was raised of bringing water into the site for washing as well as potential restroom use. ​

It was suggested that the Friends plan a party in August to celebrate the completion of the wooden barn roof. This would be in place of the regular Friends’ picnic. Sheila will send early invitation to Martha McNamara at Wellesley College. The party could take place near the newly repaired barn. John would oversee compliance with current health regulations.

Respectfully Submitted,

Sheila Purdy, Secretary 

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The Friends of Hemlock Gorge

Minutes for September 8, 2020

Next Meeting: Tuesday October 6, 2020 at 7:15

Present: John Mordes, Maria Mouia, Bill Humphrey, Lee Fisher, Loumona Petroff, Evan Weststrate, Tanya Karpiak, Robin Dexter, Bob Burke, Lara Prebble, Chris Pitts, Don Ross, Bob Ellertson, Jean Fisher, Maureen Riley-Meagher, Paul Roberts, Sheila Purdy

 The meeting addressed the status of a number of ongoing projects and plans for upcoming work over the fall/winter season.

 Crosswalk Linkage to Quinobequin:

 John is looking into ways to safely link Hemlock Gorge with the Quinobequin trail. He met with Chris Pitts, Maureen Riley, and Bill Humphrey to discuss how to reconfigure the crosswalks and curb cuts to make the trail safer and easier to navigate. He has photographs of the problems including the need for a fully finished curb cut to avoid climbing over the guardrail for trail access. The Friends reviewed the  proposal for upgrades including illustrations and approved the proposal unanimously. The proposal will be submitted to Ruth  Balser for future action.

 Fall Cleanup:

 It was suggested that the fall cleanup could also be used as an opportunity to dedicate the new barn roof. The barn has been suggested as a possible visitors’ center for the parklands. Erica Aubin at DCR was consulted and approved combining the cleanup and dedication. Ruth Balser will be invited as a special guest. Approved date is  October 24th with a raindate of October 31st.

 Visitors Center Proposal:

 There has been no feedback as yet about upgrading the barn and using it as a visitors’ center. Proposed  public/private upgrades include finishing the floor with a French drain and completing the second floor. Erica said that DCR capabilities have been reduced due to Covid.

Ellis Street Stairs Repair:

 The stairway is under the jurisdiction of MWRA not DCR. An engineering team will inspect it by the end of the week. Lee has the original technical drawings and can make them available on the website. He offered to meet with the engineer.  Evan is monitoring the state of the stairway that continues to develop safety issues. He believes that it is still structurally OK. The original work was done by a local foundry in 1900. Friends have continued to contribute to maintaining the stairway but need a comprehensive plan.

 Lara Prebble Bench:

 Lara showed a photographs of different bench options and went over options for placement in the park. The bench must conform to DCR regulations. Discussion continued on repurposing downed trees for the project. No final decision was made.

Friends’ Bridge Project;

 Discussion followed about rebuilding the original scenic Z shaped bridge that connected Devil’s Den to New Pond. The original design was beautiful and unique. Some of the original hard structures still remain. One model for rebuilding the bridge is Broadmoor Audubon park which has lovely structural enhancements. At this time, however, this project was deemed  a “luxury” and would need to wait.

Window Screen Repair:

 John said 2 or 3 people are needed to put a screen on the open barn window. DCR has approved the repair. It would prevent wildlife from entering the barn. Volunteers needed. It could be part of the cleanup.


 This was described as an “endless problem”. New graffiti appears regularly despite efforts to cover or remove it. Could a webcam be set up? Police do not enforce graffiti laws. John talked to a state police officer who checks up on the park. The police do not find the vandals responsible. Bill will talk to Andreae Downs to discuss options.

 Other Matters:

 Vegitation Changes. Bob pointed out that the original vegetation in the park has changed significantly over the years with an increase in invasive species and poison ivy. Evan noted that the weed whacking near the bridge has cleared out overgrowth; However,  poison ivy overgrowth is an ongoing problem for the park.

Publicity: Sheila suggested having a picture of the park included in the new member registration packet. Vaunita has a prize-winning photo that could be used as an premium for members. Chris pointed out that he is also affiliated with an arts organization.

Mailing: Robin pointed out that having a holiday party/ mailing meeting would be difficult with Covid restrictions. Other options need to be considered.

Parking Lot: A lot of trash has been building up in the Ellis Street parking lot. A trash barrel is needed, which would require regular emptying. Could Deb Crossley help?


Respectfully Submitted,

Sheila Purdy, Secretary 

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The Friends of Hemlock Gorge

Minutes for October 6, 2020

Next Meeting: Tuesday November 10, 2020 at 7:15

Present: Robin Dexter, John Mordes, Lee Fisher, Jean Fisher, Rena Getz, Bob Ellertson,

Erica Aubin, Sallie Lipschutz, Evan Weststrate, Don Ross, Sheila Purdy

The meeting addressed planning for fall cleanup and December annual year end

outreach mailing to members.

Treasurer Report: Robin stated that the account was not $5,600 including a donation that came via the new Paypal link.

