Green Possibilities Forums 2023 - Written Responses
Some candidates who could not make the forums submitted written responses to our questions. As a reminder, here are the questions:
- In the coming years, the MWRA will be digging a new tunnel through Waltham and building infrastructure at Lawrence Meadow, the property owned by the University of Massachusetts on Beaver St. What are the opportunities to use the two million dollars set aside for the cleanup of Lawrence Meadow and to ensure this important wetlands area is protected, cleaned up, and made useful to the public in the future?
- Very few of the open spaces in Waltham are protected from future development. What is your plan for ensuring that land designated as public open space, such as land purchased with CPA funds, is permanently protected from future development, such as with a conservation restriction?
- We are lucky to have many greenspaces in Waltham, but there’s a particular lack of it in the densely populated South Side area of Waltham. How could the City bring greenspace to this area?
- The Riverwalk along the Charles River is a popular trail for residents and tourists alike, but some areas of the Riverwalk are experiencing an increase in illicit activities. What is your vision for ensuring the safety of people who want to use Waltham’s Riverwalk?
- How should the City deal with the ongoing rat problem in a way that won’t harm Waltham’s wildlife?
Lizzie Gelles (Ward 1 Candidate):
- Once the MWRA final plans are in place and assuming the access point for the tunnel is settled at this location around Lawrence Meadow, it would fall to MWRA and UMass to clean up the contamination; UMass must use the escrowed funds that they have set aside for this. Because of the dual responsibility provided by both funds from MWRA and UMass, it could allow UMass to restrict their exposure to the $2million. Cleanup of this beautiful site would be a plus for the residents of Waltham as they would have another incredible open, and protected from development, space to enjoy.
- Open space purchased with CPA fund is required to have a conservation restriction under section 12 of the law. We must be in full compliance with the law and waste no time between acquiring property and properly protecting it.
- The city should be searching out opportunities to provide pocket parks throughout the neighborhood on the South Side, small green spaces that can provide grass, gardens, trees, benches, and or picnic tables. Additionally, we should be looking for opportunities to plant more trees on the South Side to help reduce “heat islands” which has become an issue not only in our city but many others.
- DCR owns the Riverwalk; The city should seek to partner with DCR for increased police bike patrols, adding lighting and examine the possibility of monitoring via CCTV. It would be a loss to all if the Riverwalk ceased to be used due to fear of crime.
- The City Council must enact legislation which would prohibit rodenticide in all of Waltham and not just on city property. While birth control for rats is method currently being used at city owned locations to try and control the rat population, we need to remember that rats still carry diseases, cause damage have an average lifespan of 2 to 4 years. Waltham should also consider using smart traps which employ “reverse defibrillation” and have an indicator that there are deceased rodents in the trap, to ensure swift disposal, this would reduce the population quicker. The city has mandated that residents cover their trash barrels or face sanctions, yet the trash containers on streets such as Moody not lidded. We need to purchase Big Belly Solar, or other trash containers for use on city streets. We should provide homeowners and tenants with lidded trash barrels as we did with the blue recycling bins. Finally, the city should examine ways to have restaurant food waste picked up daily for composting. This would help eliminate rats in dumpsters and would keep food waste out of landfills and turn it into beneficial waste.
Randy LeBlanc (At-large Candidate):
- When The City of Waltham purchased the farm on the southern portion of Beaver St, $2 million of that purchase was placed into an escrow account for the state to clean up the land on the northern side of Beaver St .The land is owned, and operated by the the university of Massachusetts , or ie the state. Therefore, the City Council has no jurisdiction over that land currently .The potential contaminations of fly-ash ,possible oil spill and lead glass bottles from the old cedar hill dairy which are all adjacent to a wetlands makes this only fit for a (lsp) license site professional to make that call. Further more, the need for looking at the environmental reports or a phase 2 of testing if it exists , it would currently be difficult to know what the risks are in purchasing this property. You need an accurate cost of the clean up and all known contaminants before making this call. it would be great open space for the city and residences cleaned up and accessible. So further evaluation is needed to overcome these challenges, although there could be a wonderful opportunity here for this potentially pristine land for our future.
- The mayor has put forth on our city council docket nine properties by address to potentially be permanently deed restricted . As we will be voting on this on Tuesday night, we cannot make any public comments at this time.
