Saturday, October 08, 2011

Belmont targeted op ed on Alewife

I have just sent the following, realizing that destruction of the core Alewife reservation is imminent.

Belmont Citizen-Herald

Residents of Belmont are, for good reason, concerned about Cambridge and the Department of Conservation and Recreation’s plans in the Alewife area.

The two are about to go forward with a destructive, bizarre proposal, a proposal which is consistent with bad environmental behavior elsewhere.

The core Alewife reservation starts pretty close to Alewife Station and runs into Belmont. The northern boundary is Little River. On the south, it approaches the railroad right of way near Belmont and, in Cambridge, it comes close to Cambridge Park Drive.

The massive development Cambridge has allowed has done severe harm to the watershed. There have been two fifty year floods in the area in the past twenty years. That portion of Cambridge between Cambridge Park Drive and the railroad, north and south, and running on the east to Alewife Brook Parkway include a massive parking lot which occupies easily half the area.

That massive parking lot would be ideal for flood storage at the level needed to protect against 50 year storms or worse. Major tanks could be placed underground for storage in emergencies with gradual emptying after the emergency. The owner of the biggest contiguous parking lot has plans for major buildings and intended to go forward before the collapse of the financial market.

A joint project would be ideal, starting with a taking by eminent domain. Cambridge has quite a bit of Community Preservation Act moneys which could be used for flood storage, about a million I understand. Moneys of this sort have been spent by Cambridge in the past on property in Lincoln.

Instead, Cambridge and the DCR propose to destroy the core Alewife reservation and intend to go forward with logging / clear cutting in October, within days, lasting for a month.

The “protection” provided by the project would be a pittance. It would protect against the worst storm likely in any two year period. What is needed is 50 year or more protection. They protect against a rain storm. We need protection against floods.

Cambridge and the DCR’s bizarre project fits bizarre projects by Cambridge and the DCR on the Charles River.

The leader of a “protective” group which claims to defending Alewife has been telling people to look at everything but the core reservation for something like 15 years. This is in spite of the fact that Cambridge has a City Council which claims to be environmental saints. The group has been fighting long shot fights on less important property in private ownership. The group has been telling people to ignore this bizarre needlessly destructive project by their friends.

The leader of the group has recently gone public in the Cambridge Chronicle supporting destruction of the irreplaceable core Alewife reservation in spite of the reservation’s excellence, excellence she has praised for years, and in spite of the fact that destroying the core Alewife reservation is downright silly.

I have 35 years experience working for the environment in Cambridge. I have been the most visible person standing up to the bizarre destruction on the Charles. Using the tool of zoning for environmental protection, I have written more successful zoning changes in the City of Cambridge than any other person not employed by the City of Cambridge.

My most visible victories are: (1) the Inn at Harvard, which Harvard wanted to build 72% larger and built to the lotline and (2) the return to the environment of the large parking lot which used to be located between Alewife Station and Route 2. I have downzoned approximately 85% of Massachusetts Avenue between Harvard University and City Hall.

My biggest problem in my environmental efforts has been “protective” groups which have connections to the Cambridge City Manager and City Council. These groups have a distressing tendency of achieving the opposite of what they claim to stand for.

The Alewife “protective” group has such connections and has just admitted it supports destruction of the core Alewife reservation.

It is not too late to save Alewife.

Governor Patrick has, apparently, blocked plans of Cambridge and the DCR to get Obama moneys to destroy hundreds of excellent trees on Memorial Drive between Magazine Beach and the Longfellow Bridge. The DCR lied that the trees were all diseased. The diseased trees were destroyed five years earlier. Governor Patrick received a copy of the DCR’s filing with the City of Cambridge which proved the diseased tree argument to be a lie.

I should think Belmont officials would be very interested in reality at Alewife and there are a number of things they could do.

Belmont has reps and senators who claim to be concerned about our world.

A lot can be done, but the outrageous and needless destruction is occurring almost immediately. And that parking lot will not remained unbuilt upon forever.