Cleanup Plans: The Cleanup scheduled for October 24th will start at Hamilton Place where volunteers can pick up gloves and bags. There will be a required release form for volunteers to sign. The starting time is 9:30. John and Evan will use the occasion to repair the screen on the stone barn. Erica supported the repair. Although it was originally considered using  the cleanup as an opportunity to hold a roof dedication event, this will be rescheduled in the spring. No firm plans were set to provide a lunch for volunteers at the stone barn. John will supervise pandemic protocol adherence.

December Meeting/Party/Mailing: A number of decisions need to be made about the December meeting. Should it be in person (with distancing) or virtually? Can it be a party as well? Where could it be held? Should the year end annual letter be mailed, sent as an email, or a combination of both? John is requesting suggestions for the year end letter 

Website Issues: John is considering updating the website and is asking for suggestions and assistance. The website is getting a lot of activity with “a few hundred hits a week”. Rena offered suggestions from her experience with her own outreach to make it more user friendly. John said he began the effort in 1995 and hand coded it.  Social media was not a consideration at that time, and a more coordinated effort could now streamline access to information and accessibility. It would take considerable effort and expertise. Evan said a Facebook page has been set up for the park that gets a “steady stream” of activity and includes a printable map.

Quinobequin Park Linkage: Ruth Balser is continuing to be the point person for this project and acting as liaison between the numerous agencies and groups involved. She will continue to keep the Friends updated on progress as the project evolves.

Ellis Street Stairs and Parking Lot: The MWRA owns the stairs and has sent engineers to look at the construction. They will provide a report on their findings. The parking lot has been described as “a real mess” with trash collecting on the lot. A trash can has been installed and will be emptied on a regular basis.

Stone Barn 2nd Floor: DCR is sourcing supplies and exploring the use of support beams. The 2nd floor will be used for storage, but the request to open the barn for use as a visitors’ center had been formally denied in a letter. Discussion continued about fixing the first floor and installing a drain or partial drain. Finding a community use for the building is still open to suggestions. Literature could be made available as well as selling copies of the Ken Newcomb book, The Makers of the Mold. The upgraded barn could be used as a gathering place for meetings and special events.

Esvelt Letters: Ann Esvelt and her grandson, Ian, wrote to the Friends about Ian’s concern about foam in the river and possible problematic drainage. Evan responded with appreciation for their concern and a link to   information about USGS measuring system assuring that the bubbles and flow were intentional.

Other Business: Lee and Jean reported that a “huge” American flag has been chained to the Bridge. MWRA needs to respond. Maybe Andreae Downs needs to respond. No new news about the railing project at this time.  New Friends Bridge project on hold.

Due to the election on 11/3, the next meeting of FOHG has been scheduled for November 10, at 7:15. Once again this will be a remote meeting via Zoom. Contact the Friends website to obtain a link to the meeting.

Respectfully Submitted,

Sheila Purdy, Secretary

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The Friends of Hemlock Gorge

Minutes for November 10, 2020

Next Meeting: Tuesday December 8, 2020 at 7:15

Present: John Mordes, Robin Dexter, Tanya Karpiak, Bill Humphrey, Don Ross, Bob Burke,

Evan Weststrate, Lee Fisher, Jean Fisher, Sheila Purdy

Treasurer Report: Robin reported a balance of $5716.00 including recent donations using the newly installed Paypal link.

October 24th Cleanup Report: The cleanup activity “went well” Erica brought supplies . The barn window was repaired by John and Evan, and volunteers were provided lunch. The volume of trash collected was less than previously collected in cleanups. The park seems to be more carefully maintained by visitors than in the past. There is now a trashcan in the parking lot that is being used by visitors and maintained by the city.

Visitors’ Center: The plan for a public/private partnership to develop the barn into a visitors’ center has been rejected. Erica relayed that DCR does not currently have the funds for small projects. Nonetheless, building materials are currently stored in the barn for the reconstruction of the second floor. John continues to explore improvements to the first floor to prevent water damage. This includes new flooring and installation of a drainage system.   

December Holiday Meeting: The meeting date has been rescheduled for December 8, 2020. The place for the meeting has not been determined due to changes brought by Covid regulations. These may determine whether the meeting can be held in person or virtually. John is finalizing the annual report. Most of the mailing will be digital with some physical mailings available for those members who expressed a preference for that format.

Ellis Street Crossing Proposal:  A proposal to improve the crosswalk between Hemlock Gorge and Qunobequin is being explored by the city and DCR. There is a meeting set up for Thursday to discuss plans. The improvements would include improved crosswalk visibility and opening up the guardrail so that there is an open pathway put in place. These changes would improve safety and encourage more use of the conjoined parks.

Ellis Street Parking Lot  and Park Graffiti: Maria Rose from MA Parks and Rec is monitoring the graffiti and should be contacted at [email protected] to report graffiti activity. Despite regular removal, it continues to be a problem.

Ellis Street Stairs: Ruth Balser is waiting for the formal report from MWRA on the status of the stairs.

“Lara” Bench status: A number of ideas were presented on the type and placement of additional benches in the park. These were initially  proposed by Lara Prebble, Wellesley student, in her final  report and at previous FoHG meetings. Examples were offered of existing benches . Concerns about costs could be offset by having local businesses sponsor a bench. A final plan was not put in place at this meeting.

