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Cambridge Chronicle Publishes Cambridge Conservation Commission Permitting Faults In regards to Silver Maple Forest
by Ellen Mass
December 25, 2008
original at www.wickedlocal.com/cambridge/news/opinions/x1647202220
See Retraction in fact on CCC and permitting developer of Uplands
Letter: Keep Alewife green
While national elections gave us hope for great change, with a public revolt against wrong decisions and bloodletting, corruption remains on many local levels as we see in Illinois. And last Monday in Cambridge, the Cambridge Conservation Commission dealt a real blow to local conservation. Perhaps to cushion ourdismay for official decision-makers, we can rationalize that “the Grinch has stolen Christmas”for the amphibians, insects plants, animals and birds living on the public Alewife Reservation of 130 acres (15 private); but now, the rectified and happy outcome of Whoville seems unlikely.
After many years of heroic work by Belmont commissioners and citizen involvement there, in Cambridge and Arlington, the Cambridge City Council green actions have progressed throughout city streets and buildings, biking, climate awareness campaigns and scientific advance; yet, the fate of a rare forest, 2.6 acres in Cambridge, is being sealed with questionable means. Four council resolutions over the last 10 years naming the silver maple forest as a valuable resource for our city were totally ignored. Almost in a whisper, the Epsilon wildlife specialist, Judy Vondrak, declared few trees or habitat areas worth mentioning. Friends of Alewife Reservation has published and distributed professional wilderness animal and bird findings for years for friends of the area to share in our delight that such a refuge exists here, left over from “The Great Swamp Days of Menotomy.” Almost no questions were asked from Albe Simones or Jennifer Wright.
Many trees in the rare silver maple forest, designated by the state as “small river floodplain forest” are more than 100 years old and otter, fox, fisher coyote abound as there is no other place for them to go. Although the OOC is solely for Cambridge edge acres and for said habitat replication, and for putting in sewage pipes in the 100-year floodplain along the recently fully flooded Acorn Park Drive, Cambridge’s official approval will likely undermine the ongoing judicial process begun in Belmont, presently with the state DEP proceedings which include many consultants and attorneys in behalf of the environment. Judicial hearings, after eight years of citizen effort, will continue through March by Little Pond plaintiffs in a strong civil action land protection case. Citizens have raised around $70,000 to protect the future of Little Pond and their homes from more sewage backup and flooding and for the beauty of their vistas. By agreeing to allow the sewage pipes through Cambridge, the city has undercut the process giving them an “out” from their poorly designed building footprint and under capacity sewage tanks. (Two council hearings were held on the sewage issue alone. Overwhelmingly, opinion was against the permit). The commission has said it would wait to see what transpires in Belmont before granting permits to O’Neill. That situation has changed.
The firm is one of the largest developers in the northeast. It was engaged in a class action suit in Pennsylvania from 350 left homeless after O’Neill’s condo buildings in Conshohocken, Pa. became an inferno. Investigation discovered a lack of necessary basement and attic fire protection. Efforts fromthree municipalities do not seem able to quell this fire, which may be equally destructive.
The future of the forest is up to citizens to keep Cambridge green, without eliminating the largest untouched urban wild in the Boston area, and last wildlife refuge in our region.