Message from the Friends of the North 40

Dear Friends of the North 40, 

On Tuesday, members of the Natural Resources Commission (NRC) announced that they are seeking amendments to changes to the structure of the Natural Resources Commission being brought forth by the Town Government Study Committee at upcoming Special Town Meeting beginning Nov 2.

The NRC statement follows, and Town Meeting Members can be reached via the Town’s website.

School News: The new Hardy/Hunnewell/Upham Facilities Project Page on the Town Website can be viewed here. The School Superintendent and members of the School Committee also appeared last night before the Advisory Committee and referenced the North 40

NRC Seeks to Retain Independent Role to Protect Public Open Space and the Environment

To supporters of the Wellesley Natural Resources Commission:

Last night, the members of the Wellesley NRC voted on final language for three amendments to the Town Government Study Committee (TGSC) proposal that will be considered at the Special Town Meeting convening on November 2. The TGSC is proposing sweeping changes to Wellesley’s form of government after a review of the current structure. The members of the NRC are concerned that the proposed changes will compromise the ability of the NRC to accomplish its mission to protect the environment, conserve open space, and promote recreation in Wellesley. 

Through our amendments, we will ask Town Meeting Members to allow the NRC to retain the independence granted by an act of the Massachusetts State Legislature when the NRC was created in 1978. This independent status is similar to the status accorded to the School Department and the Municipal Light Department and their respective boards.

The structure proposed by the TGSC would place the NRC’s department in a new “Planning and Land Management Division,” several layers down in the Town organizational chart, under the Board of Selectmen, the Town Manager, and a Deputy Town Manager. The responsibility for supervising, hiring, and firing the NRC Director would also be shifted from our board to a Deputy Town Manager who would function as the director of this new division. We are deeply concerned that this structure will compromise the independence of the NRC and restrict our ability to execute our environmental mission. For nearly 40 years, the NRC has been an independent voice for environmental concerns in Wellesley, helping maintain the Town’s natural beauty and quality of life. We had hoped the changes proposed by TGSC would allow the NRC to continue to function independently. Ultimately, we determined that the proposal of amendments was our only option.

We wholeheartedly support the concept of a town manager and would like to follow the example of other towns, such as Brookline, Winchester, and Weston, that have very effective town managers who work in collaboration with independent elected boards. In looking at comparable towns, it is clear that there is no one-size-fits-all structure for town government – each town has worked out its own particular solution, and we would like to find a balanced solution for Wellesley.

The NRC was created in response to public dissatisfaction over how open space was managed in Wellesley. In 1977, Town Meeting Members voted to consolidate the management of open space in an elected Natural Resources Commission with a broad mission of stewardship over conservation land, parks, and natural resources, including public education and advocacy. NRC projects include:

  • the successful campaign to purchase and preserve Centennial Reservation
  • the Integrated Pesticide Management program, which limits the use of pesticides on public land, including parks and playing fields
  • the restoration of historic Fuller Brook Park
  • the ongoing restoration of Morses Pond
  • the protection and enhancement of the Town’s tree canopy through the Tree Planting program for which Wellesley has received the Tree City USA Award for 32 consecutive years.

The pressures on Wellesley’s natural resources and open space are increasing with every passing year. As more and more private open space in town is lost to development, we must continue to preserve and protect our public open space. 

We ask you to support the NRC as an independent voice for the environment and open space, and we ask all Town Meeting Members to vote to approve our amendments.

To learn more about the NRC’s position, please click here.

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