Boston Civil Rights Pioneer Jean McGuire Speaks at 22nd Acton Martin Luther King Breakfast

by Bob Van Meter

ACTON: Congregation Beth Elohim and its social justice committee Na’aseh hosted Acton’s 22nd Annual Martin Luther King Breakfast on Monday morning for over one hundred participants in person and over forty more via zoom. The event’s keynote speaker was Jean McGuire,  a pioneering civil rights activist. The large crowd was welcomed by Na’aseh co-chair Sarah Coletti and Congregation Beth Elohim Rabbi Braham David. Ms. Coletti acknowledged the work of Sal Lopes, who began the Acton MLK Breakfast and continues to be involved. Rabbi David welcomed the audience and acknowledged the elected officials attending the breakfast including Sen. Jamie Eldridge, Rep. Dan Sena, Rep. Simon Cataldo, Acton Select Board members Jim Snyder-Grant, Fran Arsenault, and Alissa Nicol, as well as Acton School Committee member Leela Ramachandran.

Acton resident and METCO Director for Concord Carlisle High School, Debra Jemison, introduced Jean McGuire. Ms. McGuire was a founder of METCO, the Boston region’s voluntary cross district school integration program, and its director for more than forty-three years. She was also an elected member of the Boston School Committee for ten years as its first African American woman to serve on that body. Ms. McGuire is one of sixty-nine Bostonians recognized on a wall as civil rights heroes as part of the Embrace statue on the Boston Common.

McGuire recalled her work at METCO, saying that she “never thought METCO would have to continue this long, We thought housing integration would take care of this,” implying that racial segregation would have been overcome through housing integration. She recalled the importance of the League of Women Voters and many churches in making METCO work. She also recalled the importance of host families that built bridges for the METCO families.

McGuire recalled marching with Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. on Columbus Avenue in Boston. “There were not that many of us marching with him that day. Dr. King is loved now, but then he was not welcomed.”
McGuire,  a former teacher, also spoke about the importance of civic literacy and told the crowd that everyone should subscribe to a local newspaper and read it to be aware of public debates and different points of view. McGuire mentioned her own advanced age–she is ninety-two–and recalled being a sixth-grader when the attack on Pearl Harbor brought the U.S. into the Second World War.

When asked after the event why Acton was not a participant in METCO, McGuire recalled that the cost of participation in the early 1970s had been a barrier, along with the need to  have a large enough cohort of METCO students so that they would not be seen as tokens. She said that Acton could consider joining METCO now.

Discovery Museum Announces 2024 Speaker Series

Watkins beresin combined
ACTON: Discovery Museum kicks off the 12th year of its Discovery Museum Speaker Series with Dr. Gene Beresin and Dr. Khadijah Booth Watkins from The Clay Center for Young Healthy Minds at Massachusetts General Hospital, who will discuss “Parenting in a Time of Insecurity.” The event will be held virtually via Zoom on February 15 from 7-8pm. Registration is required, available at http://bit.ly/DMSpeakerSeries. All events are free.

The health and well-being of families, classrooms and communities today is increasingly affected by the insecurity, intolerance and injustice we see in the world around us. Beresin and Booth Watkins will help us understand the link between local and global events, social and cultural norms, and the confusion and uncertainty we and the children in our lives feel—and they will offer advice on how parents can care for themselves first, in order to successfully navigate the conversations that help children feel agency, safety, and security in uncertain times.

Other Events on the 2024 Schedule:
 
