It is thanks to the Natural Resources Commission (NRC) that Wellesley has much of the character that makes our Town such a special place.
The NRC was created way back in 1977 to bring together all the many town entities that shared responsibility for parks, conservation lands, trees, and natural resources. The Park Commissions, Conservation Commissions, Tree Wardens, Town Forest Committees, and Forestry and Pest Control Officers were consolidated under the authority of the NRC, with the responsibility of protecting and conserving our natural assets.
Today, the NRC Board has five elected members and they appoint the Wetlands Protection Committee (referred to as “Conservation Commission” in other towns) and the Trails Committee, which helps maintain 26 miles of trails in Wellesley. The NRC has the authority to administer and enforce some extremely consequential laws including the Endangered Species Act, the Massachusetts Environmental Policy Act, the Massachusetts Wetlands Protection Act, the Wellesley Wetlands Protection Bylaw, Scenic Rivers Act, and dozens of others.
One of the first great achievements of the NRC was to propose the purchase of Centennial Reservation on Wellesley’s 100th birthday. The Reservation is appreciated by dog owners as somewhere they can take their pets to run free, and appreciated by others as a place that takes the dogs that would otherwise be exercised elsewhere.
Many residents are unaware that open spaces actually preserve the purity of our aquifers, allowing us the Water Department to provide most of our drinking water from Town wells. The Town saves money by drawing drinking water from the wells rather than having to buy it from the costly Massachusetts Water Resources Association. Furthermore, open spaces provide pervious surfaces and the NRC encourage rain gardens, which recharge our aquifers.
The NRC also works to protect Wellesley’s tree canopy, including more than 3,000 public shade trees. In conjunction with the Department of Public Works, the NRC administers the Public Shade Tree Replacement Program, planting 100 trees each year. In fact, any Wellesley resident can request a free shade tree through the program! Wellesley has been recognized as a Tree City USA for longer than any other town in New England: 32 years. We agree when the NRC states:
“Trees are essential to Wellesley’s character as a green, shady, residential town. Tree planting maintains Wellesley’s property values and quality of life, reduces sound and glare, improves air quality, helps prevent climate change through carbon absorption, replenishes groundwater, reduces erosion, buffers weather changes, adds beauty, inspires tranquility, screens unsightly areas, and separates incompatible uses”.
Other benefits delivered by the NRC include:
- Employing a pond specialist to manage Morses Pond water quality through phosphorus ‘inactivation’, giving us clearer water and fewer invasive aquatic plants.
- Initiating restoration of Fuller Brook Park, which (amazingly enough) handles a third to a half of the Town’s storm water, so we have a beautiful, useful park where others have a cement storm drain.
- Caring for other ponds and waterways which provide storm-water management, wildlife habitat, and winter skating.
- Managing conservation areas and, in close collaboration with the Planning Board, helping to designate Brookside Road as one of seven scenic roads in Wellesley, and thereby preserving trees, historic landscapes and stone walls.
- Protecting conservation land. Just 9.5% of Wellesley lands are protected under state law Article 97, which provides the right to clean air, land, and recreation. This is a strong level of protection – requiring a State-level vote to be undone.
- Initiating and overseeing Integrated Pesticide Management on public lands. The EPA announced this year that “Roundup,” the most pervasive lawn herbicide, ‘probably causes cancer.’ So it’s good to know that, thanks in part to the NRC, the Town’s playing fields have been free of pesticides and herbicides for more than 15 years.
- Collaborating with the Department of Public Works to regulate light pollution and trespass for neighbors of the High School, Washington Street tennis courts, and Honeywell field basketball courts.
- Organizing additional programs, including management of the community gardens, birdwatching in the North 40, programs at the library, and the use of the goats to remove invasive plants such as poison ivy on conservation lands.
Looking forward, the NRC is planning for our Town’s future and recently completed the extremely comprehensive and exciting Open Space and Recreation Plan for 2015 – 2022.
Much of the unique character of Wellesley is due to the work of the NRC over past decades. In collaboration with other Boards, they work to ensure that development continues to maintain and promote the natural strengths of our Town.