Why the North 40 is still a hot topic

With a new name, mission and website, the Friends of the North 40 took center stage during many of the festivities last weekend, with “Raptors, Goats and You” on the North 40 itself, a table at the Sustainable Living Festival, a walking group in the parade, and an informational booth at the fireworks.  But even with such a visible role and mission, over the course of the weekend, the question was repeatedly asked: “why is the North 40 still an issue?”

Put simply, the issue of the North 40 should still be one at the forefront of everyone’s mind because its fate is still undecided.  Although the Town will almost certainly close the purchase and sale agreement with Wellesley College next month and proceed to take ownership of the land, its exact end is yet to be determined.

As would be expected with the Town’s previously-unexpected acquisition of 46 acres of property, there are many voices calling for its use to focus on a wide variety of purposes.  These range from the construction of another school to erecting housing for a variety of demographics and from installing playing fields to building other recreational facilities.  Although all of these purposes have their own merits, they all share one common, tragic flaw: they come at the expense of a natural forest that calls home to wildlife, community gardens, plants, and Wellesley residents.

The next step in determining the North 40’s eventual destiny will be for the Town to form a visioning committee that will review its options and preferences for the land’s allocation.  This is the point in the process at which civic involvement is most crucial.

Send letters to elected officials.  Attend North 40 events and keep track of news related to the natural space’s status.  Talk with fellow residents about the issue.  Vote for political candidates that will take an environmentally-conscious approach to the question that is the North 40.  The ways to get involved are endless, and all are pivotal to the preservation of not only the North 40 itself, but the livelihood of Wellesley residents across town.

A key argument used by the Friends of the North 40 in advocating for the land’s purchase in January was that public ownership of the forest was necessary to “control our own destiny.”  At this point, that mission is virtually accomplished; we, as the people of Wellesley, have the ability to control the destiny of this invaluable Wellesley resource.  What remains is for us to actually take that control and use it for the right reasons, calling all residents to step up and advocate for what is sustainable and best for the longevity of our community.

Visit www.friendsofthenorth40.org for more information on staying involved.

(Matthew Hornung and Olivia Gieger)

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