  • March 6 - “How to Have Brave Conversations that Build Empathetic Kids,” with Valora Washington, Ph.D., CEO & President, The CAYLS Institute; former Vice President, W.K. Kellogg Foundation. How can adults have the brave conversations that develop kids' sense of empathy over judgment, and respect the complexity of the world we live in? Dr. Washington will help us understand why keeping children "in a bubble" is not a reasonable option in today's world, and how choosing to be a powerful parent (or caregiver, or grandparent, or teacher) is one of the greatest gifts we can give the children in our lives.
  • April 25 - “How Art Can Inspire Civic Engagement in Kids,” with Chanel Thervil, Artist + Educator; Inaugural Discovery Museum Artist in Residence. Civic engagement is not just about voting and government—it encompasses all the ways in which individuals take action and get involved in their communities. Thervil will speak about helping children consider what they love about their community, so they see a place for themselves in making their communities better and how the creative process and experience of artmaking is a powerful tool in giving kids the space to connect, share ideas, and be present for others.
  • May 22 - “The Science of “Good Enough” Relationships: Trusting and Developing Our Capacity for Simple and Authentic Human Interactions,” with Junlei Li, Program Chair of Human Development and Education, Saul Zaentz Senior Lecturer in Early Childhood Education, Harvard Graduate School of Education. What makes any of us “enough”? Whether we teach children directly, or support families and educators, we invest ourselves in building authentic relationships with human beings. This presentation is intended as a reflection and a reminder that the simple, ordinary things we do with other human beings matter in ways that can be seen and felt in moments when we really show up for others, and in ways that can be measured over the long run.
  • Fall - Climate Science and Preserving the Planet for Our Kids, a Science Moms panel discussion. Science Moms is a group of nonpartisan climate scientists and mothers, working to give children the plant they deserve. They were founded to help mothers who are concerned about their children’s planet but aren’t confident in their knowledge about climate change or how they can help. Together, they aim to demystify climate science and motivate everyday moms to demand climate change plans and solutions.

Discovery Museum is a hands-on museum that blends science, nature, and play, inspiring families to explore and learn together.  For more information, visit discoveryacton.org.

Acton Fire Department Reminds Residents to Get Open Burning Permit

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ACTON: Chief Anita Arnum and the Acton Fire Department would like to share with Acton residents that open burning season began January 15 and runs through May 1. A permit is required to open burn in compliance with Massachusetts law.
Residents can begin applying for a burn permit today by creating an account via the department’s new burn permit portal: acton.firepermits.com. Once you are registered, you can apply for your burn permit. Residents will receive an email notifying them when their permit is approved. If conditions are unsafe for burning, such as high winds or drought, a notification will be posted on the homepage. Individuals who don’t have access to a computer should call the Acton Fire Department at (978) 929-7722 for assistance with their burn permit application.

Open Burning:
 
  • Between 10am-4pm, now through May 1, 2024.
  • No fires may be started after noon.
  • At least 75 feet from all buildings.
  • Burning must be conducted without causing a hardship or nuisance to others.
  • The fire must be attended at all times by a responsible adult.
  • A means of extinguishment must be available at all time.
  • Issuance of this permit does not release the holder from liability for damages caused by his/her fire.
  • As close as possible to the source of material being burned.

Residents are allowed to burn:
  • Brush, cane, driftwood and forestry debris (but not from commercial or industrial land clearing).
  • Agricultural materials including fruit tree and bush prunings, raspberry stalks, and infected bee hives for disease control.
  • Trees and brush from agricultural land clearing.
  • Fungus-infected elm wood, if no other acceptable means of disposal is available.

Residents may not burn:
  • Leaves.
  • Brush, trees, cane or driftwood from commercial or industrial land clearing.
  • Grass, hay, leaves, stumps or tires.
  • Construction materials or demolition debris (carpentry debris, building debris, or paper/rubbish).
  • Household trash.
  • Absolutely no starter material such as tires, gasoline, motor oil or any other petroleum accelerant may be used.
  • No burning in barrels
  • .
What times are best for open burning?
  • You can help prevent wildland fires by burning early in the season. Wet and snowy winter conditions help hinder the rapid spread of fire on or under the ground.
  • Changing weather conditions and increased fire danger in spring can lead to many days when open burning is not allowed.
  • April is usually the worst month for brush fires. When snow recedes, but before new growth emerges, last year’s dead grass, leaves and wood are dangerous tinder. Winds also tend to be strong and unpredictable in April.

For more information on open burning in Massachusetts, visit Mass.gov.

