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Spring/Summer 2013 Newsletter

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Photo Credit: Bruce Wolff
Photo Credit: Bruce Wolff

A Letter from the Co-Presidents
Ellen Forrester and Betsy Shure Gross

IN 1997, Kathryn Lasky published She’s Wearing A Dead Bird On Her Head which won The New York Times Book Review’s Best Illustrated Children’s Book designation.

Ms. Lasky tells the story of Minna Hall, a Brookline resident for whose family our Hall’s Pond is named, and of her cousin, Harriet Hemenway “a very proper Boston lady.”

In 1896 these two volunteers, as many know, began a campaign because “huge populations of birds, from egrets to pheasants to owls to warblers, were being slaughtered for hat decoration—none were spared.”

These two local women were wise, very wise, campaigners: they enlisted the leaders in their neighborhoods, the activists in their communities and “they decided to bring their cause to the children … and soon there were over ten thousand junior members of the Audubon Society in the State of Massachusetts.”

By 1903 and 1904, because of their work, Acts were passed “to protect herons and bitterns, two popular hat birds, from hatmakers, forbidding them to sell, display, or possess the feathers. In 1904 there was another victory when a law was passed to protect shore, marsh and beach birds. Soon there were laws against hunting birds during their breeding seasons. And then a federal law was passed preventing the importation of feathers from Europe and the tropics for hats.”

The Friends of Hall’s Pond, now celebrating our 38th year of volunteerism at the sanctuary, continue to follow in the footsteps of Minna Hall and Harriet Hemenway and their friends and colleagues who took responsibility for preserving the bird population. We do this by volunteering our time, energy, financial resources and leadership skills to protect and preserve Hall’s Pond as an urban wildlife sanctuary for the 21st century.

Photo Credit: Bruce Wolff
Photo Credit: Bruce Wolff

As we WELCOME Spring and Summer at the sanctuary, we ask you, as always, to join us in our involvement and investment at this special Brookline resource. Come visit often, become involved with our Community Days and Volunteer Horticultural Crew Initiatives, attend our Annual Meeting, continue to take photographs and please do send your funds to support our purchase and planting of trees and shrubs. (To save precious funds to spend on plant materials we no long send out fundraising requests so this is your chance to help!) The Town of Brookline’s Conservation Commission relies on our public private partnership to sustain Hall’s Pond and we gratefully count on all of you to help us help them.

So come to the Sanctuary— Nature Awaits !

Screen Shot 2015-02-05 at 4.41.38 PMHall’s Pond: A Park Rangers
Take by Brandon Schmitt, Park Ranger, Division of Parks and Open Space, Town of Brookline

AMIDST the drone of car engines zipping down Route 9, the bustle of commerce in Brookline village, and the regular interruptions of passing green-line trains, there are tranquil places in Brookline. The seasons define these special havens: humid summer evenings are marked by the croaking of bullfrogs, fall waves goodbye to greenery and welcomes bursts of red, orange and yellow, in winter stillness one can hear the swoosh of a downhill sled, and in the spring one can find flowers blooming under every tree.

Park Ranger Brandon Schmitt
Park Ranger Brandon Schmitt orients Brookline Summer campers to Amory Playground last summer before touring Hall’s pond and helping with removal of invasive plants. Campers learned the importance of native species and basic principals of habitat management.

Brookline is a truly unique place to be a Park Ranger. Parks and open space are in high demand here, and the mixed-use and historical aspects of the Brookline park system offer park guests infinite ways to interact with the parks. Brookline really is land of discovery, where every intersection leads to an historic feature or beautiful green space. Fortunately, the Town’s legacy of citizen leaders knew how important these places were, and the current legion of advocates continues their work today.

Of all the parks in Brookline, certainly one of the most special is Hall’s Pond. On a visit to Hall’s pond, one is virtually guaranteed to see wildlife. On a very short walk, a visitor to Hall’s pond can encounter numerous birds, turtles and frogs, and common mammals like squirrels and chipmunks, even the occasional fox. Keeping a watchful eye over the pond is the regal resident Blue Heron, while ducks busily patrol the shoreline. On a recent snow-blown visit to Hall’s, guests conducting a winter bird count saw or heard the following species: Red-tailed hawk, Mourning Dove, Chickadee, Carolina Wren, and Blue Jay, among others.

Photo Credit: Bruce Wolff
Photo Credit: Bruce Wolff

Like other parks in Brookline, Amory Playground and Hall’s Pond offer a variety of opportunities to connect with nature. Those looking for leisure can set up a picnic or lay in the grass, while others can play sports on the field, or go for a hike along the boardwalk and trails around the pond. Tending to this small, but wonderful sanctuary are the committed volunteers who maintain the natural balance and protect against the competing forces that threaten the delicate balance that makes Hall’s pond such a diverse, and consequently dynamic ecosystem.

The echoes of Hemenway, Hall and Albrecht can regularly be heard in the creaking of knees and backs used to pull endless bittersweet, or plant new trees and shrubs. It is truly a pleasure to work at a place like Hall’s pond with such a committed group of stewards. Through their efforts, they welcome the next round of stewards into this sanctuary, and promote an appreciation for beauty and the understanding that rest is not always idleness, and work is not always laborious.

