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All in a Day at the Park

24 May

IMG_7981Novartis Cleanup–Today was Novartis’s Community Partnership Day and 60-80 volunteers focused on Magazine Beach where they raked leaves, picked up trash, mulched flower beds and removed Phragmites from the eastern swale. Thank you, Novartis! And thank you, the Charles River Conservancy, Charles River Watershed Association and DCR for overseeing and assisting with these projects. Next step re the Phragmites: to cover the last vestiges of rhizomes (masses of roots) with tarps for 2 growing seasons. In time, we will replant wildflowers in the swale for insects and birds to enjoy.IMG_7958Navigational Games–Morse School kindergarteners ran from designated spot to spot “gathering” nature icons and 5th graders did some real orienteering with maps. How wonderful it was to see children running around the park!

FullSizeRenderAndy’s Pups–Every day at noon you’ll see Andy walking the park with his seven charges.IMG_8015Coming Soon: A Splash Deck!–Part of the swimming pool deck and the area beside it is fenced off. Construction will begin very soon.IMG_7950

[Not from today, but from last week, 5.14.17: I am sorry to report another pedestrian got hit by a car as she tried to run across Memorial Drive. She died 5.16. PLEASE, use the pedestrian footbridge to cross over to the park. It is not that long and it is MUCH safer.

4.29 Earth Day Cleanup & Bird Walk THIS Saturday!

30 Apr

Thanks to all who participated in yesterday’s Earth Day Charles River Cleanup, including: Gensler, Reed Hildebrand, the Green Engineer, MIT, Pack 56 Cub Scouts and Cambridgeport neighbors; and to event organizers: the Charles River Watershed Association and Charles River Conservancy.

DCR will pick up the many piles of sticks and branches this week. Volunteers pulled tons of bits of plastic from the river and shoreline. A high school student took bags of it and will craft artwork from the marine debris.

Nature Lovers: We also sighted a muskrat, living along the river’s edge!!!!!! And, last week: a great blue heron. Jeanne Strahen, who’s conducting the wildlife inventory of Magazine Beach, and CRWA bird watcher Matt Marshall will lead a Bird Walk at the park Saturday, May 6. Meet on the BU bridge, facing the park at 7:30am (rain date: Sunday, May 7). Free. Bring your binoculars! UPDATE: Rain is predicted, but it’s not raining. The walk is on! See you there!

Wildlife photos courtesy of Garrett Newton and Coleen O’Connell.

City Council Unanimously Supports Investment at Park

26 Apr


On Monday the City Council unanimously approved the following Council Order, co-sponsored by Mayor Denise Simmons and Vice-Mayor Marc McGovern.

WHEREAS: At 17 acres, Magazine Beach Park is Cambridge’s second largest park and centrally located, beside the BU Bridge and along the Charles River; and

WHEREAS: The park has been a favorite picnicking and swimming destination for Cambridge families for over 100 years; and

WHEREAS: The park is the only stretch on the Cambridge side of the river that has the space to offer recreation, family gatherings and nature, that has the potential of becoming a destination; and

WHEREAS: Both the State and City have designated it as such in their 2001 Master Plan of the Charles River Basin and 2011 Cambridge Riverfront Plan: Reconnecting People to the Water; and

WHEREAS: The park badly needs renovation with its broken picnic tables and benches, a broken wading pool, no play features, sunken pavement, and many dead or dying trees; and

WHEREAS: Landscape architects Crosby Schlessinger Smallridge have almost completed the design for the western part of the park (Phase II); and

WHEREAS: The Massachusetts Department of Recreation and Conservation (DCR), the guardians of this park (that Cambridge created!), lack the capital to make all of the necessary improvements to the park; and

WHEREAS: Over the past few years, working collaboratively, the City, State and community have successfully restored the historic 1818 Powder magazine; and

WHEREAS: The City has already invested $1.5 million into the renovation of the playing fields and exercise area in the eastern part of the park (Phase I); and

WHEREAS: The Magazine Beach Committee of the Cambridgeport Neighborhood Association (CNA) is committed to continuing to advocate for the park, to raise funds to renovate it, and to organize summer programs for the enrichment of local children and families; now therefore be it

ORDERED: That the City of Cambridge partner with DCR and the CNA to revitalize Magazine Beach; and be if further

ORDERED: That the City make a substantial investment in Phase II improvements and explore with DCR the possibility of maintaining the park; and be it further

ORDERED: That the City Manager report back to the Council on this matter.