Countdown to April 19, 1775: “A Revolution in the News” with Historian Joseph Adelman

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ACTON: All are invited to hear from Professor Joseph M. Adelman on January 30 at 7pm in Room 204 at Acton Town Hall, 472 Main Street. This is the third lecture in a series commissioned by the Acton 250 Committee to help us better understand and appreciate the times when our nation was born. Please register at https://actonmemoriallibrary.assabetinteractive.com/calendar/countdown-to-april-19-1775-a-revolutionin-the-news-with-historian-joseph-adelman so that you may be contacted for future activities. You can also watch live on ActonTV (www.youtube.com/@ActonTV1/streams) or Zoom at actonma.zoom.us/j/81741134640 if you would like to engage in the Q&A portion of the talk.

Professor Adelman will tell the story of the Revolutionary War’s forgotten instigators: newspaper printers and editors. Shrewdly gauging the political climate and interests of their communities and balancing them with their own commercial interests, eighteenth-century printers were instrumental in creating propaganda and rallying the public to the revolutionary cause. Adelman earned his bachelor’s degree in history from Harvard University and a Ph.D. in history from Johns Hopkins University. He currently teaches history at Framingham State University and is the author of Revolutionary Networks: The Business and Politics of Printing the News, 1763-1789. A noted speaker and author, he has published work in the Washington Post, Slate, and The Atlantic, is a regular contributor to the award-winning podcast, Ben Franklin’s World, and serves as an Associate Editor for The New England Quarterly.

All Acton 250th celebration events and historical information is located at www.actonma.gov/250. If required a “snow date” for this talk has been set for February 12. There is no charge for this event.
Feb pearson garden hi

Creating Beautiful Garden Photographs

ACTON: You can take more beautiful photographs if you understand the nuance of natural light, the art of composition and shooting with a vision of the story you want each photograph to tell.  Regardless  of what camera you use, understanding these elements will lift your garden photography from the run-of-the mill to an artistic level. The Acton Garden invites the community to the presentation From Just a Snapshot to Art - Creating Beautiful Garden Photographs by noted photographer Joanne Pearson on February 6 at 10:15am at Acton Town Hall, Room 204. 

Joanne Pearson, Photographer and Landscape Architect will lead you through the art of seeing as a professional photographer does, framing and creating dramatic compositions of overall garden views, plant groupings and close ups. You will learn about balance and movement, leading lines, depth of field, the nuances of natural light and photographing with a vision of the story you want each picture to tell.

Pearson has been a professional photographer for over 25 years and was a registered landscape architect in the state of Massachusetts where she practiced for 12 years. Her photographs of gardens, landscapes and people have been featured in magazines, books and calendars. Among them are Yankee, Vermont Life, Mahoney Publishing, BrownTrout Publishers Inc. Willow Creek Press, Country, Insight Guides and Lonely Planet. She is the solo photographer for Mahoney Publishing’s yearly calendar “Flowers and Gardens of New England”. She photographs interiors, exteriors, lifestyle, food and of course, gardens, for inns and resorts throughout New England for their websites and collateral marketing. Joanne regularly lectures on gardens and photography seeking to inspire and educate her audiences with her beautifully illustrated presentations.

For more information, go to http://actongardenclub.org.

Lessons from History: Acton's 2005 Override

by Tom Beals

ACTON: A tax limit override that, if approved by Acton voters, would raise property taxes beyond the Proposition 2½ statutory limits has recently been discussed at the Select Board, Finance Committee, and Acton Leadership Group meetings. It seems likely, following those discussions, that an override will be on the ballot at the next town election. However, important details have yet to be decided. Those details include: how much revenue should be raised, how many fiscal years the additional revenues should cover, and how the override should be structured. 
Acton voters were last presented with an override decision at the March 29, 2005 annual town election; and details similar to the above were discussed in preparation for that election. The structure of the override was discussed at the Finance Committee, and those discussions may be useful as the town prepares for the next election. 

