While new school buildings and large paving projects certainly command attention, some of the less visible and less expensive items can represent a disproportionate improvement in quality of life. This month, I am focusing on these.
1. Islands A project dear to my heart was the shortening of pedestrian refuges (a protected island between lanes where pedestrians can safely wait for a break in traffic) in several parts of Newton. Why? Some posed an obstacle to people in wheelchairs. A glaring and dangerous example was the pedestrian refuge island at the intersection of Washington and Beacon streets in Lower Falls. I had seen a man in a motorized wheelchair, heading to the hospital, who had to cross Beacon by rolling into the traffic lane on Washington! This island is now shortened, so the crosswalk is uninterrupted by curb, as is the one at Lowell and Commonwealth.
More expensive, but unusually effective—the upgrade of pedestrian crossings in Newton Corner at the circle. Just a little extra curb—sometimes with a grass berm—audible signals, and—most visibly—the removal of yews that blocked motorists' view of each other. Something more lovely still needs to be planted in these islands, but already it looks much better—and is safer for all!
2. Lines As part of the reconstruction of Beacon Street—this year's section was Walnut to Centre—has included the painting of generous “fog lines”--the white lines on either side of the road. These already function as de-facto bike lanes, but more importantly, they encourage drivers to slow down to the speed limit. I've noticed it on my own drives, and I'm sure pedestrians appreciate the additional distance as well as the new sidewalks.
3. Park Off pavement, the newly-formed Friends of Cold Spring Park (on Facebook @FriendsofColdSpringPark; FriendsofColdspringPark@gmail.com) helped and publicized Alex Rivero's Eagle Scout project—several raised board walks across some of the muddy sections of the fitness path there. The Friends are raising money for more trail improvements, and are working with Parks & Recreation staff, to prioritize other sections. It's worth it to follow the page just for the quirky events, artifacts, animal sightings (weasels!) and history trivia. Donate (tax-deductible) for trail improvements with a check to Newton Conservators with “Friends of CSP” on the memo line: PO Box 610023, Newton 02461.
4. Trees: Join the Newton Tree Conservancy to plant over 100 new street trees Nov. 17th. I'm signed up, and you can too—this is a wonderful way to improve air quality, mitigate climate change and enhance the beauty of Newton streets. The link to join them is
5. Office Hours: After I clean up from the tree planting, I'm holding office hours at the family-owned Grape Leaf, 6 Lincoln St, Newton Highlands from 11 am – 12:30. Come to find out more about zoning, the city's two big climate plans, or anything else on your mind. You won't regret trying the gyros!
6. Zoning, Ward 5 Edition: If you live or own in Ward 5, save the evening of November 29th. We don't have a venue confirmed yet, but it looks like that's the evening the Planning Department will join us to talk Zoning Redesign as it affects our ward