Saturday, September 13, 2008


Bob La Trémouille reports:

The following is reprinted from with permission of the author, exact URL provided:

Archie Mazmanian on September 11th, 2008 at 8:31 am:


I hadn’t taken a walk along the Charles River for several years. A niece from California visiting with us likes to walk, so we accessed the Charles River through BU’s campus at the Marsh Chapel and the pedestrian bridge over Storrow Drive . We walked down to and crossed the Massachusetts Avenue bridge, noting the “Smoot” distance markings, and then headed westerly towards the BU Bridge.

Since my last perambulation along this route, there have been many changes on the Cambridge side along the Charles. Bushes at the waters’ edge would block views of the white geese who used to “control” much of this bank of the Charles where guests at the Hyatt Regency Hotel, nearby workers and strollers would feed them. I recalled that one had to keep distance from the geese – especially children – as white geese were very protective of their goslings. For the most part, people enjoyed, admired and respected these white geese, especially in an urban environment, providing a valuable life experience especially for children observing and learning respect for nature.
Perhaps these bushes were planted to thwart both the white geese and the people who fed and watched them. Who was accountable for this? Was it the City of Cambridge ? BU which had taken over and substantially enlarged a boat house across the Charles from its Boston campus at the easterly Cambridge side of the BU Bridge? The Hyatt Regency Hotel? The Commonwealth? Surely it wasn’t the strollers or the workers at the several rehabbed facilities just across Memorial Drive enjoying lunch breaks on the bank of the Charles and a respite from urban life.

During our walk, I gave my niece a “history” of what has happened in this area since we moved to nearby Brookline in 1973. As we passed the BU boat house, I noticed for the first time a flight of stairs leading down to an open sandy area just back from the River, surrounded by protective vegetation, filled with white geese, their nesting area. We didn’t go down the stairs for a closer look as we did not wish to disturb the white geese; after all, they respect our privacy, don’t they?

This nesting area is just easterly of the GJRL and the BU Bridge it passes under crossing the River. As any commuter in the Commonwealth Avenue/BU Bridge area knows, the Bridge is undergoing extensive, long-needed repairs. But conservation issues have just recently surfaced, involving not only water quality issues but the situation of the white geese and their nesting area. The plan of the Commonwealth may include using the white geese’s nesting area, or a portion, for staging BU Bridge repairs. But what would happen to the white geese community?

The Cambridge Conservation Commission has entered the scene, perhaps goaded (or goosed?), to address conservation issues associated with the Bridge repairs. On the Boston side, there are no white geese issues, only water quality, so that Boston ’s Conservation Commission seems to have been silent on conservation issues related to Bridge repairs. The Town of Brookline ’s Conservation Commission lacks jurisdiction as its borders stop at the southerly side of Commonwealth Avenue . So let’s credit the Cambridge environmental community for goading (or goosing?) the Cambridge Conservation Commission into addressing the white geese who are between the rock ( Charles River ?) and the hard place (BU Bridge?). But might this Commission cave-in to the priority of Bridge repairs over the white geese?

Phase 2 of the Urban Ring continues to plod ahead with its Charles River crossing route either over or under (GJRL) the BU Bridge, which would affect more than the white geese nesting area along the GJRL in portions of Cambridgeport towards Kendall Square . Perhaps it is time for the Urban Ring project to reconsider the location (and method) for Phase 2’s Charles River crossing. A long traffic bottle-necked Commonwealth Avenue/BU Bridge area gets worse and worse with BU Bridge repairs proposed to take place over the next three years or more. Adding Phase 2’s 60-foot articulated BRT buses over – or under (GJRL) – the BU Bridge may get us closer to gridlock as well as destroy the white geese nesting area.

We must listen to the “Cry of the White Geese” variation on the late Frankie Laine’s hit recording of yesteryear: “My heart knows what the white goose knows, I must go where the white goose goes.”