Last updated (March 19, 2012)
City property assigned to be administered by the Conservation Commission, these areas are mostly maintained in their natural state for the preservation of native plant and animal species, and for passive recreation by visitors.
Conservation areas share a common set of Rules and Regulations, but are not policed by the Conservation Commission or the city, and rely on visitors and neighbors to help keep them clean of litter and safe from abuse. If you witness dumping or safety hazards in any conservation area, please alert the Newton Police and call the Sr. Environmental Planner at 617-796-1134.
Many of the Conservation Areas that have paths are also described in the booklet, "Walking Trails" published by the Newton Conservators.
Conservation Areas of Newton, MA
This crescent-shaped parcel surrounding the Pine Street Condominiums is a 0.78-acre development buffer donated to the Newton Conservation Commission around 1987 for an open-space buffer zone.
The 4.86-acre parcel was acquired by the City from a private owner in 1975, and can be accessed from either end of Harwich Road. Located in Chestnut Hill, the area is comprised of floodplain and peat swamp associated with Saw Mill Brook. There are no trails, pathways, or picnic areas because it is so wet. It does, however, provide a rich habitat for wildlife.
Charles River Pathway and Easement
The City of Newton acquired the Charles River Pathway in 1980. Located in Newton Upper Falls, this 1.5-acre area is accessible from the ends of Saco Street, Williams Street and Abbott Street (all off of Oak Street). The footpath follows the contour of the river.
Cohen and Cohen Annex
This 7.59-acre parcel, and an additional 1.6-acre annex, is located at the end of Madoc Street. It is wooded with rock outcrops, and includes the upstream end of Thompsonville Brook and associated bordering vegetated wetland. It abuts the Elgin Street Conservation Area and the Webster (West) Conservation Area, as well as a parcel of land owned by Department of Conservation and Recreation.
Deer Park (part of Webster-East)
This site is bordered by Hammond Pond Parkway on the west, but can best be accessed from a lane off of Suffolk at the west end of Houghton Garden, or from the end of Old England Road. A 14.06-acre parcel that once contained close to 40 deer, when acquired, it was with an understanding that the city would care for the deer. When MA Wildlife took note of the situation, it wanted the deer released, but the City instituted a birth-control program, instead, darting the females with contraceptive implants each spring. The last of the herd perished during the winter of 2010-2011, and the Conservation Commission is currently assessing the area for new uses.
The City of Newton acquired Dolan Pond in 1979. Located in West Newton, this 8.13-acre area is accessible from Cumberland Road, Stratford Road, Auburndale Avenue, and from Webster Park. This area actually has four ponds interlaced with wetlands and an intermittent stream. The trail in from Webster Park crosses Banana Pond as a boardwalk. The boardwalk takes a right turn after crossing and continues toward Quinn Pond near Auburndale Avenue and Stratford Road – this is the largest of the four ponds. Or, after crossing Banana Pond, take the trail left to Dolan Pond, closest to Cumberland Road, where a large overlook area provides a quiet place for bird-watching.
The City of Newton acquired its first portion of Flowed Meadow in 1983. Five lots are included in this conservation area (including the former #30 Wabasso Street, acquired in 2007), three of which are "co-owned" with Parks and Recreation, for a total area of 27.94 acres. Located in Auburndale, it is accessible from Staniford Street, from Riverview Avenue (next to #225) – walk in on the dirt driveway that connects to Wabasso Street, past the old landfill and Department of Conservation and Recreation's Bald Knob area, or take the trail east from Auburndale Park along the Charles River.
Some of this area was once farmland, in an area formerly called the "Lakes District of the Charles River." The Moody Street Dam, used to slow the flow of the Charles River, promoted upstream flooding in this low-lying area. Flowed Meadow Conservation Area contains open water, deep marsh, wooded swamp, mixed upland forests, shallow marsh, and shrub marsh. The Nature Trail loop in this area, passes through private land and land owned by the State of Massachusetts, in addition to City of Newton property, and is a "Nature Interpretive Area" of the Charles River Pathway.
Flowed Meadow's upland forest along the path at the end of Wabasso Street. Although there is a wonderful variety of native vegetation here, there are some who seek to improve upon nature.
