Silver Maple Forest Bill Passed

Senator Tolman and Representative Brownsberger announced today the passage of House 701, a bill which would kick start the conversation about state acquisition of the Silver Maple Forest property, also known as the Belmont Uplands.

Said Representative Brownsberger, “This issue has been drifting for several years now. House 701 is a modest step forward. I am hoping that it will focus the official attention necessary to resolve the question of whether an acquisition is viable. I am very grateful to Senator Tolman for his leadership and cosponsorhip of this bill. I am also grateful to Senator Donnelly and Senator DiDomenico and to my house colleagues, Representatives Garballey and Wolfe who have actively supported the bill.”

Senator Steven Tolman said, “After many years of thorough debate and thoughtful consideration, the fate of the Silver Maple Forest is one step closer to being decided. The passage today of the bill which Representative Brownsberger and I filed will allow Massachusetts to determine the value of the Silver Maple Forest and help inform a decision about whether the Department of Conservation and Recreation will acquire the forest. I look forward to the completion of the land value assessment and to continuing to work on this important issue.”

Representative Wolf said, “This is a start at preserving this important open space. We who live in dense urban areas really need to be able to enjoy an urban wild, just as those in the more rural areas enjoy hundreds of acres of green spaces.”

Representative Garballey said, “This is a very precious resource that needs to be protected for the enjoyment of everybody and I will continue to be vigilant to assure that it stays protected.”

Senator Donnelly said, “Land preservation in the Alewife area is important from a flood control perspective as well. I am pleased that we could make this progress and I hope that we can also make progress on preserving the adjoining Mugar property in Arlington.”

The bill creates a four step process: (1) the Commissioner of the Department of Conservation and Recreation determines a price for the property and determines whether the owner will sell at that price; (2) the Commissioner determines how much DCR will contribute towards a purchase of the property; (3) the municipalities then have 120 days to determine how much, if any, they will contribute to the purchase of the property (either from their own funds or privately raised funds); (4) if the necessary funds are produced, then DCR will acquire the property and add it to the Alewife Reservation.

The bill does not appropriate any funds, leaving it the Commissioner of the Department of Conservation and Recreation to determine how much, if any, the state will contribute towards the purchase from its bond-funded land acquisition program. Representative Brownsberger said “the state has very limited funds. It is entirely possible that the Commissioner will allocate no funds or minimal funds to the acquisition.”

The bill does not force the owner to sell the property — it does not permit an eminent domain taking. Representative Brownsberger said “Hopefully, with some involvement by DCR, the owner will at least come to the table.”

The enacted bill now goes to Goveror Patrick for his signature.

Published by Will Brownsberger

Will Brownsberger is State Senator from the Second Suffolk and Middlesex District.

7 replies on “Silver Maple Forest Bill Passed”

  1. Will, Congratulations on this first step! Preserving this land is important. Please let us know of any fund raising efforts.

  2. Hi Will,

    This is an enormous step in the right direction!

    Silver Maple Forest should be protected under the National Historic Preservation Act.

    I’ll be in touch with next steps…

  3. I just called the governor’s office at 617.725.4005 and told the aide I support H701. Maybe if enough of us do it, it will make a difference. The 2009-2010 legislative session is over, so the governor’s decision must be imminent.

    BTW the link entitled “Save the Silver Maple Forest” (found under “Will’s Projects Online” in the right-hand margin of any page other than the home page of this blog) leads to background materials, including links to the text and history of H701.

  4. Update as of Friday evening, January 14, 8PM.

    Some have asked . . . has the Governor signed the bill? Actually he has until midnight tonight.

    But here is my understanding of what the intentions of the administration are:

    • The Governor will not sign the bill . . . BUT
    • The Secretary of Environmental Affairs WILL conduct the property appraisal mandated by the bill.

    We should have final confirmation on Tuesday, but from good authority, I believe that is the plan .

    I’m pleased. I think it gives us the important next step that we hoped. Based on an authoritative appraisal, we can take the further steps that the bill contemplates. The further steps really don’t require legislation to effectuate. The commitment from the Secretary is really better than the bill, because the as-passed language of the bill did not truly compel the appraisal.

    More on next week.

  5. Disappointed, but do not want to even contemplate the nuances of Beacon Hill at last minute passage. If Will says we are moving forward, I will take a back seat and follow. Substantive legislative push has gone into this Bill and the Governor will respect that endeavor. He will give
    us something for our labor and broad support, and we will move the preservation effort forward.

    Best, And Thanks for continuing.
    Ellen Mass
    Friends of Alewife Reservation

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