Waltham Field Station and Lawrence Meadow
Waltham Land Trust Congratulates Mayor Jeannette McCarthy, City and State Officials on Purchase of Historic Field Station Property for Conservation Purposes
Updated: May 5, 2020
The Waltham Land Trust extends its sincere congratulations and thanks to Waltham Mayor Jeannette McCarthy, the Waltham City Council, and the Community Preservation Committee, on Waltham reaching an agreement with the University of Massachusetts (UMass) for the City to purchase the 28-acre Waltham Field Station property located at 240 Beaver Street.
The Land Trust would especially like to recognize the efforts of Mayor McCarthy, City Councillors John McLaughlin and George Darcy, State Representatives John Lawn and Tom Stanley, and State Senator Michael Barrett for their leadership, forward thinking, and dedication throughout this complicated process.
“It is a huge victory for the people of Waltham and for open space to see the City acquire this at-risk property and commit to preserving it with a permanent conservation restriction for farming and open space use. We are so grateful to the Mayor and other City leadership for their hard work to get this done.” said Sonja Wadman, Executive Director of the Waltham Land Trust.
It is hard to imagine Waltham without the Field Station as a working community farm – it has been operated as one for nearly two centuries. A gift from the late Cornelia Warren to the then Massachusetts Agricultural College, the Field Station is known for both its high-quality soils and history as a site of agricultural innovation. However, in the last several years, the fate of the Field Station was far from certain.
While initially the state proposed to reinvent the site as a Center for Urban Sustainability, when funding was eliminated from a recent Environmental Bond allocation it became clear the property was at serious risk. The Waltham Land Trust, Waltham Fields Community Farm, and the public at large rallied to raise their concerns that development of this land would mean the loss of critical community resources and history and would radically change Waltham. Fortunately, the City responded with united efforts to ensure this did not occur.
As we approach the centennial of Cornelia Warren's death in June 2021, we are mindful of her remarkable life and her work for the benefit of the public as embodied by the land she so loved. A woman of wealth and privilege, she was recognized for her devotion to educational and charitable causes, especially with respect to youth. It is fitting that her legacy will be secured by this action from Waltham’s leaders today. The Land Trust is grateful for their partnership in its conservation efforts and applauds the City’s steadfast commitment to ensuring this land is preserved for generations to come.
The next step is for the legislature to approve the transfer of the property. Please stay tuned for updates!
Waltham City Council approves CPA Funding
At its meeting on November 12, 2019, Waltham City Council voted unanimously (W. Fowler absent, R. LeBlanc recused, Pres. Brasco not voting) to approve the Long Term Debt Committee’s recommendation to use $13,750,000 from CPA funds for the Field Station purchase.
Thank you to every single person for each action you took to get to this significant and exciting juncture.
There is much work ahead of us, but this is an exciting victory to celebrate now!
Significant milestone: Mayor McCarthy submits application to secure CPC funds for purchase of the site
At its 7PM meeting on September 10, 2019, the City of Waltham Community Preservation Committee considered an application to purchase the Waltham Field Station and Lawrence Meadow property. Representatives from several Waltham Field Station tenants, as well as other members of the public, delivered powerful testimony in support of the application.
In her statement, Mayor Jeannette McCarthy indicated that there would be "no evictions."
How you can help
The public hearing portion of the application process was completed on September 10. The issue was tabled pending additional information and process.
MARK YOUR CALENDARS
The next Community Preservation Committee meeting when the application will potentially be continued is October 15.
UMass plans to close the administrative offices at 240 Beaver Street on December 31, 2019
Tenants of the iconic UMass Waltham Field Station, including the Waltham Land Trust, are confronted with a serious, existential threat and begin 2019 in a critical phase of our long-term tenancies.
How you can help
If you haven’t already done so, now is the time to share your voice with UMass officials and state politicians.
Urge them to:
- Preserve the Waltham Field Station's sustainable agricultural community.
- Extend tenant lease agreements beyond December 31, 2019.
Say something like:
I urge your support for the preservation of the Waltham Field Station’s sustainable agricultural community, and the work that has been done to fulfill the comprehensive vision for a Sustainable Agricultural Center, one which honors the legacy of its benefactor, Cornelia Warren. It’s imperative to preserve the Waltham Field Station's sustainable agricultural community and extend tenant lease agreements beyond December 31, 2019.
For many years, the Waltham Land Trust has been actively engaged in supporting the Waltham Field Station and Lawrence Meadow property as critically important open space, a unique agricultural resource, and an integral part of the Western Greenway trail system. The site is also our headquarters, as it is for a dynamic group of sustainability-related non-profits, including Grow Native Massachusetts, Mass Farmers Markets, Boston Area Gleaners, Waltham Fields Community Farm and GROW Community Garden.
Though we are not privy to the transactions, WLT understands that delicate negotiations between UMass and the City are underway. We know that the City has approved funds for a site appraisal and an environmental assessment. Until we learn of any additional information, we remain hopeful that the City will obtain the site and preserve the agricultural uses. We also hope that we will be able to arrange for a continuation of tenancy for ourselves and the other non-profits housed here.
We are monitoring the process as best we can at present. We believe it would be helpful to voice your support for the Waltham Field Station acquisition, and agricultural preservation, by contacting Waltham City Councillors and our state representatives. We will keep our members informed as we learn more. Should negotiations cease, WLT will act to mobilize its members in support of our goal to preserve the property as indicated in our position paper.
One of the most important agricultural and historical properties in Waltham
The Waltham Field Station is by far the largest of the three existing farms in the City, and is known to have the best soils available in the city, if not the entire Metrowest region. The history of American farming innovation cannot be told without invoking the Waltham Field Station and its contribution to the technology of agriculture. This legacy is engaged every time a gardener buys a seed packet of Waltham Butternut Squash or Waltham Broccoli or any of the many corn hybrids developed at this agricultural research center in the 20th century. The Field Station has been a center for community-supported farming for over 96 years, and this role continues into the 21st century with improvements and reinvigorated care brought by the establishment of the GROW community gardens and the Waltham Fields Community Farm at the site on the 1990s.
Long before the researchers and community groups came to re-invent agriculture here, Waltham’s greatest benefactor, Cornelia Warren, farmed these acres and intended to assure that this land should be kept in agriculture or as park land by the heirs to her fortune, the Massachusetts Agricultural College and the City of Waltham. In addition, this land is an integral part of the Western Greenway open space corridor and has been recognized as one of Waltham’s most significant and endangered open space properties by the WLT.
This one unique place incorporates the history of American agriculture, the legacy of Waltham’s foremost benefactor, an irreplaceable link in the Western Greenway, the best farm soils in our region, and a community of groups bringing food, agriculture, and education to the region’s residents.
Please join the Waltham Land Trust in declaring that this land must stay agricultural and open to the people of the Commonwealth, as Cornelia Warren hoped, and promised by her actions, that it would.