Polygonatum multiflorum
Polygonatum multiflorum, our native variety of Solomon seal, near the formal garden behind Jo’s bench. Photo Credit: Heather Charles Lis

As a Brookline Park Ranger, I am very lucky. I get to accompany tour, school and camp groups to this special place. While I always point out my favorite aspects of the park, I encourage them to observe at their own pace and under their own filters. I also remind them that this is not a place to take for granted; it takes a lot of work to make it appear as if there is no work. Finally, I remind them of the legacy of this place. I hope that they understand that small movements can make enormous impacts, and that the work of a committed group like the one at Hall’s Pond can contribute to a cause that produces immeasurable benefits to humans, plants and animals alike, and lives on through generations.

Maintenance TeamSanctuary Maintenance Team Welcomes Additional Volunteers
by Frank Caro, Chair of the Maintenance Team

THE Friends’ volunteer Sanctuary maintenance team welcomes additional members for the 2013 season. The team is active from early spring through late fall in keeping the formal garden attractive and controlling the growth of invasive species in the Sanctuary. The team complements the work done during the spring and fall Community Days. All of the work done by the volunteers is consistent with the maintenance plan approved by the Conservation Commission in 2010.

Maintenance Team

Participation on the team is an excellent way to get exercise, learn about nurturing a nature preserve in an urban setting, and appreciate the beauty of the Sanctuary. The twice-monthly work sessions are scheduled on mornings that are most convenient for members of the team. Work sessions are announced a week or more in advance. Members come only as often as their schedules permit. For more information, contact volunteer coordinator, Frank Caro. The e-mail address is or call 617-739-9228.

Photo Credit: Heather Charles Lis
Photo Credit: Heather Charles Lis

Behind the Scenes at Hall’s Pond
by Tom Brady, Conservation Administrator and Tree Warden, Town of Brookline

AS we look to the Spring of 2013 our focus in the Conservation Office begins to turn towards the annual rebirth of our conservation sanctuaries. Our hope and expectation is that each year the Spring will bring an influx of visitors from near and far who come to enjoy the splendor of Hall’s Pond and Amory Woods. As the visitors enjoy their experience they may not be aware of all the effort that takes place on a regular basis to maintain this unique piece of open space. The overall maintenance program is guided by our Hall’s Pond Sanctuary Work Plan which was developed jointly by the Brookline Conservation Commission and the Friends of Hall’s Pond. The maintenance needs can be broken down into two broad categories: horticulturebased activities and infrastructure-based activities.

Photo Credit: Heather Charles Lis
Town workers provide emergency repairs to the forebay
grate due to recent storm damage. Photo Credit: Heather Charles Lis

Ongoing horticulture activities include work in and around the formal garden as well as work on the trees, shrubs, herbaceous plants, and wetland systems that can be found throughout the Sanctuary. These activities include planting, pruning, management of invasive plants, and where appropriate, removal of plant materials. Working with the Friends, these are shared responsibilities, which are completed using volunteers, town forces, and contracted services.

The infrastructure maintenance activities encompass a wide array of items. These are managed and administered by the Town and are generally completed using either town forces or contracted services. This includes a number of items, including: • Annual maintenance and upkeep of the underwater aeration mats as well as the solar panel which supports them. • Regular cleanouts of the sediment forebay to remove accumulated sediment and prevent the material from entering Hall’s Pond. • Application of new stone dust to the pathways each year. • Regular repair and upkeep of the extensive boardwalk system, including all decks and railings. • Ongoing tree pruning and hazardous tree removals. • Ongoing non-native invasive plant management. • Regular maintenance of the two entrance gates. • Repair of any catastrophic events that may impact the sanctuaries such as wind events or flooding impacts. (Unfortunately we’ve had way too many of these in the past few years!) • Regular maintenance of the physical paved pathways in the Sanctuary.

As you can see there is a substantial amount of work that goes into maintaining the Sanctuary. So the next time you’re visiting, if you happen to see a crew of volunteers, perhaps some town forces, or a contractor doing some work to keep the Sanctuary in fine form, perhaps take a moment and provide a word of thanks. Enjoy the Spring!

Volunteers readying the area for the new meadow. Some of the plant selections used to begin the transformation are already in place.

Nan’s Meadow
by Ellen Forrester, Co-President

HAVE you noticed a change to the area near the gate to Hall’s Pond Sanctuary? In the fall of 2011 the Town of Brookline, Friends of Hall’s Pond, and Brookline Conservation Commission decided to reduce the amount of lawn in the sanctuary. We are helping the landscape change from a mown lawn to a more natural meadow. It may appear weedy at first (and has been) but this change will increase habitat for wildlife (birds, bees and butterflies) and also reduce maintenance in this area.

Succession, the process of change in the landscape from one habitat to another through time, is what the Friends and the Town of Brookline are helping to happen in this area.

Photo Credit: Schizchyrium scoparium, Little Bluestem
Photo Credit: Schizchyrium scoparium, Little Bluestem

The space was left alone for most of a year so all of us could see what would establish naturally. Then at the Community Day in the spring of 2012, a number of native shrubs, grasses and perennials were added. Again this year, more plants will be added to help and speed up the establishment of the area and encourage wildlife.

The Friends of Hall’s Pond will identify this natural area as Nan’s Meadow to honor long time board member Dr. Anne St. Goar whose love of horticulture and nature continues with her commitment to the ongoing management of Hall’s Pond Sanctuary.