Green Cambridge takes on gift of Alewife land, kept from developers by Hill family since 1636
The nonprofit Green Cambridge has been given a small patch of nature to safeguard in the rapidly developing Alewife area, it announced Tuesday.
The 5,450-square-foot, triangle-shaped parcel owned since 1636 by descendants of the Hill family was left untouched while much of the surrounding area underwent significant commercial and residential development after a red line subway extension in 1985. “We were delighted to select Green Cambridge as future steward of this land so that everyone in the community can enjoy a nice place to stop, sit and relax beside the bike path,” a family representative said via a Green Cambridge press release.
An inscription on a bench within the parcel lays out the history: “This site is part of a 2,000-acre land grant by King Charles I to Abraham Hill in 1636 extending from present-day Belmont to Charlestown and passed to Abraham’s descendants.”
The parcel abuts the Fitchburg Cutoff Bike and Pedestrian Path and Alewife MBTA station garage. It is next to the state-owned Alewife Reservation, where Green Cambridge is involved in wildlife education, habitat restoration and trail maintenance. Representatives said the group envisions using the space for more community use, in line with the wishes of the Hill family.
“Its history is part of a contextual narrative of places across New England – the transfer from indigenous people into agriculture, then industrial uses and now real estate development that we all live within in the Boston region,” said Steven Nutter, Green Cambridge’s executive director. “We can acknowledge that history and work to create a more sustainable and equitable future that works for everybody.”
Green Cambridge’s work
Green Cambridge’s success depends on the community “continuing to support the work through volunteering and generous donations,” Nutter said.
The group, founded as Green Decade in 2004, has had several successes in its mission to protect the environment: In 2013, a Net Zero petition that resulted in a 25-year Net Zero Action Plan adopted by the City Council two years later; in 2017, starting the Hurley Street Neighborhood Farm as a prototype for communal gardens in Cambridge, later partnering with the city and private organizations on other community gardens; and petitioning the city for tree canopy protections that led to an Urban Forest Master Plan released by the city in 2019.
Green Cambridge has grown to incorporate other groups and projects: In 2018, the Cambridge Wildlife Puppetry Project merged into Green Cambridge to become the Wildlife Arts program for school-aged children; in 2019, it took on the mission of the Friends of Alewife Reservation; this year it partnered with Groundwork Somerville on the Canopy Crew, a tree-planting program that train youth and young adults in urban forestry.