It is interesting to note the parallels between 2005 and now. From the September 14, 2004 Finance Committee minutes
"[An ALG spreadsheet] show[s] a decline in incremental revenues of about $650,000. This is a result of using non-recurring revenues in FY05. If all of the FY04-05 cuts were restored and additional minimal staffing increases made, this would result in a budget deficit of about $6.5M. There was also some discussion of revenue sharing between the town and school budgets. Mr. Ashton presented a spreadsheet, which Mr. Chinitz has revised, showing how the split has varied over the last 10 years. Ten years ago, the split was 39.1% for the town; in the FY05 budget, the town’s share is only 31.5%. The decline, in part, results from budgets emphasizing personnel and cut-backs in operating capital, which disproportionately affects the town side." 

The current split between Acton's share of the Acton-Boxborough regional school district budget and Acton's FY2024 municipal budget is 65%:35%. $6.5M (million) in September 2005, adjusted for inflation, is about $10,509,900 in December 2023.
The Health Insurance Trust was also an issue in 2005. From the Finance Committee minutes, January 2005: "...we are facing a series of large claims this year ... big enough to cause a problem, but not large enough to trigger our re-insurance."; and March 2005, "The municipal budget includes a 25% rate increase for health insurance..."; "Rheta Roeber asked if this is the time to stop self-insuring. John Ryder explained that at least over FY2000 to FY2004, we have saved about $5M compared to what we would have paid for our policies, which are very generous compared to most products in the market."

At the Nov. 9, 2004 Finance Committee meeting, Committee member Gim P. Hom made a presentation entitled "Pyramid Overrides Menu Overrides"; that presentation illustrated options that were later described in detail in the 2017 "Proposition 2½ Ballot Questions" document from the Massachusetts Division of Local Services (DLS). (Proposition 2½ is relevant because it it the 2.5% limit on property tax increases that is 'over-ridden'.)

In a pyramid override, two or more spending levels are proposed; the greatest dollar amount that passes is enacted. The 2005 Board of Selectmen (as the Select Board was then known) opted for a pyramid override. Questions 2 and 3 on the 2005 Annual Town Election ballot were almost identically worded: "Shall the Town of Acton be allowed to assess an additional $3,800,000..." (Question 2) or $4,500,000 (Question 3), "...in real estate and personal property taxes for the purposes of funding the operating expenses of the Acton Public Schools, funding the Town's regional school district assessment for the Acton-Boxborough Regional School system, funding the operating expenses of the Police Department, Fire Department ...". Question 2 passed, with 55.7% voting "Yes", 43.5% voting "No"; Question 3 did not pass, with 46.4% voting "Yes", 52.5% voting "No".

The DLS document cited above provides an example of a menu override, a series of questions naming specific municipal departments:
 
  • Shall the Town of Yourtown be allowed to assess an additional $250,000 in real estate and personal property taxes for the purposes of funding the Fire Department for the fiscal year beginning July 1, ? 
  • Shall the Town of Yourtown be allowed to assess an additional $250,000 in real estate and personal property taxes for the purposes of funding the Police Department for the fiscal year beginning July 1, ?"

While the Select Board makes the final decision on the ballot question, Select Board and Finance Committee members have spoken of familiarizing the electorate with the urgency of current financial issues; one term that has been used to describe that familiarization is how to 'socialize' the upcoming ballot question(s). That process might include a public discussion of override question options.
Woodturtle

Zoo New England proposes to Improve Habitat for Wood Turtles in Acton 

by Bettina Abe
 
ACTON: In the fall of 2023, Zoo New England and the Massachusetts Natural Heritage and Endangered Species program contacted the Acton Conservation Department with a plan to enhance the habitat for Wood Turtles (Glyptemys insculpta) along Nashoba Brook in Acton.  The enhancements are designed to protect overwintering turtles from predators. Winter is a vulnerable time when Wood Turtles are often attacked by otters, who are known to bite off turtle legs. 
 
The Conservation Commission will be considering Zoo New England's habitat enhancement proposal at an upcoming hearing in January or February. Watch the Conservation Commission website or contact the Conservation Department (nr@acton-ma.gov or (978) 929-6634) to find out the date and time.  
 
