Candidates for the Natural Resources Commission 2018

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.

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1.What is your track record on environmental sustainability, including any related interests, experience, or initiatives?

[Katie Griffith] – As an ecologist, my career has been dedicated to studying, explaining, and protecting the natural world. I spent 7 years earning my Ph.D. in ecology by conducting original research on the distribution and abundance of a native salt marsh plant. Since moving to Wellesley 10 years ago, I have continued my work by engaging the community in hands-on plant science workshops at the Wellesley College Botanic Garden; the Bates, Sprague, and Upham Elementary Schools; and at Wellesley’s STEM EXPO. As a member of the Bates PTO Green Team, I transformed the vegetable garden into a teaching opportunity for eight classrooms that have adopted garden beds for the year and taken ownership of the process of growing their own food. This spring, we will build upon our school composting program which I hope to help weave into the curriculum. These experiences have been incredibly rewarding and led me to seek further involvement in our community.

[Jay Mchale] – I have worked on many specific efforts to bring environmental issues and solutions to both employees and customers in the 35+ years I have spent in financial services. Reduction of waste production, paper consumption and travel footprint are just a few of the examples. One product solution not only significantly reduced paper usage but resulted in the planting of over 350,000 trees over the last 10 years.

From my perspective, not only do you have to bring the ideas and efforts to the forefront, but you need to be able to measure and show progress if you are going to keep people engaged. I personally led an effort in my firm to create a client dashboard, showing how efficient people were using our environmentally friendly option. This dashboard could be seen by any of the over 2 million people that accessed our firm though our on-line option.

So, while my background may direct education in environment studies, I would bring my experience in finding solutions while offering a different perspective on sustainability to the NRC. 

[Jerry NIGRO] – no response

[Laura Robert] – As a passionate advocate for safe drinking water, I co-founded the Friends of Brookside in 2010 to promote protections for the wells and aquifer on the eastern side of Wellesley that provide our drinking water. In 2011, we also sought and won official designation of Brookside Road as the seventh “scenic road” in Wellesley to ensure special protection for its trees and natural beauty. I’m also deeply committed to using art as a way to bring people to our parks and help build community. For the past five years, I have worked with the Wellesley Women Artisans and the NRC to organize “Art in the Park,” an annual community art project that engages residents of all ages in Simons Park during the Wellesley Wonderful Weekend. We use reclaimed/recycled materials as much as possible to create a beautiful, communal work of art that brings people together and builds a sense of connection to each other and to our parks.
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2. What do you think the priorities of the NRC should be for the three years of your prospective term?

[Katie Griffith] –  I believe the NRC’s priorities should include educational initiatives, particularly using the forest stewardship plan that is now being developed. The forest stewardship plan will provide a concrete roadmap for maintaining our 180 acres of forest and wetlands for future generations. We can use that roadmap to help design educational programming, knowing that education is the foundation of environmental conservation. We also need to continue to foster connections between residents and our open spaces in order to become a more sustainable town. Since the NRC has no jurisdiction over private lands, we must use education to influence residents by offering them opportunities to learn about sustainable practices such as the NRC’s program, “Landscapes for Living”.  

[Jay Mchale] – One of my key goals is to look at the goals/objective of the NRC and ensure a balanced effort goes into achieving all of them. Given the number of pressing issues facing the town today, we need to ensure these goals/objectives create achievable results that can be measured and reported back to the community.  I look forward to working with the NRC in achieving this in short order.

I believe we need to continue the efforts on reducing the number of gas leaks in town, continued education on the proper use of fertilizers and pesticides to protect our ground water, as well as review the tree canopy efforts.

[Jerry NIGRO] – no response

[Laura Robert] – As a committed advocate for safe drinking water, I see public education on the use of pesticides and chemical fertilizers as a top priority for the NRC. Many Wellesley residents are unaware that 75 percent of our drinking water comes from two underground natural aquifers right under the town. Last May, the Wellesley Board of Health and the NRC issued a statement to residents highlighting the dangers of pesticide exposure — particularly among children. I believe we must do more to help residents understand the connection between the chemicals applied to our lawns, our own health, and the safety of our drinking water. Lawn fertilizers also contribute to the growth of invasive plants in our ponds — including Morses Pond — where the town must spend precious resources to keep the water clear. Education is the strongest tool we have to make sure residents see how our whole community will benefit from switching to more sustainable gardening and lawn care practices. I’m excited to assist the NRC in contributing to the analysis of our audit of water and wastewater treatment operations and equipment, and helping to obtain future Green Community grants.

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3. What specific actions would you take to further the Town’s commitments to waste reduction, reduction of greenhouse gas emissions, maintaining our tree canopy, and preserving and enhancing our open space system?

[Katie Griffith] – 

– Waste reduction: I am already working at Bates to introduce an on-site composting system that would be a hands-on experience for students and greatly diminish waste at the school. I am also eager to support efforts to reduce food waste with the Share Table project being launched at Bates, Fiske, and Sprague.

– Reduction of Greenhouse Gas Emissions: Continuing the NRC’s important work on gas leaks is a crucial part of this puzzle. I would like to work on additional educational opportunities for residents as well as direct action with National Grid.

– Maintaining our Tree Canopy: One threat to our tree canopy are the numerous gas leaks around town, which kill trees at the roots. If elected, I look forward to working with high school students to design a study that will map the association between gas leaks and tree canopy cover. The first step to solving this problem is understanding the patterns.

– Open Spaces: I would be thrilled to help guide the forest stewardship plan and related educational programming for our 180 acres of forest in Wellesley. This area also includes Longfellow Pond and the surrounding wetlands. Working with the Wetlands Protection Committee will be key as we work to maintain our open spaces and protect our water supply.

[Jay Mchale] – In reviewing the goals and objectives of the Open Space and Recreation Plan 2015-2022, there are plenty of initiatives related to the environmental issues above. Where I believe I can make a difference is in creating accountability and measurement around these efforts, moving less effective projects aside for new or existing projects that help us maintain our mission. I am particularly interested in our plans around preserving and enhancing our open spaces. If we have any hope of maintain existing town forest land, I think we need to focus on making our existing parks and recreation facilities as functional as possible.

[Jerry NIGRO] – no response

[Laura Robert] –  Going forward, I have three main areas of interest that I would like to pursue as a member of the NRC:

– Tree Protection: I’m very interested in examining the efficacy of the Wellesley Tree Protection Bylaw which was passed by Town Meeting in 2011. I have already reviewed public records to consider how the bylaw is functioning and I’m excited to assist the NRC in analyzing the results of the public survey on the bylaw that the NRC is conducting in collaboration with the Planning Board.

– Safe Lighting: I’ve done considerable work on lighting and its adverse effects on safety, human health, wildlife, and trees. I would like to help the NRC develop a lighting policy for town parks and conservation land to ensure that we have safe, sensible lighting where it is desirable and necessary, while using fixtures that minimize environmental impact, spillage onto private property, and skyglow.

– North 40: If elected, I look forward to bringing a balanced approach to collaboration with all stakeholders regarding the plans for the North 40. The North 40 offers a tremendous opportunity for expanding and preserving our open space system, while balancing the needs of many different constituencies.