The City of Newton first acquired the Frank Barney Conservation Area in 1975, but it increased in size in 1997 when the children of the previous landowners sold additional land to the city after their parents' deaths. Located in Upper Falls, the total size is 1.66 acres, accessible from Circuit Avenue and Thurston Road off of Route 9, or from Elliot Street. This is steeply wooded area. Keep your eyes open for a native wildflower that can be seen in its bloom from May-June: the Gaywings Fringed Polygala.
The City of Newton officially turned general City-owned land into Goddard-Christina Conservation Area in 1986 and added more land in 1987. Located in Newton Highlands at the intersection of Goddard Street and Christina Street, this 3.94-acre (three parcels) area is protected by a permanent restriction order (Inland Wetlands Restriction Act and its regulations at 310 CMR 13.00) prohibiting certain alterations. A fourth parcel (right on the corner) is owned by the Newton Housing Authority. The area undoubtedly experiences a ground-water connection with the Charles River, which is only two blocks away, and may re-connect during extreme flood events. While there are no trails, the area provides a green retreat for wildlife, and a restful sight for neighbors in the area.
This intermittent stream and surrounding wetland area, with a substantial percentage of the associated upland buffer zone, can be accessed from the end of Louise Road, off of Florence Street. Most of the 4.36 acre parcel is too wet to walk, unless you have rubber boots! And, there are no official trails, but the area provides a green view for the neighborhood and a refuge for local wildlife.
Helen Heyn Riverway
The City of Newton acquired this long, narrow strip of land in 1997. Sandwiched between a DCR parcel bordering the Charles, and the commercial lots along Wells Avenue, this 30.5-acre area is part of the Great Plain Marsh, a forested floodplain associated with the Charles River. The parcel is not all marsh, but is cut by at least two streams, the larger of which is Country Club Brook originating on the Charles River Country Club. A pathway on the DCR property meanders onto Helen Heyn Conservation Area in some places, and a re-constructed trail-head on Nahanton Street will soon provide more direct access to this parcel and the path, with a sign to designate its location. This conservation area was named to honor Mrs. Helen A. Heyn for her many years of service to the Conservation Commission, for her commitment to wetlands protection, and her persistent efforts to acquire and protect open space for Newton residents. Mrs. Heyn was the founder and secretary of the Newton Conservators and received the "Most Valuable Contribution to Conservation through Volunteer Activity Award for 1979" from the Massachusetts Conservation Council.
The City of Newton acquired Hunnewell Woods in 1969. Located in Newton Corner near the border with Brighton, this 1.62-acre area is accessible through Hunnewell Park, at the north end of Grassmere Street, off of Hunnewell Avenue, and parking is available at the New Balance parking lot at the west end of Newton Street in Brighton, or on Newton Street, itself. Located on a wooded hillside, local residents report occasional sightings of coyotes, as well as raccoons and a variety of birds.
Mrs. Clement S. Houghton first started work on Houghton Gardens in 1906. The garden was restored in 1956 after her death and the city gained official ownership in 1968. Mr. and Mrs. Houghton were members of the Chestnut Hill Garden Club and gave a section of their estate to the City of Newton. Located in Chestnut Hill near Hammond Pond, the 9.80-acre parcel is accessible from Suffolk Road. Just beyond the rear entrance to Houghton Garden is a pedestrian crossing for the MBTA Green Line that connects to a meandering path through the Webster (East) Conservation Area. This trail also connects with one on DCR land that leads to the Chestnut Hill Shopping Center parking lot around the west side of Hammond Pond.
Bird species observed here include herons, hawks, doves, woodpeckers, swallows, gulls, thrushes, warblers, finches, and sparrows. Houghton Gardens consists of several separate gardens, including a Rock Garden, an Alpine Garden, a Conifer Garden, the Botanical Gardens, Houghton Pond, and a bridge over Hammond Brook. There are three color-coded trails, with markers and labels on much of the vegetation.
