Sunday, March 18, 2007

Marilyn's Letter to the Governor

As Bob La Tremouille reported previously here, the governor's proposed budget includes funds for the DCR's destruction of Magazine Beach.

Blog co-editor Marilyn Wellons delivered this letter to Governor Patrick's office by hand on Wednesday, March 14, 2007:

Dear Governor Patrick:

Please review and reject your budget item for the misconceived DCR project at Magazine Beach in Cambridge. It is a poison pill for the river and for your administration.

This boondoggle would destroy a fine public park and deprive us of passive open space and habitat for wildlife. It would substitute 7 acres of gravel, topsoil, an irrigation system, fences, and chemical-drenched sod for the beautiful fields there now. It would involve you in the destruction of parkland for the revival of the Inner Belt, a highway connecting the Mass. Pike and I-95 that Harvard University and others now work to create. These are toxic issues.

Chemical runoff from the project's prototype, "Teddy Ebersol's Red Sox Fields at Lederman Park" near Mass. General Hospital in Boston, gave us 2006's unprecedented algae bloom in the immediately adjacent Charles River. In 2005, the water there was clean enough for swimming. However, to maintain the 6 acres of new sod the DCR applied "Tartan" fungicide on August 8, 2006. The algae bloom was detected the next day, August 9, and was at astronomical levels by August 11. "We've never seen an algae bloom like this before," said a Charles River Watershed Association official quoted in the Boston Globe on August 16, 2006. Those 6 acres had never had an application of "Tartan" before, either--it's not approved for use near water.

At Magazine Beach, where proponents hope for swimming, the DCR--having learned nothing--is set, with your help, to replicate the disaster of the 6 acres downriver. The project in Cambridge will require the same fertilizers and herbicides as in Boston.

Further, "native" plants (a prior part of the project you would fund) already introduced at Magazine Beach have failed and will continue to fail, contrary to the hype for such items. The project removed sturdy natives planted by the birds, wind, and water, and has introduced purple loosestrife (never before seen at Magazine Beach), which thrives in disturbed soil. The DCR will work, unsuccessfully to eradicate it with herbicides when physical methods fail, as they will. Magazine Beach will thus get a continuing double dose of herbicides.

The DCR has previously failed to secure the funding you now would grant because the public does not support the destruction of this much-loved, undeveloped bend of the river.

The DCR acknowledges those riverfront acres at Magazine Beach are ordinarily rich wildlife habitat, but claims human activity has so altered them that they are no longer habitat. Any causal visitor to Magazine Beach can see this is a patent lie. Many thousands of people know and cherish their moments of calm here, in the midst of the city. The Mass. Pike, Storrow Drive, commuter rail, and the Boston skyline are in clear sight, but we can also gaze at the river, sky, and waterfowl. The DCR project will destroy this refuge for humans and animals alike.

The project has hidden implications. You may not be aware of plans for the Inner Belt, the highway river crossing to connect the Massachusetts Turnpike to I-95, cancelled in 1972 and now revived as the Urban Ring Phase 2, for the benefit of Harvard University, among other private entities. In 2003 the Pike Authority negotiated the sale of 51 acres (containing the Cambridge-Allston ramps and tolls, 3000' of the Pike, and the Beacon freight yards) to Harvard University. Harvard is working to move the Mass Pike exit from its 51 acres to the Inner Belt's proposed river crossing, i.e., the Magazine Beach-BU Bridge-Grand Junction rail bridge nexus. The move would free Harvard to develop its valuable new riverfront land for its own purposes.

The DCR development of Magazine Beach is part of the infrastructure for this new Pike exit. The 7-acre project will stabilize what the DCR calls a riverfront Magazine Beach "multipurpose path" whose specifications, on file at the Cambridge Department of Public Works, are for a two-lane road suitable for cars and small trucks. The DCR has temporarily shelved plans to connect Magazine Beach to the Grand Junction rail bridge under the BU Bridge via this service road.

Funding the DCR at Magazine Beach will allow it to restore the connection as well, of course, as destroy a unique public asset. The funds you would grant the DCR here is [sic] not for water-dependent activities! The quiet enjoyment of the river and its denizens--now in place, at no expense to the taxpayers, but in grave danger--is very much so.

Please remove this budget item and protect passive open space and wildlife habitat at Magazine Beach. Your administration would thus demonstrate its commitment to protecting the environment--by not destroying a successful public park.

Yours sincerely,
Marilyn Wellons