Zoo New England's plan is to strategically cut down trees or utilize medium sized snags to place into the river to create log jams and branch/brush cover for turtles in the stream. Wood Turtles have been observed using fallen trees as wintering sites at Nashoba Brook. Scientists would target 4-8 medium-sized hardwood trees (maple or oak) along the brook that could be cut and dropped into the stream. A company would be hired to do the tree cutting and strategically place the trees within various segments of the stream where there are known locations of several radio-tracked Wood Turtles. 
 
The Wood Turtle is endemic to the northeastern United States, and is found in western, central and northeastern Massachusetts. Acton has tiny populations of the turtle residing in and adjacent to Nashoba Brook and Fort Pond Brook. Across the state, the species’ populations are declining due to habitat fragmentation and degradation, as well as illegal collection and intensive agriculture cultivation near streams, according to a recent book edited by the Massachusetts State Herpetologist, Mike Jones. They are listed under the Massachusetts Endangered Species Act as a “species of special concern.” 
 
The Wood Turtle is so named because its carapace (top shell) looks like carved wood. They grow to 6-8 inches in length. According to a factsheet from the Mass Department of Fisheries and Wildlife, they like clear, sandy streams and require multiple habitats (high-quality stream, forest, open field, and nesting areas) in tight proximity, to complete their life cycle;  this is a challenging requirement as streets, buildings, and parking lots interfere with these ranges. They can live to be more than 70 years old, although few hatchlings survive to adulthood. They have the ability to remember and navigate to locations even when displaced downstream by floods.  
 
The Town of Acton Conservation Division (previously Natural Resources) has been working with local and state herpetologists for years to assist in monitoring and conservation strategies to keep these ancient animals from disappearing altogether. Turtles evolved more than 200 million years ago, and wood turtles have lived in Eastern North America since well before the beginning of the last ice age about 100,000 years ago. But as biologist Mike Jones bluntly stated in his 2010 Massachusetts Wildlife (Vol.LX, No.2) article:  "If Wood Turtles were gone tomorrow, almost no one would notice because almost no one notices them now." 
 
Acton Wood Turtles are among several populations in Eastern Massachusetts monitored by Zoo New England’s Field Conservation Department, in a project launched in 2019.  The turtles are tracked at multiple stream sites to better understand their movement patterns, habitat use, and survival rates. Zoo New England protects turtle nests from predators and “headstarts” hatchlings by raising them to a size where they are less vulnerable to predators. The goal is to build partnerships with local communities to identify key management actions while giving populations a little boost. According to Mike Jones, it is rare in the eastern part of the state to find sufficiently large and diverse landscapes to support thriving Wood Turtle populations.
 
That’s why Anna Campbell, Acton’s first female Eagle Scout and passionate herpetologist, conducted her project at Veteran’s Field to improve Wood Turtle nesting habitat. Supervised by Zoo New England’s Bryan Windmiller, Town Staff first hired a contr actor to scarify a sunny, sandy area behind the bleachers with a powerful mower to uproot invasive multiflora rose, honeysuckle, and black locust. Anna planted dozens of New Jersey Tea Plants and Sweet Fern, a short grass prairie seed mix, and other suitable species as foraging material. She hand-watered them throughout the summer with her help of dedicated community volunteer turtle lovers, who weeded invasive re-sprouts. Anna created and installed a beautiful, informative, outdoor educational panel at the project site. Her panel explains how Wood Turtles overwinter in local streams by hiding under roots or log jams. In November, 2022, Anna was recognized in the traditional Court of Honor ceremony for her Eagle Scout achievement.

Acton Water District Finance Committee Discusses Financial Policy and Fiscal Year ‘25 Budget and Water Rates

by Kim Kastens
 
ACTON: The Finance Committee (FinCom) of the Acton Water District (AWD), along with the District Treasurer and Manager, met on January 4 to continue crafting the District Financial Policy, review the draft Fiscal Year ‘25 (FY25) budget and Annual Meeting warrant articles, and discuss water rates for FY25.  FY25 for the District runs from July 1, 2024 through June 30, 2025.
 
