A Big Win for Newton Residents and Open Space!

In case you haven’t heard the good news, the Waban Hill Reservoir is being converted into a park.  This spectacular property is not, as some think, in Waban. It is bounded by Manet Road and Woodlawn, Reservoir and Ward Streets, and is just off Commonwealth Avenue in Chestnut Hill, at the top of “Heartbreak Hill”. The space provides a unique landscape for people of all ages, and from all neighborhoods, to walk or jog around the water’s edge, or just enjoy the incredible sunrises and sunsets from the top of the berm.

The City of Newton has been interested, for years, in buying back the decommissioned reservoir from the Massachusetts Water Resources Authority (MWRA), and included the re-acquisition of the site as a goal in its Recreation and Open Space Plan. The process of purchasing the reservoir began in 2012, with the creation of an advisory committee.  The committee worked for three years to solicit community input and create a plan for a park to benefit all the residents of Newton.  With letters and public comments of support from residents and community groups from all of Newton’s villages, it was possible to secure the funding to buy the property and create a wonderful park.

This new park is the result of residents from all parts of our community stepping forward to say to our leaders that open space in any part of Newton is a priority for everyone in Newton. We’re grateful to the Ward 7 City Councilors who advocated with us, and to Mayor Setti Warren and the entire City Council, who listened to what residents want and helped us save this open space from development.

The Waban Hill Reservoir is a hidden gem. The site has a wonderful walking path along the berm above the water. Already, old exterior fencing has been removed to allow public access to the both the lower and the upper portions of the site. People are already using the property on a regular basis for walking, running and recreation. One often sees kids rolling down the hill and playing Frisbee or catch. A “Friends of Waban Hill Reservoir” group has come together for fundraising and planning to ensure that park infrastructure (paths, benches, public art) and landscaping can be completed as soon as possible.  We are working on a website and mailing list.

However, we may be changing our name to the “Friends of Heartbreak Hill Park” before too long.  Because the reservoir is at the top of Heartbreak Hill, there is momentum to change the name from “Waban Hill Reservoir” to “Heartbreak Hill Park”. It seems fitting to host events celebrating the Boston Marathon there before and during the marathon, also there are wonderful opportunities year-round at the park, a gathering place for recreation and relaxation.

The most important point is that this initiative succeeded only because residents and groups from all the villages joined together to get it done.  You may look around your village and see a surplused property, a vacant field, or any other site that has park potential. Don’t go at it alone, but reach out to your neighbors from Auburndale to Chestnut Hill.  There’s a growing movement here to forge alliances to curb development and preserve neighborhood greenery, parks and open spaces. Let’s keep working together to enhance the Garden City.  Here’s a question for you:

What is the next open space project in Newton that everyone should pitch in and support?

For more information about the Waban Hill Reservoir Park project click here

Or click here

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9 Comments on "A Big Win for Newton Residents and Open Space!"

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Elaine Rush Arruda

Thank you for everyone that worked so hard to acquire this land for open space in Newton! Green space is crucial to the livability of a city or town and we need to prioritize it in Newton. I have been part of a group fighting for the expansion of the Rev. Ford Playground in Auburndale for more than 2 years. While we have been promised a minimum of 20,000 additional sq. ft. (from the former Parks & Rec land), we all need to come together to maximize the park. We need residents to speak at the CPC meetings to acquire the funds to renovate the playground and make the most of this small pocket park in a very densely built section of Auburndale/West Newton.

Julia Malakie

I second what Elaine said about Crescent Street. The status of that project now is that the CPC asked that the initial request for CPC funds be reduced to just the $100,000 needed for site assessment to determine what remediation of hazardous materials may be required for building, rather than the whole $3.3 million amount for the construction of the apartments and park improvements. That goes to CPC next week.
The next big project that people need to get behind is securing a permanent conservation restriction on Webster Woods. Despite a unanimous vote by the then-Board of Aldermen last year, there has been no word of progress on that.

Sallee Lipshutz

A rose by any other name would smell as sweet… So Waban Hill will become Heartbreak Hill? I might understand wanting to change the name to Chestnut Hill or Reservoir Hill or Marathon Hill or even Heart Hope Hill, but Heartbreak Hill seems so very gloomy and plodding and as unhealthy as a Big Mac

Julia Malakie

I actually like the name Heartbreak Hill Park because it will tell people exactly where it is. But it would be a rather odd place to go to take wedding photos, for example!

Jacob Stern

This is very exciting news! It’s a lovely area and I’m thrilled to see it growing and becoming more accessible.

Speaking of open space in Newton, the Friends of Webster Woods have been working hard to preserve the forested land near Newton Centre. As many might recall, the Miskan Tefilia synagogue voted back in October to sell its land to Boston College. Included in the sale is a parcel of land surrounded on three side by conversation land. Any development on this previously undeveloped property would have an extremely negative impact on the surrounded forest. The Newton Conservators have a great one-pager that clearly illustrates the issue: http://www.newtonconservators.org/newsletters/15_09_webster.pdf

Kathleen Kouril Grieser

Kudos to Susan Servais and all the great people in Chestnut Hill who worked so hard to save this lovely spot for public use! The NVA was proud to support your efforts.