Open letter to legislators of Arlington, Belmont, and Cambridge

This letter has been sent to the town, city, and state legislators of Arlington, Belmont and Cambridge regarding the impending destruction of the urban wilds adjacent to Little Pond and the Little River in Belmont and Cambridge.

Dear Legislators,

The Association of Cambridge Neighborhoods is pleased to learn that adaptation preparedness to climate change will be modeled in Cambridge for the nation and that planning will get underway very soon with the City of Cambridge taking the lead among eight US cities.

Civil defense measures will be needed for rising sea levels and tributary flooding. Northwest Cambridge knows all too well the dangers of flooding and sewage contamination. Health and safety is our priority for the future, so how is it possible that the City of Cambridge’s Conservation Commission and Department of Public Works and the Town of Belmont’s Community Development Department are in the process of considering water and sewer infrastructure permits for a large development which would mostly eliminate a small river floodplain forest and its six million gallons of water annually in tree transpiration. The flooding reality was demonstrated in March 2010 when massive floods inundated neighborhoods in North Cambridge and East Arlington with water and sewage and almost reached Route 2, temporarily shutting down its ramps. This floodplain is all we have to protect people and other species that have gravitated to the Alewife Reservation, which, after our many years of neglect, has become a valuable and rare urban wild.

We at ACN have been watching groups such as Friends of Alewife Reservation and the Massachusetts Audubon Society use the area as an important teaching ground for youth, for green jobs and for general earth science and biodiversity learning, as it is on a major transportation node at Alewife. This is the only place in Cambridge where we can see such natural wonders as wood ducks, coyote, and a forest wetland ecosystem. There has never been a greater need for protection of such a large urban wild and floodplain area for our citizens, wildlife, and science learners.

The permitting, we feel, must be delayed until the Belmont Conservation Commission with its intervenors reaches Superior Court with their appeal. They have all submitted their affidavits. This case deserves to have its appeal by the town heard because much testimony and cross-examination of professional witnesses at the Adjudicatory Hearing at DEP in 2009 were not considered. Climate catastrophe is happening throughout the world, and we have an opportunity to prevent it in northwest Cambridge and downstream to Boston Harbor, if the scientific evidence is allowed to come to bear on the case.

The lack of big housing developments does not present a crisis. The destruction of habitat, wetlands, and floodplains, on the other hand, may in fact be exactly that. Please do everything you can to preserve this natural gem and flood control asset.

Sincerely,

Mark Jaquith
Co-President, Association of Cambridge Neighborhoods
C/O
15 Brookford Street
Cambridge, MA 02140

Ellen Mass
President, Friends of Alewife Reservation
186 Alewife Brook Parkway, Suite 304
Cambridge, MA 02138.

Photo above of an American redstart (Setophaga ruticilla) at the reservation courtesy of Friends of Alewife Reservation.