Preserve Paine Estate Woods
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The City of Waltham, Massachusetts, has publicly announced a plan to carve out a huge, centrally located part of the Robert Treat Paine Estate for the campus of a new high school. We, the signers of this petition, are strongly opposed to constructing a school campus on any piece of the estate, a National Historic Landmark and Olmsted park.
New York’s Central Park is one of Frederick Law Olmsted’s premier achievements and is known and celebrated around the world. It would be inconceivable for the City of New York to carve up Central Park to build a school. Yet the Paine Estate now finds itself threatened by the City of Waltham with just such a situation.
Precisely because we so deeply care about our children and their education, we oppose any destruction of Waltham’s cultural and environmental resources whose preservation is in the best interest of the children of today and of the future.
If successful, the proposal to pursue one of the most protected lands in Waltham and our only Olmsted landscape would reverse decades of preservation and conservation advancements, violate the expressed wishes of the donors, and set a dreadful precedent for deforesting and developing protected lands that make our community so desirable. It would undermine the very ideals of the estate’s creators: the philanthropic Paine family, Charles Eliot who founded America’s first land trust, and Frederick Law Olmsted, father of America’s public and national parks.
Carving up the Paine Estate would send a terrible message to Waltham’s students that historical and natural treasures do not matter and that deforestation is acceptable in this era of increasing climate change.
The Paine Estate has been designated a National Historic Landmark, one of only 2,500 historic places, along with the Statue of Liberty, that bear this national distinction. National Historic Landmarks represent outstanding aspects of American history and culture and are considered sacred across the entire United States.
Theodore Storer and other Paine heirs donated and sold the 109-acre Robert Treat Paine Estate/Storer Conservation Lands to the City of Waltham in 1974 with restrictions “for the purpose of maintaining said parcels in a predominantly natural, scenic, green and open condition forever.” Since then, the City of Waltham has honored the promise to preserve this land, added protections, and even purchased 25 acres of adjacent woodlands (known as Chesterbrook Woods) to reunite them with the rest of the Paine Estate.
Until now, the City’s intent has been clear: this land is cherished and untouchable.
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, state and national organizations oppose this plan. The plan would have to be approved by a two-thirds 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.
Destroying this important greenspace that nurtures the residents of Waltham would establish a precedent that broadly threatens our quality of life. Deforesting and developing a National Historic Landmark, “the City’s only official conservation land,” for a school campus would be an unacceptable and irreversible decision with grave and lasting consequences extending well beyond Waltham. We urge you to find a solution for locating the much-needed new high school for our children that does not sacrifice our community treasures and values.
We implore the School Committee, City Council and Mayor to discard the proposal to use any portion of the Paine/Storer/Chesterbrook land for the new high school campus.
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