Proposed land "swap"
On January 30, 2018, Waltham officials publicly announced a plan to take 13 or more acres of the Robert Treat Paine Estate / Storer Conservation Lands as a potential site for the campus of a new high school. Additional acreage (up to 12, for a total of up to 25 acres) could be taken from the parcel known as Chesterbrook Woods that was historically a part of Olmsted's Paine Estate. On February 7, the School Committee voted in favor of pursuing what they describe as the "augmented" current high school site, which is now second only to their preferred option, the Stigmatine land.
What this means for our kids and community
The proposal to pursue one of the best protected and most cherished lands in Waltham would set a dreadful precedent for deforesting and developing protected lands across Waltham and beyond. It would send a message to our kids that public parks, and historical and natural treasures, are not essential to communities and that a decision to begin a chain of deforestation is acceptable in this changing climate.
There are alternative sites
Until now, the School Committee has been considering three other sites: the current high school site, the site of the former Fernald School (owned by the City) and land now owned by the Stigmatine Fathers. Negotiations have reached an impasse on the purchase of the Stigmatine Fathers land, which is the preferred site of the new Waltham High School. There may be additional possible sites that the School Committee has not considered.
once you destroy green space, it's gone forever
Frederick Law Olmsted, the world-famous park and landscape designer, created New York City's Central Park and Boston's Emerald Necklace. He also created the Stonehurst/Paine Estate woodland park. Waltham is lucky to have this beautiful treasure in our small city. It would be unheard of to take a chunk out of Central Park or the Emerald Necklace to build a school. Why let that happen to our woods?
A Bad idea
Not only is this plan a complete betrayal of the legal commitment to conserve the Paine Estate, it would face an uphill and prolonged legal battle to become a reality.
Local and national opponents are launching a campaign to oppose this plan. The plan would have to be approved by a 2/3 vote of the Massachusetts State Legislature (article 97).
If the goal is to procure, in a timely manner, an appropriate parcel to build the new high school, then this plan should be abandoned.