I can’t give you the exact history of the Reservation, or the new wetland area without more research than this blog requires…… if you want to know more, check at http://www.friendsofalewifereservation.org
But for many years I know this area was a huge forest, swamp, abandoned land…. I drove by so many times…. there was very little development in this north end of Cambridge…. I was too busy in my city life to do more than wonder about the area….
In the 90’s, some development began on the edges of what some call “The Great Swamp”… and slowly it grew… tree by tree, nest by nest…. until an area of about 375 acres was left…..the Alewife Reservation…. it is protected wetlands and sits amongst tall urban buildings…. an oasis for wildlife driven from former homes with the natural elements that entice the migratory animals that are looking for a new home….
The water of the wetlands is primarily the Little River, originating in Belmont, MA which connects to the Alewife Brook… leading into the much larger Mystic River and eventually to the Boston Harbor….
This is important because in the 90’s as well some judicial folks decided enough was past enough and it was time to clean up Boston Harbor, enormously polluted… and to really clean the Harbor it is essential to clean the tributaries that pour water into the Harbor…. about 35 plus areas….. including the Mystic and Little and Alewife Rivers…. These areas were included in a lawsuit by the Environmental Protection Agency against the state agency that managed the areas….
Since it involved such long term jobs, it remains in effect today…. the area around the Reservation scheduled to be completed in December, 2015…
Cambridge as part of the solution embarked on an innovative project…..separated storm water (separated from sewage, sent to a treatment plant) from a large part of the city would be sent through a constructed, natural looking wet land in the Reservation…. filtered by the wetland and returned to the Little River/Alewife Brook much cleaner. A beautifully planned landscape with water areas, bridges, plants and lots of amenties for the wildlife in residence would contain this filtering system, thereby presenting a recreational, accessible area that would clean water, protect the habitat and give humans a chance to walk in nature in a new way…
This would cost many millions of dollars, of course… but the benefits were remarkable.
I didn’t know much about the Alewife Reservation back then, although I spent a few days a week there…. seeing construction and still not knowing (or bothering to find out) what this place was…. but slowly I caught on… As I look back I remember several friends and neighbors being concerned about this plan….. wondering what was really happening to this wild, wonderful place they love. Human hands can be unintentionally destructive to nature or otherwise…. and certainly we don’t have the knowledge to build like nature builds…. what would happen?……
The new prize-winning designed wetlands opened October 15, 2013. It was stunning… a quote was going around, reversing Joni Mitchell’s words, take down a parking lot and build paradise….
Yet by March 6…. we had dead animals in the wetlands and some polluted looking water… and we haven’t all figured it out yet…. or have we?….