Approved 24 April 2017





The Birds are Back!

6 Apr

In April, nearly every day of observing at MB brings a special treat. Today, the air is raw and the wind is strong, but my internal complaint about the slowness of spring is interrupted by the sight of a bird with long, crooked dark brown wings moving high over the water.  As it comes into full view, its underside is white, its wings banded black and white with dark patches at the crook, and its eyes sport a black band.   This first Osprey I have seen this season catches a column of air and soars in large ovals above the water. My delight increases as it draws its wings up, extends its feet down, and descends to the water feet first to fish, hovering on beating wings.   It pulls up out of the water having failed to catch its fish and resumes its soaring. The air column takes it downstream out of site and I move along. But moments later an osprey comes up from behind, catches a column of air and soars gracefully ahead of me. I tell myself it is likely the same bird, but then another soars into view, then two more join in an aerial ballet.Robin with wormSo far, spring has been cool and wet, but birds are easy to find at MB. Who is back? Red-wing blackbirds, Crows and Robins. Earlier this week I estimated 300 robins were hunting worms on the lawns. If the lawns look a bit torn up this is because they have thoroughly aerated the grass while removing the worms. Male Redwing Blackbirds claim territory in the hedge for nesting when the females return.   MB’s riverfront location makes it appealing to shorebirds- Killdeer, American Woodcocks, and Snipes are using their long bills to remove insects from the moist leaf litter on the ground. Duck are swimming by, often in pairs, looking for places they might nest. In addition to the usual Mallards, Ring Necked Ducks with purple heads and rings on their bills (not their necks), and Hooded Mergansers with crests like large white sails outlined in black swim by. Double crested cormorants fly through and will shortly perch in groups on the floating orange stanchions across the river. Gold finches flit through in groups. Song sparrows give daily concerts. From here through May it only gets better.

Jeanne Strahan

Note: Jeanne, who’s leading the wildlife inventory of the park, will be leading a FREE bird walk there May 6 (rain date: May 7), at 7:30am, with CRWA birder Matt Marshall. Meet at the BU Bridge, facing the park.

If you’re looking for the CCTV video of the 3.30 Cambridge Meeting about I-90, click here or go to Events. If you’re looking for the CCTV video of our 4.13 meeting a out I-90, click here.

Magazine Beach & I-90

27 Jan

A vision, from the communities’ and the river’s point of view, is underway. It’s led by the Charles River Alliance’s volunteer Allston Landing Design Team and includes a new, destination Riverside Park tying both sides of the river together.

Update: There will be a CNA-sponsored Cambridge Community Meeting about I-90 Thursday, March 30, 7-9pm, at the Central Square Library. Please come! Cambridge’s I-90 Task Force Representatives, Henrietta Davis and Bill Deignan, will present along with leaders from A Better City, the Charles River Conservancy, Walk Boston, Charles River Watershed Association, Charles River Alliance, The People’s Pike, and Livable Streets. Arrive early, at 6:30pm, and enjoy a cookie while mingling with presenters pre-program. Here’s the CCTV link to the program. Thank you, CCTV!

This meeting will prepare us for MassDOT’s presentation to Cambridge Thursday, April 13, 6:30-8:30pm, at the Morse School (40 Granite St.). Please attend!


By 2019, it’s thought that I-90’s viaduct, just across the river, will be under construction. It’s rusting and requires replacement. While replacing or removing this elevated highway will be a huge and noisy undertaking, it’s critical and a great opportunity for Cambridge and Allston, both. For Cambridge, the new highway could be quieter and allow for the creation of a view—a park!—across the river, and better access for cyclists and pedestrians. MassDOT presented their plans to Cambridge last Thursday. If you missed it, here’s the video and PP presentation. If you’re intrigued by the idea of a park across from Magazine Beach (as rendered above) and want to get involved, contact John Shields of the Charles River Alliance at

Former Cambridge City Councilor and Mayor Henrietta Davis just wrote this letter to MassDOT outlining Cambridge concerns about the I-90 Interchange Improvement Project. For more info still, click here. MassDOT will next present to Cambridge in April-date TBD. In the meantime, if you have questions or concerns, email Nathaniel Cabral-Curtis at


As it is: The view of the I-90 viaduct from the Powder Magazine terrace.

