Thursday, April 27, 2006

letter to the Boston Conservation Commission about further illegal clearing on the Charles River

On April 19 the Charles River Conservancy applied to the Boston Conservation Commission for permission to do yet more work on our Charles River public parklands. Given the CRC's history of work contrary to provisions of the Wetlands Protection Act, I submitted this letter to the Commission:

To the Boston Conservation Commission:

re: Request for Determination of Applicability from the Charles River Conservancy for pathway and landscaping improvements adjacent to the Eliot Bridge, Soldiers Field Road, Charles River (100-foot Buffer Zone to Inland Bank)

When considering this request and related filings by the CRC and/or the DCR, please consider the organizations’ history regarding the Wetlands Protection Act and your Commission’s orders. Because of this history, CRC projects bear a heavy burden of proof that they are in the public interest. The evidence of the CRC’s work along the river indicates they are not.

Your site visits in 2004 confirmed the CRC’s illegal destruction at Herter West and from there to the Anderson Bridge. As a result, you ordered, among other things, that
no vegetation management activities by volunteers, including cutting and pruning, shall occur on any property owned or managed by the DCR along the Charles River in Boston without direct supervision by DCR or Charles River Conservancy staff. (letter, Chris Busch to DCR Commissioner Abbott, January 13, 2005.)

On Friday, March 10, at 12:40 p.m. I came upon a solitary CRC “volunteer” cutting the waterfront plants from the Northeastern boathouse downriver near the catalpas. Please see the enclosed photographs of the CRC worker, who identified himself as Kenny and said he was cutting the plants “for the regatta” (October’s Head of the Charles?). Kenny said he had worked with the CRC’s Evan Moss the previous weekend and that Mr. Moss had agreed he could continue to cut during the following week, as he was indeed doing, unsupervised.

This incident underscores the DCR’s previous misrepresentations to the Commission about its willingness or ability to supervise “vegetation management” by its agent, the CRC. Contrary to the agency’s statements at your hearings and on your site visits to Herter West, the chainsaw-wielding, then-CRC Board of Advisors member Lawrence Coolidge was not a “loose cannon” in October, 2003 when he and other CRC “volunteers” illegally destroyed much of that urban wild. Mr. Coolidge not only participated in the project but funded it, as the CRC’s website continues to acknowledge. The website also reports the DCR’s approval of plans for that project. Please see

Kenny, the unsupervised CRC “volunteer” on March 10, wore a Harvard cap and was working on the riverfront near Harvard’s planned Allston museum. As at nearby Herter West in 2003, the effect of this CRC work is to transform the Charles River parkland from the rural landscape its designers intended for us city dwellers to an office park for Harvard University’s corporate interests.

The DCR’s repeated failure to prevent such work indicates a policy of approval, although it is possible its “vegetation management” is only mindless. To get rid of an oriental bittersweet on the lagoon behind the Publick Theatre, for example, Mr. Moss’s workers destroyed every goldenrod and aster in full bloom there last September, revealing the theater’s dumpster and backside. Clear-cutting of the riverbank like Kenny’s keeps open vistas to the cars on the opposite shore. The DCR admits “invasive” false indigo holds the riverbank for free, yet weakens and kills it through the CRC’s perpetual clear-cutting. (How many acres of eroded riverfront parkland, how many acres of heron and herring habitat have we lost because of such “vegetation management”?)

The Wetlands Protection Act and your Commission have held the DCR to a higher standard of stewardship than this. Please keep the DCR’s and CRC’s history of actual destruction in mind when considering the CRC’s present request for continued work on our precious parkland and when reviewing DCR-CRC “vegetation management.”

Yours sincerely,
Marilyn Wellons