For the past 10 years, I have been among conservation advocates hoping to find a way to preserve the Silver Maple Forest property adjacent to the Alewife reservation. We’ve won some battles and lost some battles, given up on occasion and come back to the fight. The property is a valuable urban wild that should be preserved for the enjoyment of regional residents and as a habitat for wildlife.
Click here for a website devoted to my recent legislative efforts. For a summary of pending litigation, see the Belmont Citizen’s Forum’s May Newsletter. For general background on the reservation, see the Friends of the Alewife Reservation. Efforts to preserve land in the area go back decades before any of these organizations formed.
Last year, with Senator Tolman’s help, I was able to push through the legislature a bill that would have created a structure for possible acquisition of the forest. Unfortunately Governor Patrick vetoed that bill, apparently under the influence of single-minded housing advocates.
After some reflection, I refiled that legislation this year and it is pending at this time. No hearing has yet been held. I am confident that I could get it passed again, but have every reason to expect that the Governor would veto it again. I have been waiting to see if others could be successful in influencing the Governor’s position on the bill — I certainly did all I could to frame the issue for him positively through a series of meetings and contacts last year.
I have been encouraged by the success of some Cambridge political activists in engaging with the Governor on the issue. Their outreach led to a meeting with the Executive Office of Environmental Affairs which positioned the issue again on their radar screen. However, the follow-up to the meeting is unclear.
Currently, the recession, together with the pending litigation, has given the forest a reprieve, but we are still struggling to find a strategy that will work permanently. If the Cambridge political efforts do not lead to a breakthrough with the Governor, I am pessimistic about the success of efforts to get the state to contribute to an acquisition. I will re-engage with the administration directly myself, but have been given no signals that would encourage me to expect a different outcome.
Given the financial constraints that Belmont, Cambridge and Arlington are functioning under, it is unlikely that they will be able to muster the resources for an acquisition without some state assistance.
The Environment and Natural Resources Committee held a hearing last week our bill. The hearing was lightly attended — only two members heard our testimony. But Chairman Straus was clearly willing to talk about the bill in a serious way. I will follow up.
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