The Town of Wellesley depends on the active participation of its citizens in governance of the Town. Wellesley has 11 Boards and Committees on the ballot at the Annual Town election each year in March. The 2019 election will be held on Tuesday, March 5, 2019.
Contested race: Natural Resources Commission (NRC)
It is the mission of the Natural Resources Commission to provide stewardship of, education about, and advocacy for the Town of Wellesley’s parks, conservation, recreation and open space areas so the full value of the Town’s natural assets can be passed onto future generations.
There are five members on the NRC Board. Vice Chair Raina McManus’ term expires in 2019. She is running as an incumbent, and Jim Miller is running against her for the three-year term.
We invited the two to answer a few questions about their qualifications and their priorities for the Town of Wellesley. Today’s post features Raina McManus. Tomorrow’s post will feature NRC candidate Jim Miller.
Raina McManus, candidate for NRC Board
The Swellesley Report: What is your background and what qualifies you for this position?
Raina McManus: I’ve been an environmental advocate for 28 years. Twenty-five years ago, I helped install the first community garden at Fiske Elementary school and insisted it be pesticide-free. I’ve been a strong advocate for measures to protect our Town environment ever since:
4-year Town Meeting Member
5 years on the Natural Resources Commission; Athletic Fields Project Liaison; Community
Preservation Committee; Fuller Brook park Coordinating Committee; Unified Plan Steering
Committee; North 40 Steering Committee;
Significant accomplishments: Hiring of new NRC director, Brandon Schmitt; Banning single-
use plastic checkout bags; raising community awareness of gas leaks and their effect on our
Co-Founder of Friends of Brookside;
Proud member of the Wellesley League of Women Voters and Wellesley Conservation
Council, two organizations with long histories of environmental stewardship.
Sw: If elected, what do you hope to accomplish during your three-year tenure on the Natural Resources Commission?
McManus: My top priorities include completing projects that help enhance and conserve our natural resources for the benefit of current and future generations, like the volunteer-built vernal pool boardwalk at the North 40 which protects the resource area and offers educational opportunities.
Ongoing priority projects include:
Expansion of the Grow Green Wellesley initiative to encourage eco-friendly lawns and native
landscaping via the planting of “pollinator corridors” throughout town;
Approval and construction of the Girls’ Softball field renovation project, including a
regulation size field with dugouts, bleacher seating, scoreboard, and improved drainage;
and proposed creation of a wetlands habitat as part of the environmentally-sensitive design;
Implementation of the Town Forest Stewardship and Bird Habitat Plans to protect our
drinking water and provide recreation and wildlife habitat;
Execution of the Morses Pond Shoreline Erosion remediation plan which protects our
drinking water, beach, and wildlife habitat at this popular recreation area;
Implementation of the Wellesley Unified Plan’s environmental best management practices;
Protection of our valuable town trees through bylaw review, quantification of the tree
canopy, development of an interactive public shade tree map; continuing the town’s tree
planting program including gas leak detection prior to planting new trees; and providing
education and advocacy to address gas leaks.
Sw: What is your hot-button issue?
McManus: Pesticides! Just because a product is for sale at the hardware store does not mean it is safe to use. Our health, especially that of our children and pets, is at risk from harmful chemicals in commonly used lawn products. Pesticides can leach into our groundwater and our drinking water by rain and runoff and seeping into the wells from which our drinking water is drawn. Pesticide use is having an adverse impact on insects, like caterpillars, an important food for our birds whose populations are in precipitous decline; and pollinators like monarch butterflies and bees that are responsible for pollinating 35% of our food supply. I want to continue to provide educational opportunities to engage and educate residents. I love teaching kids (and parents!) about watershed protection at the STEM Expo; and presenting educational workshops like Landscapes for Living, which encourage us to consider how our actions affect our environment, and consequently, our health.
Sw: How much of a role do you think the NRC should play in shaping environmental policy outside of Wellesley?
McManus: The laws and regulations created on Beacon Hill on issues such as gas leaks, pesticide use, plastics reduction, and more, affect all Wellesley residents. The NRC regularly communicates with our state representatives in an important two-way relationship – we stay informed, and we advocate for best environment practice and policy. I have testified at the State House on bills concerning pesticide and plastics reduction on behalf of our town.
Sw: How do you think the North 40 should be utilized?
McManus: One of the NRC’s most important functions will be educating the public on the economic and environmental value the North 40 is currently providing to Wellesley, including drinking water protection and flood control. The forested area of the North 40 helps clean our air of the exhaust fumes of idling cars on Route 9 and Weston Road; open space offsets heat islands created in nearby developed areas of town. We know that property values are enhanced in towns with healthy, green open spaces. This land is contiguous to Morses Pond, providing valuable wildlife habitat and a connecting wildlife corridor – as well as cherished open space for passive recreation. With the increasing intensity and frequency of climate events like storms and droughts, we need to be mindful of the benefits of flood control, temperature cooling, and air quality mitigation this resource provides. The North 40 is currently under the jurisdiction of the Board of Selectmen, and when discussions begin around best uses of the land, the NRC will be speaking in support of our natural resources. One of the lessons I’ve learned while working in town government is that you should never come into a conversation with a preconceived solution. There are always unknowns
and opportunities that cannot be realized until an open process begins, and I hope to be part of that conversation.
Sw: Is there anything else you would like to say that the above questions did not cover?
McManus: My experience as co-founder of Friends of Brookside, 4-year Town Meeting Member, and 5-year NRC Commissioner has taught me how our town government works, and the importance of taking time to build broad support for solutions to complex projects. The strong relationships I’ve built with residents, businesses, our talented town staff, and members from our 9 independently elected boards and multiple appointed committees have enabled me to produce positive results for our town, always in a collaborative manner. It’s been an honor and privilege to serve Wellesley for the last five years, I hope I’ve earned your vote for another three! Thank you!
Sw: How should voters reach you if they want more information?
MORE: Wellesley election 2019