We’ve Come a Long Way, Baby…

6 Dec


It was 6 years ago that the Cambridgeport Neighborhood Association (CNA) engaged at Magazine Beach. Then CNA President Bill August had noticed that trees were growing into the foundation of the old granite block building there and about 25 neighbors and Riverside rowers dug them up and picked up trash—our first Magazine Beach cleanup.

Now, thanks to DCR, Cambridge & YOU, we’ve got a newly restored Powder Magazine and, almost, a plan for the western part of the park. What we need now is money to implement it. Please donate as generously as you can TODAY. The Lawrence and Lillian Solomon Foundation has just offered to match up to $10,000 of private gifts, so your’s will double. And your tax-deductible contribution will inspire other essential, State, City, foundation and corporate gifts.

Imagine at the park: natural play features, a splash deck, new picnic tables and benches, a dock, lookouts, a grassy beach and an expanded canoe/kayak launch. All of this is within reach.

Make donations to the “Cambridgeport Neighborhood Asssociation, Inc.,” for “MB revitalization.” Mail checks to CNA Clerk Olivia Fiske at 131 Magazine St., Cambridge, MA 02139 OR donate on Paypal.

Thank you and happy holidays from the Magazine Beach Committee, CNA. For a recent article about the park, see: For a short film, to inspire you, click here.

Leaves Raked & Bulbs Planted

17 Nov


Many thanks to the 50-60 volunteers who turned out Saturday morning to rake leaves at the park and plant bulbs just west of it. Students from MIT and BU, accountants from KPMG, Riverside rowers and neighbors participated. We gathered over 150 bags of leaves and planted hundreds of bulbs. Thank you Sasha Vallieres and the Charles River Conservancy for leading the event!

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Stay tuned for additional leaf raking and phragmites removal opportunities at the park. On Monday, the Cambridge Conservation Commission gave DCR and the Charles River Watershed Association permission to remove invasive plants in the swales. Interested in helping out?  Click here.

Champagne Days

11 Nov


I love the sparkling light of fall and this particular day-windy and partly cloudy-is a study of contrasts. Cumulous clouds are dark above and white on the underside. The lawn is still green and banded with shadows cast by the trees. The tall grasses of the swale wave in the wind, upper parts shining silver with reflected light, while the stems retain the deep green of summer. The low growing plants of the hedge have died back offering a glimpse of tiny white caps cast by the wind on the river. Milkweed pods have split open revealing their gossamer down growing from small seeds. The split pods are striped with sandy shades deepening to grey, softening to blue, and going 3-D to green velvet.

It was a hard summer for the residents of Magazine Beach. The extreme drought drove newly hatched birds and their parents to moister places in search of insects a month or more before their expected fall migration. To my dismay, the three families of normally year-round resident Cedar Waxwings took off in July. My peak count of Red-wing Blackbirds was 30 males. Because the males are not monogamous (2-15 mates) this suggests that the numbers of more elusive females could be 60 or more and the total number including hatchlings could be nearly 200. Normally able to tolerate our weather well into the fall, they took off in July. Baltimore Orioles, Tree Swallows, Warbling Vireos and Eastern Kingbirds followed suit. Even the exceptionally hardy invasive species—House Sparrows and Starling—dwindled from maximum counts of 50 to just a few. Small numbers of warblers from places north began passing thru in August and continue to pass through. The big surprise is goldfinches. These tiny flitters were on display in small numbers all summer but migratory flocks have settled in, at least until the goldenrod supply gives out. I am counting 150 or so when I take the time to wait for the large flocks to show themselves. You can find them in the swale with the tall grasses opposite the middle section of the hedge. Have a look. –Jeanne Strahan

*Look for Jeanne’s fall bird inventory here in the next few weeks.

