Cambridge to Consider Funds for Preservation of the Silver Maple Forest


Cambridge City Councillor Dennis Carlone introduced a policy order to affirm that the City of Cambridge is "ready, willing, and able" to contribute funds for the preservation of the Silver Maple Forest.

The 15-acre floodplain forest, parts of which are located in Cambridge, Belmont, and Arlington, is a natural complement to the adjacent Alewife Reservation, but a developer is moving forward with plans to cut the trees and build a 299-unit housing complex on the site.

"Ecology teaches us that all land is not appropriate for urban development," Carlone said in a statement. "There are special places in this world, and by destroying our few remaining wildlife habitats, we become more isolated and less human," he added.

In addition to wildlife concerns, the loss of the forest has also raised questions relating to storm water management and flooding. Local advocates recently appeared before the Belmont Board of Selectmen to contend that permits for the project were based on outdated rainfall data. Meanwhile, Lesley University faculty have offered this economic analysis, arguing that the costs of future flooding will outweigh the value of the proposed development.

Last month, a large crowd of residents gathered at the forest to protest the development plan. A photograph of that event is posted above, compliments of David Mussina. A similar protest was organized last winter and was attended by Councillor Carlone, his colleague Nadeem Mazen, and State Senator Will Brownsberger.

Councillor Carlone's Silver Maple Forest policy order will be on the agenda for the council's midsummer meeting on Monday, July 28, at 5:30 pm. Due to ongoing renovations in the Sullivan Chamber, the meeting will be held at CRLS in the Henrietta S. Attles Meeting Room, 459 Broadway.

Members of the public wishing to testify in support of this order should arrive at the Attles Meeting Room and add their names to the public comment list prior to 6 pm on Monday. Alternatively, people may call the City Council office (617.349.4280) between the hours of 9 am and 3 pm on Monday and ask to be added to the public comment list for Order #4, the Silver Maple Forest policy order. People may also email the city council via and be sure to cc the City Clerk via

The full text of the policy order is available below...

  Policy Order Resolution  
  July 28, 2014

The Silver Maple Forest is the site of a controversial development project along Acorn Park Drive in Cambridge; the forest is located at the intersection of Cambridge, Belmont, and Arlington; and

WHEREAS: The 15.6-acre Silver Maple Forest is a small-river floodplain forest and is an integral part of the Alewife Reservation ecosystem, home to deer, coyote, mink, river otter, red fox, fishers, and some 90 species of birds, including hawks, wild turkey, blue heron, swans, catbirds, hummingbirds, and goldfinches; and 
WHEREAS: Local advocates and noted hydrologists continue to assert that the current proposal does not adequately meet the needs for storm water management in the 50, 75, and 100 year storm scenarios, all of which are expected to increase in severity as a result of climate change; and 
WHEREAS: According to a report prepared by the hydrology firm Horsley and Witten, the proposal to clear the Silver Maple Forest would result in significant loss of vegetation and associated evapotranspiration; these losses would elevate the current water table, inundating the proposed underground storm water storage basin and compromising the integrity of surrounding infrastructure and the safety and property of nearby residents; and 

Development of the Silver Maple Forest would directly impact the capacity of the surrounding area to withstand the effects of climate change; and 

WHEREAS: Development of the Silver Maple Forest would also add additional traffic to an area where traffic congestion has become a major issue for many Cambridge residents; and 
WHEREAS: Representatives from the Trust for Public Lands, a national organization with a respected track record of brokering deals in similar situations, have been making attempts to contact the developer, Mr. J. Brian O'Neill of the O'Neill Properties Group of King of Prussia, Pennsylvania, in an effort to secure an option to purchase the Silver Maple Forest; and

On Saturday, June 28, 2014, more than 150 local residents gathered at the Alewife T station and paraded up Acorn Park Drive to the Silver Maple Forest in an effort to raise awareness and promote the preservation of this important community resource; the event featured participation from members of the City Council, the Belmont Board of Selectman, the Massachusetts State Senate, the Massachusetts Sierra Club, Green Cambridge, Friends of Alewife Reservation, the Mystic River Watershed Association, the Cambridge Residents Alliance, the Fresh Pond Residents Alliance, TROMP, Lesley University Division of Science and Mathematics, the Green Sanctuary Team, the Coalition to Preserve the Belmont Uplands, Belmont Citizens Forum, Belmont Land Trust, Sustainable Belmont, Sustainable Arlington, Occupy Arlington, and many other local organizations; and


Over the past fifteen years, the City Council has adopted no less than twelve policy order resolutions in support of the Silver Maple Forest, now therefore be it 

ORDERED: That the City Council go on record to affirm that the City of Cambridge is ready, willing, and able to contribute funds for the preservation of the Silver Maple Forest, as part of a broader effort that might include additional funding from grants, institutions, corporations, philanthropists, other municipalities such as Arlington and Belmont, the Commonwealth, and any other possible sources of revenue; and 
ORDERED: That the City Clerk be and hereby is requested to transmit a message to Mr. J. Brian O'Neill of the O'Neill Properties Group of King of Prussia, Pennsylvania, sending him our warmest regards and informing him that the City is eager to do its part to help reach a resolution to this matter that will be to his benefit and to the benefit of all concerned; and 

That the City Manager be and hereby is requested to work with staff to convene an open meeting with officials from Cambridge, Arlington, Belmont, and the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, along with representatives of other interested parties, to discuss all possible options for the preservation of the Silver Maple Forest; and

ORDERED: That the City Manager be and hereby is requested to take any and all legal steps necessary to prevent the City from providing any water or sewer connections to the proposed Silver Maple Forest development site; and 


That the City Manager be and hereby is requested to report back to the City Council on this matter.



Showing 2 reactions

Please check your e-mail for a link to activate your account.
  • David Landskov
    Thank you on behalf of Arlington!
  • Quinton #BanFrackedGas Zondervan
    This is great! Thank you for doing this.