- I think we should continue seeking pocket parks and look for ways to acquire land around them to increase their size an green space. also making a better, cleaner, safer use of river walk, it is a great asset.
- I think we should work with the state of ma, as it is in their jurisdiction. we should seek to get some trash receptacles installed to keep it looking cleaner. Also work with the state for increased presence , and some some distribution of information to on resources for the people who are in need of additional support.
- The city recently increased funding and could increase further for Contra-pest which reduces the population without secondary poisonings, also continue and increase the use of snap traps, which does the same does not harm Waltham’s wildlife.
John Tracy (Ward 4 Candidate):
- Without access to the final plan and proposal of this work, it is difficult to assess if $2M is sufficient or not (or perhaps even excessive). The specifics of that project and its requirements will dictate a more comprehensive proposal of how to address this. The open spaces in and around this area are incredibly valuable resources for the city and must be protected (or repaired) appropriately.
- Every space owned by the city should be evaluated for appropriate protections and restrictions – it would not be appropriate to implement sweeping generalized rules. Our open spaces are limited and each is unique – we need to treat each case as such – it would be inappropriate to treat the Fernald, Arrigo Farm and the former UMass Farm Station in all the same manner. That said, I’m in favor of applying standards and restrictions (up to and including a conservation restriction) for open spaces where it makes sense.
- There are numerous strategies that can be implemented to create green space in any city. That process starts with discussions with the residents, understanding their needs and wants. Once that is understood, green space requirements can be integrated into urban planning regulations. Green spaces can take the form of community gardens, green roofs (even green walls) or pocket parks – whatever the potential solution, we also need to ensure that adequate ongoing support and maintenance is provided to these areas so we can encourage appropriate community use in the long-term.
- Preventing illicit activity in public areas is essential to ensuring the safety and enjoyment of those spaces for everyone. This likely starts with an appropriate, visible presence of law enforcement and personnel, as well as adequate lighting for evening users, and emergency call boxes. It’s also imperative that the area receive consistent up-keep; generally speaking, well maintained, well lit areas are less likely to invite these behaviors. Any idea that may help make this, and other spaces, safe and enjoyable should be considered and discussed.
- There isn’t one solution to the ongoing rat problem – all residents need to focus on long-term prevention if we’re going to solve the issue. This can take many forms like examining the city’s Waste Management policies, like ensuring homes have appropriate trash containers, dumpsters are intact and inspected appropriately, or that collection occurs frequently enough. Similarly, creating public awareness & education, so people understand how what they do can encourage or discourage the rat population (minimizing food sources like birdseed and properly maintaining green spaces to reduce rat friendly habitats) would help everyone contribute to the solution. Lastly, engaging experts – I am not an expert on rodent mitigation strategy, but those people exist and should be invited to the conversation so appropriate, comprehensive measures can be taken.
Carlos Vidal (At-large candidate):
- As your question stated the two million dollars have been set aside to clean up the Lawrence Meadow so that will be my priority. If there are any funds unused, we could use them toward future protection.
- My plan is to approve and move forward the conservation restrictions the mayor presented to the City Council on October 9,2023 which include many if not most of our open spaces. I am also pleased to see the State of Massachusetts will be handling the restrictions. Any other pieces of land the city would purchase in the future should also go through the same deed restriction process.
- As a resident of the South Side (South of the river) of Waltham I’m aware that it lacks open green space compared to other areas of the city. But I’m also aware that the South Side does have open space so we cannot say that we don’t have any. Many ideas come to mind when it comes to open space such as pocket parks, community gardens, street enhancements, etc. All of these will require community support so to see if residents of the South Side would like to have more green space (Open space), it would be a good idea to ask them directly via a survey and see how residents of the South Side feel about more greenspace.
- My family and I have always felt safe walking around Waltham however the incidents that have taken place on the Riverwalk are very concerning. As a community we could encourage community policing and encourage residents to report illicit activities and have safety audits/review to expose potential problematic areas. People safety is very important and a collaboration of local police, state police, community and local organizations will be crucial to make this area more appealing and safer.
- This is a very complex problem and it will require a comprehensive and nature-friendly approach that will require public education, trash management initiatives, traps, eco-friendly rodenticides, research, and enforcement. We must have a balance while reducing the rat population and minimizing harm to Waltham’s wildlife.