Members of the synagogue Congregation Mishkan Tefila voted to approve the sale of 23-acres of property to Boston College this Sunday. Fourteen of the acres are densely wooded, while the remaining nine are developed. In August, when the deal was announced, the University said that it planned to build administrative offices and space for parking on the newly-acquired property. The deal will be officially finalized this spring.
However, in the weeks leading up to the vote, many members of the Newton community expressed concern that the University would develop land enjoyed recreationally by the community members. The Newton aldermen passed a resolution encouraging Mayor Setti Warren to preserve the wooded areas by buying or restricting the process.
Environmental concerns were also cited. In a letter dated Oct. 2, the Conservation Commission detailed how the space contains diverse ecology and habitats for wildlife. The letter urged the mayor and Board of Alderman to preserve the property.
“The Conservation Commission sees this as an opportunity and an obligation to prevent a virtually irretrievable ecological disappointment,” the letter states. “It is an opportunity that should not be squandered and an obligation that should be met.”
BC has not yet announced their intentions for the undeveloped property. The most recent comment regarding the property is from August, prior to the community movement to preserve the land.
Rather than bulldozing the wooded area, which is traversed by hiking trails that begin and end in the surrounding conserved property, the University could save part of the land for community and research space. Administrative buildings could be built on the pre-developed area, while part or all of the undeveloped property could be preserved.
The hiking trails that already exist could remain open, and the wildlife habitats that the Conservation Commission has deemed valuable would remain. With the remaining space, perhaps a program could be developed for students in the environmental studies or environmental geoscience program to study the ecological system in a real-world environment. Or, students in the sustainable agriculture class could cultivate crops in the open space.
The 14 acres of undeveloped property that BC is about to purchase is valuable, in more ways than just providing land for more administrative buildings to sit on. It can be used as a physical element of classroom instruction, as well as a space for community members. BC has long been a valued part of the Newton community, and this purchase is another opportunity for the University to express its value as well as its willingness to work with the community.
Featured Image by Breck Wills / Heights Graphics