Winter Tree Identification Walk in the Commons and Public Garden


Linda Ciesielski from the Boston Natural Areas Network led a walk through the Boston Common and Public Garden on Saturday morning instructing attendees on how to identify trees in winter.  With no leaves to look at, the details of the bark and the way the branches spread become indicators to distinguish the oaks, elms and ash trees in the parks.


Before I had to bail from the extreme cold, we learned about the Dutch Elm Disease that decimated most of the American Elms in the country including our parks in Boston.  The few left near the front of the state house are in terrible condition (see the topless tress on the right below).


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Mayor Walsh Transition Committee Public Hearing on Environment


Newly elected Boston mayor Marty Walsh has appointed experts to several different committee areas to serve as aides in his transition to the role.  The process also involves public hearings to allow Boston residents and other stakeholders to voice their opinions in the desired format of: keep, implement and dream.  The hearing on Environment was held on January 7th at English High School in Jamaica Plain.  More than fifty people stood up – representing themselves as citizens, environmental organizations, park groups and others – to ask for the following:


  • Encouragement of visitation to Boston Harbor Islands National Park
  • 2016 anniversary celebration of the Park Service
  • Better maintenance of Mission Hill parks and increased recreational facilities
  • Audit to ensure environmental justice by neighborhood, equitable distribution of green space
  • More “rec” in Parks & Rec, sports and educational programs in parks
  • youth employment in public parks
  • East Boston Greenway walking/biking trail
  • implement policies for old and large trees
  • encourage visitation to Allendale Woods and other urban wilds
  • permanent protection for Hellenic Hill
  • plant 12,000 trees/year
  • keep parks friends groups associations
  • 1996 Boston Common management plan to prevent misuse and overuse
  • increase number of park rangers
  • hire an innovative parks commissioner
  • increase parks department budget to 1% of city budget
  • raise the three historic parks to highest level of excellence
  • hire a dedicated superintendent for public gardens (last one was 1906)
  • use best practices for park maintenance
  • management plans for all parks
  • simplify permitting for events in park
  • permit fees should be an income stream for park restoration
  • no driving on parkland
  • support for cultural programming
  • Franklin Park clubhouse turned into a restaurant and restoration of crumbling buildings
  • cessation of chemicals to maintain parks
  • park system wide volunteer program
  • better lighting in parks
  • Mayor’s office should become actively involved in Muddy River restoration project
  • Better maintenance of tennis courts as well as improved waste and water facilities

Toxic Substances

Green Jobs & Businesses

  • Minority inclusion in the “green economy”
  • job creation through recycling and composting
  • green internships for youth
  • Build on momentum Boston has for leadership and encourage innovation

Waste Management

  • zero-waste master planning that engages community and creates “green” jobs
  • open up participation in waste management for small start-ups
  • increase recycling to 50% citywide by 2020
  • “pay as you throw”
  • Restrict burning of trash

Climate Change & Flooding

  • Use new research to enact precautionary policies
  • restrict new building in flood zones
  • incentives for moving out of flood zones with housing lotteries
  • climate predictions for public health and emergency management procedures
  • increased private and public partnerships on climate change issues
  • call municipal officials and other stakeholders together for climate adaptation summit
  • regional planning for climate change issues
  • Address the fact that climate change is an equity issue – poor disproportionately affected by high heat days
  • Climate change should factor into all city decisions


  • no new fossil fuel infrastructure purchases
  • Fix gas pipeline leaks
  • pressure energy conservation from businesses
  • promote solar panel installation and solar shares for renters
  • anti-idling laws
  • retro-fit city vehicles for diesel


  • Environmental literacy for children
  • outdoor learning environments
  • hire school superintendent that understands sustainability

Public Transportation

  • discounted T-passes for students
  • expand bike network and analyze gaps


  • Water conservation
  • gray water and rainwater usage resulting in job creation
  • keep the right to water policy and commission a study of discrimination in water shut offs
  • reduce storm water pollution in Charles River
  • Maintain groundwater monitoring

Urban Agriculture

  • Encouragement for locally grown food and farmers markets
  • allow residents to have chickens and beehives
  • community garden expansion, 1,000 more community garden plots in 4 years
  • urban agriculture expansion
  • use yard waste as composting in community gardens
  • keep Boston Office of Food Initiatives
  • Turn Brook Farm into a community farm and educational center

Organizations Represented

The hearing can be viewed on the Boston Neighborhood Network website.

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Esplanade Cleanup Day


On Saturday the Esplanade Association invited members of its young professionals Council, employees at Bain Capital and an MIT Fraternity to participate in a cleanup day.  At least 50 people turned out to be directed by horticulturalist Ozzie Bateman to rake the leaves in front of the Hatch Shell which were hauled off to make compost.  With one-full time and one part-time employee managing the upkeep of the Esplanade, the park really relies on the 3,000 volunteers who lend a hand each year.


Since yard work isn’t a regular activity for me I needed to purchase something suitable to wear, especially with temperatures in the 40s.  I found a sturdy pair of boots again from Timberland’s Earthkeeper’s line.  The Savin Hill Mid Boot has a lining made 100% from recycled bottles, a 15% recycled rubber sole and leather from a tannery certified for energy and water efficiency.


I also tried a new pair a jeans from Big Star, a company headquartered in Los Angeles.  Many of their items are made in the USA and their jeans are processed using “ozone technology” which reduces water, chemical and energy usage.  Copious amounts of water are typically used to get the right color on jeans after having been dyed with indigo.  The technology employed by Big Star achieves the same result with less water and time.  Online eco-retailer Kaight sells the skinny Alex model in several colors.  These however are made in Mexico.


To keep me warm I bought the Trail Model Fleece jacket from L.L. Bean made from Polartec-200, a material produced right here in Massachusetts from 85% recycled plastic bottles.  It is unfortunate that the fabric is then shipped to El Salvador for sewing before being shipped right back here.


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Alewife Autumn Amble

The Department of Conservation and Recreation (DCR) along with the Friends of Alewife Reservation (FAR) organized a walk through a lesser-traveled path of the reservation on Saturday morning.  Led by DCR ranger Maggi Brown with help from Friends president Ellen Mass, the group of about 15 of us who showed up were taken about 2 miles along the Little River up to the Silver Maple Forest.

AlewifeAmble1 AlewifeAmble2

There is a paved path for bikers and strollers which is where most visitors wind up exploring the area.  Going in the opposite direction the path is more rugged and narrow and the feeling is more secluded.  We learned that a parcel of land right up against the reservation is nearly approved for a box store which the Friends worry will impact the natural drainage and wetlands.  Similarly, the Silver Maple Forest falls partially on reservation land and partially on private property.  The latter is being considered for condo development.


The Friends spend a lot of effort advocating to protect the park but unfortunately they appear to be losing the battle for the Silver Maple Forest.  We also learned about the work being done to curb some of the invasive plant species.

To get to the reservation by public transportation, take the red line to the end at Alewife.  It is about a 15 minute walk from there.  Leaving the station by way of the passenger pickup/drop off exit, turn right onto the Alewife Station Access Road.  After less than a quarter-mile, on the opposite side of the street, is the pedestrian walkway leading for about a half mile to the reservation entrance.

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