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Uplands Forest walk with Peter Alden
February 16, 2004
Sponsored by FAR and Sierra Club
This morning a group of rugged souls braved the cold to discover what is so special about a 15-acre parcel of land referred to as the Belmont Uplands. The name is misleading since this land is swampy and at a low elevation. But everything is relative, as they say.
My first impression was disbelief that such a fragile place could be the object of a plan for a 250-unit housing development or the equally inappropriate commercial design that preceded it. Belmont Uplands, which is just across the Cambridge line in Belmont, is the last natural space in the Cambridge area. While nearly encroached on from every side and perhaps because of this, Belmont Uplands supports an incredible diversity of life. It is a last frontier in this sense.
The first stop on our walk was at what is thought to be the mother of the rare Silver Maples that define this area. This tree is a large, old warrior that it would be criminal to disturb. Later we saw another remarkable example of this species, six large Silver Maples growing up and symmetrically out from the same base, a very unusual and beautiful display.
Late morning is not considered to be the best time to see birds, but we saw many and they were not the usual varieties that grace city streets. Early on we spotted a Red-Tailed Hawk gracefully riding the thermals above. Down below, a Downy Woodpecker hopped around a tree trunk, and the peter-peter-peter call of the Tufted Titmouse was everywhere. We found feathers of the Northern Cardinal and Snowy Owl and saw tracks left by a Cottontail rabbit. The trees are full of nests, and Mallards and Black ducks boisterously congregate on the Little River, which winds its way around the perimeter of the property.
Belmont Uplands is a natural treasure that should be protected and never developed. It is a critical wildlife habitat, an important watershed for an area increasingly beset by water problems, and a sacred place for human experience. Developments come and go, but not so nature.