With Time Running Out Optimism Remains High to Save the North 40


With Time Running Out Optimism Remains High to Save the North 40

With Time Running Out Optimism Remains High to Save the North 40
Sep 04, 2014
Wellesley North 40


Wellesley College's North 40, an ecologically and historically significant, 46-acre parcel of land which was donated to the college in 1873, remains in danger. The College began exploring the option to sell the parcel in the spring of 2014. Although alumni, neighbors, and others had raised concerns about the sale, as of late August, 2014 the College had not altered course. The school had articulated plans for formally putting the land on the market for development as early as September 2014 with an anticipated sale completed by the end of the year.

In a Landslide feature published on the TCLF Web site in July 2014, the Friends of the Wellesley North 40, a group with townwide representation, pressed for an alternative to a development-oriented sale suggesting that the land be sold to a conservation trust or likeminded party. The Town of Wellesley, a potential buyer that could acquire the property and conserve it, instead remains focused on purchasing the land for municipal buildings and facilities. In fact, elected officials have noted on record that conservation limitations would greatly reduce the town’s interest in a purchase.

Save the North 40 Sign
Signs around Wellesley posted by the Friends of the
Wellesley North 40.
Nonetheless, two positives have emerged: First, recent letters from the college in response to citizen advocacy have indicated the college would consider selling the land to a conservation-focused organization, an important shift from previous language focused on selling to a commercial developer. However, the college has taken little public action to this effect. Second, although the town government has expressed an interest in developing the North 40, the town's influential Natural Resources Commission is strongly in favor of conserving the land as it is, and is participating in the work of the Friends of the Wellesley North 40.

During the summer, the campaign to save the North 40 from development has grown and strengthened. Activities have focused on building a base, raising visibility, researching options, and developing a strategy and workplan. In addition, three events have brought attention and focus to preserving the North 40. First, the original Landslide feature on TCLF's Web site was picked up by other like-minded sites and was circulated to more than 20,000 email addresses. Second, the gardeners who use the North 40 sponsored an event in conjunction with the Wellesley Trails Committee, which drew 100 visitors to a trail and garden tour on the property. The Boston Globe covered the event. Third, the Friends of the Wellesley North 40 held a summit for town committees and groups focused on conservation. This meeting expanded the group’s support base from a neighborhood-scale initiative to a town-wide effort.

The Friends of the Wellesley North 40 continue to move quickly with efforts to preserve this significant cultural landscape. The group has met with land trust organizations and local elected officials to develop a consensus on the next steps. Given the time pressure for expedient action, group members are working on securing a face-to-face meeting with Wellesley College president Dr. Kim Bottomly and a representative of the Board of Trustees. In addition, the group has released an open letter to Dr. Bottomly and the Trustees encouraging selling the land into conservation. A signage campaign has also begun with 200 orange lawn signs that proclaim “Save the North 40” throughout the town. The group has also launched an online petition which supporters can sign at MoveOn.org. For more information please visit www.savethenorth40.org.