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it's private
Rare Forest May be Cut Down
From Ellen Mass, Craig Kelly
(added October 14, 2003)

After attaining full wildlife assessments of the Alewife Reservation from a Dept. of Fish and Game grant, Friends of Alewife Reservation has searched for a professional forest assessment of the reservation, and contiguous with it. The forest plays an important function in the Upper Mystic River Watershed. The forest trees and soils provide a breeding area for both mammals, birds, and a seed center from forest floor that keep the ecosystems in adjacent parts of Belmont and Cambridge healthy, according to Larry Millman, fungi specialist. The forest mitigates high water flow, functioning as a superior water retention area in its marshes and vernal areas where Cambridge's most extensive wetlands lie both east and west of Acorn Park Drive. "Generalized mapping prepared by Federal Emergency Managemnet Agency (FEMA) indicates the majority of the site is subject to flooding in the 100 year event " according to Charles Katuska who develops workshops for state agencies, with biology and forest degrees from Yale University and is a wetland specialist: "Only five percent of the area (metropolitan) is open space", says Katuska, and "most of this is public park land, golf courses and other forms of intensively managed land. The elevated central core of the Uplands, extending almost to Acorn Park Drive on the east, is dominated by an unusual mondominant stand of silver maple. The central core stand includes two or three massive, multi-trunked silver maple functioning as canopy super-dominants. These wolf trees are likely seed source for the uniform and even-aged stand of silver maple now dominating the central core."

The state's Dept. of Environmental Managment (DEM) has measured the mother maple which is over 100 years old. After measuring its trunk, canopy and heigth ratio, the wolf tree was given points of 334, close to Dracut Ma.'s champion maple of 384. According to Katuska, these trees have been in existence since the early farm days when the Cambridge economy derrived from fishing for alewives, and later from farming, making them historically significant trees. They too are designated for clear-cutting according to spokesperson for the company.

Katuska, who has studied the property before it was posted "no trespassing" concludes, "The presence of a significant stand of silver maple, in association with a variety of dynamic lower elevation wetland plant communities, is highly unusual especially in the landscape context of a densely developed urban watershed. In general comparable sites within the boston Basin are, if present at all, extremely rare. In this specific context, the upper reaches of the Mystic River watershed, this site is unique." The Belmont Town Meeting of around 200 persons will vote mid-november. Go to Belmont town website, or for an update on this issue and what you can do.

Ellen Mass is president of Friends of Alewife Reservation and has been active in bringing information to the public on the nature of the area. Recently FAR published a book on the species diversity on the Reservation and in the forest with the full report, part of which is noted in this article.