In the early 1970’s, the Boston Redevelopment Authority published an inventory of unprotected green spaces, wetlands, woodlands and rock outcrops entitled “Boston Urban Wilds, A Natural Area Conservation Program.” Among the larger and more significant ones was the 24 acre Bussey Brook Meadow.

John Blackwell

John Blackwell

In 1996, the Arboretum Park Conservancy (APC), which had been legally spun off by the Boston Natural Areas Network, persuaded Harvard to afford the unappreciated property the protection of the indenture, thus averting the threat that the MBTA would take it for a bus garage. Through the hard work of John Blackwell, the APC raised the funds to build a 2000 foot long footpath with welcoming ornamental gates across Washington Street from Forest Hills T station and another opposite the Arboretum’s original gate on South Street where the Weld farmhouse stood.

Bussey Brook Meadow in the fall

Bussey Brook Meadow in the fall

In 2002, Mayor Thomas Menino celebrated the Grand Opening of the Bussey Brook Meadow and the Blackwell Path.

The continuing purpose of the Footpath is to provide a pleasant walk through the urban wild to the South Street Gate for users of public transportation. Drawings by APC Board member Anne Schmalz, illustrate the seasonal progression of plants in the meadow. The drawings change throughout the year and are mounted on permanent frames donated by the APC.

In 2011, Ned Friedman, director of the Arboretum and evolutionary biologist, spearheaded a new program to expand knowledge of invasive species and engage the public as they walk through the park. Peter del Tredici summarizes the program as follows, “One of the main difficulties facing researchers who study urban ecology is finding vegetated sites that will remain open and undisturbed over a long enough time period for observations to become ecologically meaningful. It is the intention of the Arboretum that the Bussey Brook Meadow become a site where long-term ecological research can happen without unanticipated disruptions that would compromise the integrity of future data. Bussey Brook Meadow will be allowed to develop as a site where scientists from the Arboretum and from surrounding universities can monitor long-term changes in the structure and function of an unmanaged, spontaneous urban ecosystem.”

More information about the history of the Bussey Brook Meadow

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