Author: Jim Gallant /Photo: Friends of the Fells
Real estate developers led by boosters of the town of Winchester’s youth and high school hockey programs have proposed turning a meadow in the Middlesex Fells Reservation into an ice rink, parking lot and dog park. But they face growing opposition from the Friends of the Fells, a conservation advocacy organization, as well as neighbors, community leaders and outdoor enthusiasts.
The site of the proposed rink is state-owned land on the border of Medford and Winchester managed by the Department of Conservation and Recreation (DCR) of Massachusetts. Known as the 90-mm Meadow, the site got its name from 90-mm antiaircraft artillery that the U.S. military stationed there after World War II.
In a position paper that opposes the rink project, Ron Morin, executive director of Friends of the Fells, says the 90-mm Meadow is home to 130 plant species and 67 butterfly species. Morin also notes that the Fells Reservation is an Audubon Important Bird Area. The Upper Mystic Lake, which is less than a mile from the Fells, is frequented by various bird species, including bald eagles and red-tail hawks. As a neighboring ecosystem, the Fells is a critical component of a wildlife corridor that supports the dispersal of eagles, hawks and other migratory avian species.
According to Morin, the 90-mm Meadow is an oasis of solitude for members of neighboring communities. It’s also become a vital spot for environmental education. Science classes from Medford high school often visit the meadow, and a Medford Girl Scout troop has maintained 90-mm as a home for pollinators like birds and bees and other insects that are critical to sustaining the region’s plant life and food supply.
Ronald Martignetti, a real estate developer from Winchester and co-leader of the rink project, said the 90-mm Meadow “is covered with patches of asphalt and concrete structures” in an interview with The Boston Globe. A site visit in early October, however, revealed that the concrete structures take up a small portion of the meadow’s surface area and are being reclaimed by nature.
The cover of an information package for the proposed rink deal features the logos of DCR, Winchester Youth Hockey and Friends of the Flynn (Rink). Martignetti’s bio says he has been the principal developer of “large scale commercial real estate redevelopment projects, and value add acquisitions and dispositions of retail, office, industrial, lab and R&D assets.” It also notes that he is the former board president of Winchester Youth Hockey and a founding member of Friends of the Flynn, which is currently used by Winchester Youth Hockey and built on DCR conservation land on the eastern section of the Fells Reservation in Medford.
Additionally, the proposal names Dennis O’Donnell, MD as co-leader of the rink project. O’Donnell is a former hockey player and coach who once served as president and vice president of Winchester Youth Hockey.
State Representative Michael Day of Stoneham, in a Massachusetts bond bill, landed an earmark of $2.5 million, which the developers hope to tap to develop the rink on the 90-mm Meadow. Day’s biography says he is currently a Stoneham Youth Hockey coach.
DCR is reviewing the rink proposal and will hold a public hearing, which has not yet been scheduled.
MyRWA Opposes Building a Rink in the Fells Reservation
“The Mystic River Watershed Association (MyRWA) joins the Friends of the Fells in supporting the effort to stop this development of the 90-mm Meadow,” says Patrick Herron, MyRWA’s Executive Director. “The meadow is an integral part of the local ecosystem and access to open space is critical for our watershed communities. Protecting this conservation land is a priority.”
The developers’ proposal states that the rink will be available to the public and the convenience of parking lot and new signage will make the Fells’ trails more accessible to hikers. In such a densely populated area, though, the reality is that ice time at rinks is extremely hard to come by. As a result, most of that ice time will benefit participants of Winchester’s youth and high school hockey programs — not the general public.
A rink also brings little value to the people of Medford. The town already has two skating rinks, including the Flynn, which was carved out of DCR land — in Medford — and currently serves as a part-time home to Winchester’s hockey programs. The inevitable increase in traffic and the dog park also will disrupt or destroy the ecosystem of a variety of animal and plant species that have precious little habitat available in the Boston area. Finally, while a rink in the Fells would operate during the hockey and ice-skating seasons, it would not serve members of the community who want to commune with nature throughout the entire year.
For these reasons, MyRWA recommends that DCR and the state legislature reject the developers’ proposal to turn the 90-mm Meadow into an ice rink, parking lot and dog park. Instead, we encourage the developers to acquire land for the rink on commercial, residential or town-owned property in Winchester, preferably in or near the town center where it will be most accessible to residents by public transportation or foot, especially pre-teen and teen athletes without drivers’ licenses, and far from scarce and treasured conservation land.
"We genuinely appreciate the support from MyRWA,” said Ron Morin, Executive Director of the Friends of the Fells. We are a significant part of the watershed of the Mystic River, and we will protect that watershed with all our energy."
Help Defeat the Proposed Hockey Rink in the Fells Reservation
Here are a few ways you can help defend the 90-mm Meadow from development:
Call your state senator and state representative and tell them to oppose the proposal. To find your legislators’ phone numbers and contact information, use Find My Legislator.
Sign the Friends of the Fells online petition to show your support.
Contact Ron Morin, executive director of Friends of the Fells, at Ron.Morin@fells.org if you would like to volunteer, including attending the public meeting with DCR and the proposed rink’s developers (to be scheduled).
Thank you for helping to keep the Mystic Watershed and neighboring ecosystems, like the Middlesex Fells Reservation, in their natural state as beautiful, shared resources accessible to all.
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