Kennard Conservation Area was bequeathed to the City of Newton between 1977-1978 in the will of Mr. Harrison E. Kennard, who loved the varied woods and wetland areas associated with South Meadow Brook. Located in Newton in the area adjacent to Brookline, its 32.28 acres contain marked trails, including those through the woods and wetlands that connect to Brookline's "Lost Pond Reservation" and "Lost Pond Conservation Area. " Access is off of Dudley Road from the paved entrance to the old Kennard Estate (Parks and Recreation land), and from the end of Pond Brook Drive.
Trail-side view of pink lady slipper orchids at Kennard C.A.
Oddly-shaped, this 0.66-acre parcel surrounds #82 Pine Street, and includes a small section of Brunnen Brook before it enters a culvert under Pine Street. There are no trails, but you can access the parcel from Kerry Court behind #82 Pine Street.
The City of Newton acquired this area around 1982. Located in Upper Falls, this area is one of two conservation areas located on, and accessible from, Circuit Avenue. Comprised of four small lots, the total area is only 0.57 acres with a narrow pedestrian path running this upland wooded area.
Norumbega Park C.A. overlook to the Charles River.
Norumbega Park was acquired by the City of Newton around 1975. Located in Auburndale, access to the 13.27acres is available on Woodbine Street off of Commonwealth Avenue near the Marriott in Newton. Norumbega Park is a recommended picnic site of the Charles River Pathway.
Oakdale Woods was acquired by the City of Newton in 1978. Located in Newton Highlands, access to the 2.47acres is available on Oakdale Road off of Walnut Hill Road and Parker Street. Unfortunately there is no visibility of Newton's Stearns Brook***?.
Saw Mill Brook
Saw Mill Brook Conservation Area was acquired by the City of Newton around 1982. A parcel extending along a section of the perennial stream for which it was named, this 19.82-acre area can be accessed from a small parking lot on Vine Street or from the end of Marla Circle. The two access points are connected by a narrow footpath, often consisting of simple boards laid down to reduce damage to the wetland areas through which the path wanders. Keep your eyes open for puddingstone outcrops (Roxbury puddingstone or Roxbury conglomerate, is a mix of fine-grained sediments and rock).
This picture was contributed by Nathan Robbins, and shows an area near Vine Street, with Saw Mill Brook to the right.
The City of Newton acquired Varick Hill Conservation Area in 1977. Located in Waban, the 0.19 acre triangular parcel abuts the Cochituate Aqueduct, at the rear of #27 and #47 Varick Hill Road. The City of Newton owns the Cochituate Aqueduct, under which runs a Newton sewer line. The aqueduct and the Varick Hill Conservation Area can be accessed from Varick Road or Quinobequin Road. A trail runs through this small wooded area.
Vine Street-West Kesseler
One of the Commission's most recent acquisitions, this 3.18-acre parcel is located at the corner of Vine and Lagrange Streets. It is thickly wooded, with very uneven ground and wetlands in the rear along Saw Mill Brook as it flows toward Lagrange Street. This wetland is part of MA Inland Restriction Area #7.
Webster (east and west)
The City of Newton acquired a number of parcels, mostly through eminent domain from the former Webster and Houghton 'estates'. The parcels are located immediately to the east and west of Hammond Pond Parkway, and on either side (north and south) of the MBTA track. Parcels on the west side of Hammond Pond Parkway are usually combined under the label 'Webster-West,' including two large parcels at the end of Warren Street on the south side of the MBTA track, and four parcels north of the MBTA track. Two additional abutting areas were acquired along Thompsonville Brook –see: Elgin Conservation Area and Cohen Conservation Area. Webster-East is a large parcel to the north and west of Hammond Pond, and south of the MBTA track. On the west end of Houghton Garden, a lane leads from Suffolk Road to the MBTA track where there is a pedestrian crossing. From the crossing, the path can be followed through Webster-East and across land owned by MA Department of Conservation and Recreation to the Chestnut Hill Shopping Center. See also: Deer Park and Houghton Garden.
The Wilson family donated this parcel from their holdings at 15 Bracebridge Road to the Conservation Commission around 1992. Located in Newton Centre between Hancock Avenue and Park Lane and between Greenlawn Avenue and Bracebridge Road, this 0.50-acre wooded lot is accessible from Greenlawn Avenue or Bracebridge Road. The parcel is adjacent to or lies over parts of the Cochituate Aqueduct and the Sudbury Aqueduct.