Thursday, May 23, 2024

A bill kick-starting conversation about state acquisition of the Silver Maple Forest property, also known as the Belmont Uplands, passed Tuesday in the state House of Representatives, said state Rep. Will Brownsberger, a Democrat representing Cambridge and Belmont.

“This issue has been drifting for several years now. House 701 is a modest step forward,” Brownsberger said, referring to the bill by its legislative designation. “I am hoping that it will focus the official attention necessary to resolve the question of whether an acquisition is viable.”

He thanked co-sponsor state Sen. Steven Tolman, a Brighton Democrat, as well as supports state Reps. Alice Wolfe, of Cambridge, Sean Garballey, of Arlington, and state Sens. Kenneth J. Donnelly, of Arlington, and Sal DiDomenico, of Everett.

The bill, which now goes to Gov. Deval Patrick for signing, does not appropriate funds, leaving it the commissioner of the Department of Conservation and Recreation to determine how much, if any, the state will contribute from a bond-funded land acquisition program toward buying the forest.

“The state has very limited funds. It is entirely possible that the commissioner will allocate no funds or minimal funds to the acquisition,” Brownsberger said.

The bill also does not force the owner to sell the property through an eminent domain taking. “Hopefully, with some involvement by DCR, the owner will at least come to the table,” Brownsberger said.

The bill does create a process in which the department determines a price for the property, whether the owner will sell at that price and how much it will contribute toward a purchase; provides 120 days for the municipalities to decide how much, if any, they will chip in, either from their own funds or privately raised funds; and, if enough money is raised, buys the property and adds it to the Alewife Reservation.
“This is a start at preserving this important open space. We who live in dense urban areas really need to be able to enjoy an urban wild, just as those in the more rural areas enjoy hundreds of acres of green spaces,” Wolfe said.

This post was written from a press release.