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.