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.
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.
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
Residents can purchase Morses Pond beach tags starting May 17 online (search by Activity #852000) or at the Recreation Office, 8:30am – 4pm, while non-residents can buy tags on May 31.
The pond officially opens for swimming on Wednesday, June 7. Tags cost $75 for families of 4 and up; single tags go for $25 for kids up to age 16; $25 for adults and $25 for senior citizens when you purchase tags until May 26. After that you’ll pay $10 more for kids and seniors; $15 more for adults; and a whopping $95 more for families.
Feeling incentivized to plan ahead for the summer, families?
Daily tags cost $5 for residents, $10 for non-residents.
For more info, swimming lesson info, BBQ pavilion rentals, visit the Wellesley Recreation Department website.
Landscapes for Living: A Forum on Eco-Friendly Gardening and Lawn Care, Saturday, May 13 from 10:30am – 3pm @ the Wellesley Free Library…here’s some companion reading, That Perfect, Toxic Lawn
The Wellesley Women Artisans is presenting an exhibition of paintings and photography at the Wellesley Free Library with the theme of “The Art of Nature”. The exhibit will begin on Wednesday, May 3, in the Wakelin Room and run for the month of May. The public is invited for refreshments and to meet the artists at a reception in the Wakelin Room on Saturday, May 6 from 3:30-5:00 p.m.The show was inspired by the upcoming “Landscapes for Living” forum (Saturday, May 13) sponsored by the town’s Natural Resources Commission, Sustainable Wellesley and the Wellesley Free Library.The Wellesley Women Artisans is dedicated to promoting and encouraging art in the community through a variety of programs including Art in the Park, Art Walk and Open Studios. For more information about the WWA please visit our website: http://www.wellesleywomenart.
The Town of Wellesley Sustainable Energy Committee invites you to learn more about “green” happenings in Wellesley at its Tuesday, April 25, 9:15am – 11:30am meeting in the Wakelin Room of the Wellesley Free Library.
If your organization has an active initiative you’d like to share with our group, please email Ellen Korpi, Chair of the Sustainable Energy Committee, to add it to the agenda.
Last month, researchers from the Woods Hole Research Center put out a call to Wellesley homeowners, seeking yards to include in The Boston Project, a study designed to help researchers study the outcomes of different yard management practices in the metropolitan Boston area. This Massachusetts-based study is part of a larger project that compares residential landscapes in Boston, Baltimore, Minneapolis/St. Paul, Miami, Phoenix, and Los Angeles. The data they collect on vegetation, birds, soil, and insects of Wellesley will become part of a larger project that explores how homeowner yard management affects the wildlife and plants living in the yard.
Wellesley homeowners Henry and Judy Paap’s yard was one of those selected for participation in the study, and I was invited to stop by and observe the doings. All the Paaps had to do was agree to allow access to their front and back yards for one full day, followed by four or five shorter visits, all during the summer. The were assured that all the study information would be kept confidential, and that no information would be released that could be linked to them.
Only The Swellesley Report would blab that kind of thing.
When I stopped by, a team of five scientists, there since 9am, were fanned out across the 13,000 square-foot property, collecting soil samples and doing a vegetation survey. Methodically, they were working their way through the Paaps’ yard and identifing every plant species present. The were also taking various measurements of all the trees in their yard and identifying each tree species. They were expected to be there until around 5pm, so it was a very thorough study of the yard, indeed.
Margot McKlveen, Research Assistant at the Woods Hole Research Center and Project Manager for the Suburban Ecology Program study, took a few minutes to talk to me about the study.
McKlveen, a University of Minnesota graduate with a bachelors degree in environmental science and policy management, says the big picture the study hopes to reveal is observations and data about “…how suburban ecosystems from different regions of the country compare to each other. What we think we’ll find is that our suburban ecosystems across the country have more similarities to each other than they do to their native ecosystems.”
In other words, if I go to a backyard barbecue in Phoenix, it’s likely that I’ll feel right at home in a yard that will probably feature a green lawn, foundation plantings, and maybe a few hosta. In fact, McKlveen says I would probably be able to recognize species from yards across the country, such is the public’s level of national sameness when it comes to our gardening habits. “If you think of the ideal suburban yard, an image tends to pop into mind although in reality our native vegetation is very different from that image,” she says.
The study seeks to document decisions that homeowners make about their yards by finding out if the homeowners use fertilizer, employ a landscaping crew, have a wildlife certified yard, or include water-saving features. At the same time, researchers will draw conclusions from the data collected on vegetation, birds, soil, and insects. When all the information is synthesized, researchers expect to be able to understand more about whether how a yard is maintained has an effect on its vegetation, birds, soil, and insects.
At least three Wellesley yards will be included in the study. In choosing which yards to study, researchers required that each site meet certain criteria. Each site had to be within a certain census block because they are controlling across the country using demographic data. What they want are homes across the country that have generally similar demographics of income, age of homeowners, are single family homes, and are a certain distance from parkland and open spaces.
Here at The Swellesley Report, we were eager to brag to the neighbors about our selfless dedication to science. We also thought it would be cool to have researchers studying our yard, and envisioned ourselves supplying them with endless glasses of lemonade and making general pests of ourselves. Alas, we were not one of the chosen ones for participation in The Boston Project. Too close to open spaces, we were told.
Some other people have all the luck.