Bob Burke’s Proposal:  Bob has observed changes to the park’s natural plants over the years and has noticed the increase of invasive species. He would like to collect information on the plant species that used to grow in the park and is reaching out to members to contribute information from any sources, formal or informal, to complete a comprehensive old plant inventory of Hemlock Gorge. He can be contacted through the Friends of Hemlock Gorge email address.  

MassTrails Grant: A proposal is due on 2/1/21 for improvements to proposed or existing trails in MA parklands. It was suggested that funds could be used to replace missing steps on the steep trail section.

Website Update: The site has been getting “loads and loads” of hits on a regular basis. It was pointed out that most of these came from bots rather than interested persons, but there is an ongoing public interest in getting information including Ken Newcomb’s book.

Echo Bridge Railings Project: According to Lee there has been no change since last report.

Other Business: Information will be updated on the December Meeting. Election for officers and Board members needs to take place at this time. In the past the meeting was also used for the end of year mailing and a holiday celebration. Due to pandemic regulations, members are encouraged to remain updated on changes in the schedule.

Respectfully Submitted,

Sheila Purdy, Secretary

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The Friends of Hemlock Gorge

Minutes for December 8, 2020

Next Meeting: Tuesday, January 8, 2021 at 7:15

Present: Emily Gelbert, John Mordes, Bill Humphrey, Bob Burke, Lara Prebble, Tanya Karpiak, Allen Downs, Robin Dexter, Loumona Petrov, Don Ross, Lee Fisher, Jean Fisher, Evan Westrate, Rena Getz, Vaunita Schnell, Sheila Purdy

 End of the Year:

This is the last meeting of 2020 which is dedicated to electing Officers and Board Members for 2021. The meeting has been traditionally dedicated to mailing the year end letter along with a request for yearly dues and donations. It has also been the time for the annual  holiday party. John recounted the history of the meeting over past years. It was initially held at the Mills Falls Restaurant and later moved to Karen Osborne’s house. Last year the Friends became a 501c3 which required elections of officers and a board of directors. That took place one year ago. The bylaws require that elections take place yearly. Because of the ongoing pandemic, the election is taking place online. With the approval and vote of the members, the slate of officers and board members will remain the same for 2021.

 Election Results for 2021:


President- John Mordes; Vice President- Evan Weststrate; Treasurer-Robin Dexter; Secretary- Sheila Purdy

FOHG Board:

John Mordes, Evan Weststrate, Robin Dexter, Rena Getz, Seana Gehrin, Andreae Downs, Vaunita Schnell

Board Members were contacted prior to the election and have agreed to serve for the next year. The length of future terms will be addressed at a subsequent meeting. Two or three year terms have been suggested.


An additional dues notification will be sent out online and some members have requested paper mailings. The use of a Paypal option has been instituted this year but is not yet widely used.


There is no formal agenda for this meeting and John opened up discussion for comments and ideas going forward. The Friends acknowledged the presence of Allen Downs who was attending the meeting from New Mexico. He used to live in the area and wanted to stay connected to memories of Hemlock Gorge. He shared his recollections with the members. 

A meeting with Ruth Balser took place with members of the Friends of Hemlock Gorge and Quinobequin to plan for crosswalks to be put in place to safely connect the parks.

Lee would like to continue the option for ice skating on the pond if conditions are safe.

Trees have fallen on the paths but there have been cuts to DCR and they are short handed to make repairs at this time.

The Friends website has photos that are suitable to use as backgrounds for online meetings.

Bob is looking for extra copies of Ken Newcomb’s book, Makers of the Mold.

Lara’s bench project is still in an exploratory phase, looking into placements and options (formal or rustic).

Sheila would like to send photos of the Gorge to paid up members as a visual reminder of what the park experience is like when the weather is better. Paul Roberts could help get copies of Vaunita’s prize-winning photograph. Newton Electric also has a poster of the Gorge. Emily shared a poster from Crystal Lake Conservancy. Rena has photographs from Brian’s collection.

Emily and Evan are keeping track of the graffiti and helping to remove it from the Echo Platform.

A trash barrel has been installed near the parking lot which is being used and emptied. The park looks a lot better.

John also has a sound recording of the falls that he made years ago.

Lumber has been dropped off in the barn to complete the work on the 2nd floor.

There is no news yet about the inspection of the Ellis Street Staircase.

John proposed a toast to the accomplishments and challenges of 2020. All acknowledged it has been a very eventful year.

 Additional Brief Meeting Virtual Meeting Via Zoom 12/12/20

Present: Robin Dexter, Evan Weststrate, John Mordes, Sheila Purdy

A brief meeting was held to establish a policy for expenditure reimbursement from the FOHG treasury for members’ activities for park enhancement. Examples are: graffiti removal, publicity, trail improvements, etc. Expenditure expenses need to be approved in advance by the officers or the FOHG members at a meeting. Hard copy receipts should be sent to the treasurer to be kept in the file.  After submission of the receipts, a check will be issued.

Respectfully Submitted,

Sheila Purdy, Secretary 

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