Friday, October 16, 2009


Archie Mazmanian reports:

Many years ago, long before the Charles River was reconfigured into its current form by filling tidelands and constructing dams, it served as a disposal, including in particular for the Allston/Brighton stockyards and abattoirs. The venerated Harvard Business School (HBS) is built on land filled in the reconfiguring of the Charles. Some years back (early 1970s), a Professor at HBS was hosting a Board of Directors meeting of a corporation I represented (he and I served on the Board). He gave a brief history of HBS, including an odor problem that developed at the site that finally was determined to be methane leaking from the soil through the floors of HBS. The source of the methane was determined to be cattle hides long buried there, disposed of years earlier by the abattoirs.

Fortunately, quite a bit of progress has been made over the years to lessen the environmental issues caused by the stockyards and its abattoirs. No longer would MA and its municipalities permit such dumping to go on with the Charles or other waters. Over recent years, efforts have been made to make the Charles swimmable, including at Magazine Beach that once was swimmable. (I recall my family taking me there when we lived in Somerville in the mid 1930s.) Alas, public funds are low. Despite former Governor Weld’’s famous dive into the Charles before he bailed out of MA, the Charles is not yet swimmable for humans.

But there is life in the Charles. I’’m not sure how successfully the herring run up the Charles to spawn in recent years. But there are fish in the Charles. And then there are the ducks and other seabirds that partake of the Charles in season.

And let’’s not forget the year-round Charles River White Geese that have given great pleasure to us, especially our children. The Charles is a jewel, a joy for our urban area, with its open expanse a respite from the densities of urban life, permitting communing with nature. But now these White Geese face annihilation at the hands of MA and Cambridge government officials. What we have is a bloodless abattoir at the White Geese’’s habitat in the area of the BU Bridge. Because it is bloodless, these government officials may feel their hands are clean. But are they? Would you shake their hands? Or vote for them?