*Come rake leaves at the park and plant bulbs, too, tomorrow, Saturday, November 12, 9am-12noon.

*Many thanks to the CRLS students who recently did a cleanup of the park and to the Charles River Conservancy for sharing the joys of jumping into leaf piles with Morse preschoolers yesterday.

Trees & the Proposed Park Design

26 Oct

Trees are one of the greatest features of Magazine Beach. Along with the swimming pool, Charles River, and cool river breeze, they are why many people go to the park to gather, relax and picnic. (See the park in its glory with a few of its many mature trees above.)

CSS estimates that there are currently about 211 trees at the park. As part of the proposed park renovation 43 dead or declining trees will be removed and replaced with young trees 2:1. Below are photos of some of these. One has to wonder why they are having such a hard time. Is it the unseasonable back and forth hot then cold weather, the severe winds, the drought, the salt from the salt marshes of long ago, or the salt and carbon from Memorial Drive? Whatever it is, many trees close to the parkway are stressed and some have just, I understand, run their course. They are old trees.

Fourteen healthy trees also will be cut down as we move the parking lots closer to Memorial Drive to create more park. While we are sad to see these go, the park designers, DCR and the Magazine Beach Committee think that this will improve the overall experience at the park and the park, itself.

Park design, like many things, is about tradeoffs. Many people don’t even know that the park exists because parking lots block their views into the park. By moving the parking closer to Memorial Drive there will now be a dramatic view of the river, trees and parkland from the western edge of the park. By minimizing the size of the parking crescent, there will be more room for trees and picnicking.

To learn more about CSS’s plan for the park, click here. To see the tree inventory and plan of existing trees and the proposed plan, click here. The best way to understand what’s being proposed, is to take a walk at the park. Know that we are encouraging DCR to offer a second tree walk of the site as well. If this is scheduled, info about it will be posted here and on the CNA listserv.


IMPT Meetings re Magazine Beach-THIS WEEK

17 Oct


Please join us Thursday, October 20 at 6:30pm at the Morse School Auditorium for DCR and CSS’s presentation about the design for Magazine Beach Park. (Draft design pictured above.) It’s critical that we have a good crowd there to demonstrate support for the project and to make last refinements. The goal is to have shovel-ready plans by the end of 2016. Then, all we need to do is find the $4 million to fund it.

The plan will:

*Create greater engagement with the river by widening the boat launch and adding two overlooks and a dock.

*Remove the broken wading pool to enhance the old grove of trees and picnic area.

*Include natural play features and a spray deck.

*Create a grassy lawn (where there now is pavement) between the swimming pool and the river.

*Rejuvenate the tree canopy by removing declining trees and planting new ones.

*Move parking closer to Memorial Drive, creating more park while retaining the number of parking places.

*Define park entrances and, with new pathway system, draw visitors into the park and along the river.

*Expand and open the Powder Magazine terrace so that the structure can better serve as a venue for events and sunset watching. (Note: The PM will have 2 public bathrooms.)

*Include resiliency features, including rain gardens and wetlands.

*Include a 10’-wide multi-use path along Memorial Drive for safer and more enjoyable walking, jogging, and cycling experiences.

The presentation WILL BE posted here following the meeting. DCR welcomes written comments at, sent by Monday, Nov. 7.

Also, there will be a Cambridge Conservation Commission Site Walk of the Park Wednesday, October 19 at 4pmMeet at the Riverside Boat Club parking lot. If you’re concerned about tree loss, you should take this walk. You will learn, among other things, which trees are slated to be cut and why. Most of those trees are declining: they are partly dead and have been dropping major branches. Others slated for cutting are closer to Memorial Drive where we hope to move the parking lots, to create more park and a clearer western park entrance. Many trees will be planted to replenish the tree canopy.

Park design is all about trade offs. While no one wants to see trees cut–including us– we, the Magazine Beach Comm. of the CNA, believe that CSS’s proposed plan is a great improvement over what we currently have and that it will provide great overall benefit to Cambridge and beyond.

Come see for yourself: Wednesday (site walk) and Thursday (meeting)!