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FAR files with state DEP in civil action on forest protection
(Popular environmental learning center and environmental improvements make the case)
January 22, 2009
COMMONWEALTH OF MASSACHUSETTS
In the Matter of:
Docket No. WET-2008-072
PREFILED TESTIMONY OF ELLEN MASS
1. I am the President of Friends of Alewife Reservation, Inc (FAR), an Intervenor in this appeal. FAR is a non-profit corporation organized and existing under the laws of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts with offices at 186 Alewife Brook Parkway, Cambridge, MA 02138. My home is at 104A Inman Street, Cambridge, MA 02139.
2. FAR is dedicated to the preservation and enhancement of the natural environment of the 115-acre Alewife Reservation that abuts the Belmont Uplands. For the past decade, FAR has served as the steward of the Reservation in conjunction with State agencies, now the Department of Conservation and Recreation (DCR). FAR has carefully investigated, studied, evaluated, and monitored the vegetation, wildlife habitats, and water resources in and on the Reservation, and has developed and made available to the public reports and other materials related to the Reservation and the abutting Belmont Uplands. FAR also has developed and conducted recreational and educational programs for the public regarding the Reservation and abutting properties.
3. The Reservation was established by the State Legislature in 1903 as an addition to the Metropolitan Park system planned by Charles Eliot and the Frederick Law Olmsted office. The Reservation is open to the public and now consists of a functioning wildlife and human corridor located along Little Pond, Little River, and Alewife Brook. It’s western parameters begin in Belmont at Little Pond and the forested Uplands and extends through Little River to northwest Cambridge, bordering on Alewife Brook within both Cambridge and small part of Arlington. The Reservation has the distinctive location advantage of being adjacent to the Alewife T stop, a major transportation artery of the Boston area, which should give it priority standing for conservation considerations based on access. It is the only existing naturally forested area open to the public in Cambridge, and ideally brings the towns and city together in accordance with the harmonious Olmstead design. The Reservation is accessible by bike and walking paths and by a large public transportation system that connects Alewife to the greater Boston metropolis.
4. The habitat resources of the Silver Maple Forest have been studied by environmental specialists coordinated by FAR, community volunteers, and city and town open space commissions, as well as classrooms, the regional Menotomy Bird Club, and Audubon Society. The Forest is an unusual upland forest of silver maples which is considered “unique” in the Boston area by scientists, and a mixed wetland community including trees, shrubs, and other wetland plants providing habitat for a wide variety of wetland and upland species. Many species require, not only the wetlands, but also the uplands for successful breeding; thus the reason for so many sightings of wood duck, king fisher, Carolina wren, kestrel and mergansers, some of the species that need both wetland and upland to survive, and many of the 90 species sighted utilize the habitat breeding conditions. In addition, the unique size and square shape of this forest supports interior dwelling species of birds and mammals. The Alewife BioDiversity Study Guide, published by FAR for the public, assessed over 80 species of birds including 45 nesting species and 19 mammals dependent on the area habitat. As Dr. David Morimoto of Lesley University states, "The unique wild nature of this place, with its complex mosaic of habitat types, is not replicated anywhere within the greater Boston area."
5. Several years ago the Tri-community Flooding Work Group represented by chief engineers of Cambridge, Belmont and Arlington, Commissioners and citizens, was organized for the purpose of maintaining and enhancing the natural beauty and functions of the forest and wetlands on the Belmont Uplands. Other major agencies which have improved the area for environmental purposes are: the Department of Conservation and Recreation (DCR) through its Alewife Reservation Master Plan, City of Cambridge and the MWRA. These state and city agencies have made major investments in the area of the Alewife Reservation and Uplands for sewer repairs and CSO separation based on US EPA regulations, and developed a 10 acre wetlands restoration plan, these measures will greatly benefit the Little River water quality, and will extend the water quality improvements throughout the Mystic River watershed.
6.Two years ago, a 3 acre State-owned asphalt parking lot at Discovery Park, that abuts the Reservation near the Uplands, was removed and returned to habitat, open meadow and public use. This restoration has benefited the area by the expansion of habitat which attracts larger keystone mammals such as otter, fisher, fox, coyote and deer to the Alewife Reservation and Uplands. The public expects that the Reservation will continue to expand as a rare wildlife refuge with passive recreational usage, as planned by the City of Cambridge, DCR and MWRA. FAR’s annual Ecology Camp gives youth throughout the Boston area a chance to experience this wildlife area and to learn green collar job skills while within city boundaries, accessible by T. FAR has conducted over 80 educational walks and 100 cleanups over the past 6 years over 4 seasons.
7. As demonstrated by the 2003 Alewife Reservation Master Plan, the planned improved access from the Alewife MBTA station and the Minuteman Bike Path as well as the bike path between Belmont’s Blanchard Road and the Cambridge Alewife MBTA station designed and given a time line by Mass Highway, will soon provide a vital multipurpose pathway link to the existing urban Greenway that connects Little River, Alewife Brook, and Mystic River all the way to Boston Harbor to the east and to Clay Pit Pond and the McLean "Lone Tree" Meadow Habitat to the west. By adding the Silver Maple Forest on the Uplands to the Alewife Reservation, DCR would be permanently extending the current limited corridor to facilitate appreciation of Olmstead’s original plan, i.e. environmental conservation learning, bird watching, hiking, field study, and passive recreation, for the large nearby urban/suburban population in Arlington, Cambridge, Medford, Somerville, and Belmont. Adding the Forest to the Reservation will also reduce floods and preserve wildlife habitat.
8. The Silver Maple Forest is being addressed by a number of current and proposed public and private efforts to improve the local environment. The following are some of these efforts:
9. FAR has advocated and recommended that the project site containing the Silver Maple Forest, wetlands and open space be preserved in its natural condition. The Belmont Open Space and Recreation Plan of January 2001 cited the Silver Maple Forest and surrounding land as a priority for acquisition as Open Space. Moreover, two years ago, the Belmont/Arlington Boards of Selectmen meeting in a joint session voted unanimously to preserve the Silver Maple Forest as open space. The Cambridge Open Space Commissions’ reports in Cambridge and Belmont read repetitively of the conservation need for Alewife Reservation to be upgraded as an urban wild open space for recreation and environmental protection.
10. The DCR has plans to further implement the Alewife Master Plan which will enhance the Reservation parkland for recreational and educational purposes, benefiting the public in this dense urban/suburban population. The placement of the 299 housing units in several large buildings in the middle of the Silver Maple Forest will destroy the function of the Uplands as a wildlife habitat and forever prevent this area from being added to the Reservation to enhance the diversity and survival of many species of birds and animals, and for the enjoyment of the public in this dense urban area.
Signed under the pains and penalties of perjury, this 22nd day of January, 2009.