A POLICY LETTER
for Cochituate State Park
(presented to the Massachusetts Board of Environmental Management
by A. Richard Miller on Feb. 21st, 2003)
visits since 060310; last updated 060310.
Hi, Friends of Cochituate State Park:
Our favorite State Park has been seeing hard times, and it isn't the only wonderful resource to suffer. A lack of money, staff and vision has kept it limited to a place for quick visits to swim, burn a hot dog, play some ball, leave garbage and go home.
The general public may not realize what it's missing. Those of us that have participated in park management meetings for years know otherwise. Regular shortfalls in money and staff for Cochituate State Park have left it with a very limited nature program, a disastrously underfunded lake water quality management program, zero vision for expanding our park operations, and a shoreline use program that discourages half the abutting residents from caring for their lake.
Where nature studies are poorly addressed at Cochituate State Park, history has not been addressed at all. This lovely lake was a famous gathering place for early native Americans, a sad memorial location for the Natick Praying Indians (who, with Minister John Eliot created North America's first native-language Bible); it powered early mills, became Boston's first public drinking-water reservoir, and (in coordination with the Cochituate Dam construction project) provided the road to riches for the nearby Saxonville Mills. Cochituate State Park has no attention span for that broad history; no school programs, no building to house a museum and events, no signage or even awareness.
That early-industrial road to riches, the Saxonville Branch Railroad, is slated to become the Cochituate Rail Trail, a lovely four-mile linear park connecting Cochituate State Park to downtown Natick and the Sudbury River. Yet the DEM's plans for our park are so minimal that it declined to accept that railroad right-of-way -- even parcels that were offered as a free gift.
Last year's major infestation by invasive aquatic plants is the result of state-wide inattention to that growing problem, and of local inattention during too many critical months. The months of inaction are likely to cost years of degradation; every dollar not invested early enough is likely to cost hundreds of dollars in "management" -- which should not be confused with a cure.
Wednesday, our new Governor announced that he will implement an old plan (we recall three prior versions) to merge MDC's extensive park and recreation operations with those of DEM. It may make things better or worse. The official publicity release is here:
Some of this change zeroes in on past poor collaboration with the public:
"On a broader level, some of the key objectives for the Romney administration include plans to institutionalize community involvement, volunteer support, and public-private partnerships within the new parks system as well as create transparency and accountability in the management systems. "'Collaboration is the cornerstone of this administration,' said Doug Foy, Chief of Commonwealth Development. 'Our ability to reach out to constituencies within and outside of the state house will enable us to create the most successful public parks and recreation system in the country.'"
Since a January 2000 Friends meeting at Lake Cochituate, where it gathered e-mail addresses for that purpose, DEM has failed to implement an e-mail forum (listserv) to let these volunteers share ideas openly with each other and DEM. That open mechanism can be cheap and immediate, and is an overdue part of any real collaboration.
Looking ahead, this park must grow in the minds of its communities, or it will continue to shrink. Adopting the Cochituate Rail Trail vision, a year-round educational program and a building to house it, an expanded day-use facility, water quality attention that works. A park that brings its own communities back for more. All this will follow, IF Boston adopts a vision rather than just more short-sighted economies.
We trained hard, but it seemed every time we were beginning to form up into teams, we would be reorganised. I was to learn later in life that we tend to meet any new situation by reorganising, and a wonderful method it can be for creating the illusion of progress while producing confusion, inefficiency and demoralisation.
-- Petronii Arbitri, Satyricon, AD 66
(attributed to Roman general Gaius Petronus)
There is nothing new in this reorganization plan. Reorganization can be a cop-out, or it can do good. If Boston adopts a vision rather than just more short-sighted economies, this reorganization may do good.
A personal message from
--Dick Miller <TheMillers@millermicro.com>
Vice Chairman, Cochituate State Park Advisory Committee
Chairman, Natick Bicycle and Pedestrian Advisory Committee