by Ayana Meade
A North Cambridge legislator has accumulated the support from 12 legislators from Middlesex and Suffolk counties for his bill to protect the Silver Maple forest.
“We feel that the Silver Maple Forest property, which HB21 would acquire, is an urban gem of regional value and significance,” they wrote in a letter to Gov. Deval L. Patrick, building steam for the bill written by State Rep. William N. Brownsberger, D, North Cambridge.
If passed, the bill would keep the 15.6-acre uplands from being developed into a 299-unit 40B rental housing project, as proposed by its owner, the O’Neill Properties Group. Under the bill, the state would appropriate half of the market value of the property, estimated to be about $12 million, and the affected towns would be responsible for the other half. The property would then become a part of the adjoining Alewife Brook Reservation.
“The real question right now is will Governor Patrick support the bill. We need the governor’s support and the support of DCR to put this legislation in context of other park plans. Only with the governor’s support will it get passed through the legislature,” Brownsberger said.
State Rep. William N. Brownsberger, D, North Cambridge
“The bill has been referred to the Committee on Bonding, Capital Expenditures and State Assets. I asked that committee first of all to conduct a hearing and they did conduct a hearing. It was a good hearing,” he said.
“A lot of support was demonstrated, but they indicated to me, will the Governor support this, so I’ve put all of my attention at this time on getting Governor Patrick to support this bill. There’s no schedule for that to happen. That’s up to the administration as to how fast they move into taking position. And once they take a position, then we’ll take our next steps legislatively,” Brownsberger said.
Brownsberger is impressed with the level of support the bill has garnered so far, he said.
“We’ve gotten a wonderful demonstration of support from all segments of the affected communities. The political leadership has unanimously endorsed it in all three communities,” he said.
“The conservation organizations have endorsed it and hundreds and hundreds of citizens. I think approaching probably over 1,500 have signed cards and sent them to Governor Patrick urging him to support this legislation, so a strong showing of community support has been made, and now it’s up to the administration to decide if they feel they can make this happen,” he said.
Brownsberger said he encourages people concerned about this issue to visit savethesilvermapleforest.org and look at the information there and consider sending a note to the Governor on the issue, as well as sign up on his Web site at DevalPatrick.com.
Brownsberger has not had any word from Patrick yet. He does have a meeting scheduled for later this month with the commissioner of DCR, when he hopes to start getting some initial feedback, he said.
The Silver Maple Forest the largest untouched urban wild in the Boston area and contains 90 species of birds and 20 mammal species, said Ellen B. Mass, president of the Friends of the Alewife Reservation.