The emerging Financial Policy document formalizes and articulates policies around: annual budget, cash management, reserves, investments, stabilization fund, general fund, capital expenditures, other liabilities, accounting and financial reporting, and risk mitigation. The intent is to finalize the document early this year, and it will be a public document.
 
At this relatively early step in the budget planning process, the FY25 budget is projected to be in the range of $7.2 - 7.9 million, as contrasted with $6.7 M for FY24. A water rate increase will be required to meet the larger budget. Most of the new expenses are for remediation of PFAS, including the ongoing cost of replacement filtration medium and rental of the treatment system at the North Acton plant.  
 
As an alternative to spreading the unavoidable cost increase evenly across all water usage, the Committee discussed the possibility of loading the rate increase disproportionately onto summer rates and higher-volume rate tiers. The goal would be to use the pricing signal to further discourage non-essential outdoor water use in the summer, when the system is most stressed.   The budget is expected to be finalized at a joint meeting of the AWD Board of Commissioners and FinCom on January 22.

Discovery Museum Appoints Marie Beam as Chief Executive Officer

Marie beam  discovery museum ceo effective jan 1 2024 (c) jessica vultaggio
ACTON: Discovery Museum’s Board of Directors announced the appointment of Marie Brais Beam as Discovery Museum’s new Chief Executive Officer, effective January 1, 2024. Beam most recently served as the Museum’s Chief Development Officer, a position she held since 2013.

“Over her nearly ten years of leadership as Chief Development Officer, Marie has demonstrated a deep commitment to and passion for our work and has been a remarkably effective advocate of all that the Museum values. She brings a vision for our future that builds upon Discovery Museum’s many strengths with an eye towards the issues affecting kids and families and how best to support them,” said outgoing board president Harry Hollenberg. “In searching for our next CEO, the Board spent more than six months on a thoughtful, detailed, competitive, and rigorous selection process, resulting in our enthusiastic choice of Marie to lead Discovery Museum. We are very confident in Marie’s ability to position Discovery Museum for continued leadership both in our community and more broadly in the museum field nation-wide.”

Beam replaces outgoing CEO Neil H. Gordon, who retired at the end of 2023 after 14 years leading the Museum. Gordon led the beloved 41-year-old institution through transformative growth, an impactful physical expansion, and tremendous advancement in the depth, breadth, and reach of playful learning experiences serving kids and families throughout Massachusetts.

“In a time when we need more curious and creative problem solvers, Discovery Museum is helping thousands of kids each year to explore their world confidently and recognize their own abilities to make a difference,” said Beam. “It is an honor to be chosen to lead this wonderful organization and its extraordinary staff in its fifth decade of service to the children and families of our region.”

Beam oversaw the $8.8M, five-year Campaign for the Discovery Museum, the institution’s first campaign in 30 years, which funded a complete campus overhaul to create the Discovery Woods outdoor nature playscape and treehouse and a new and expanded museum facility, both of which are fully accessible to people with disabilities and learning differences. She spearheaded fundraising through the COVID-19 pandemic that flipped the Museum’s traditional earned and contributed revenue shares, helping to ensure that all staff were retained during a 4.5-month closure and the Museum could reopen with a month of free admission for all. Beam also conducted the $900K Bridge to the Future Campaign to fund the Museum’s conversion to 100% on-site solar electricity. In addition to campaign fundraising, Beam’s leadership of the Development function effected a nearly 250% increase in Annual Fund giving, which increased from $286K prior to her arrival to more than $1M in 2022.

Before joining Discovery Museum, Beam served as Director of Advancement at Fay School in Southborough, and prior to that held several roles in development at Simmons College in Boston and St. Sebastian’s School in Needham. She is currently a Board Member for the MetroWest Nonprofit Network (MWNN) and has served as an instructor in the MWNN/Framingham State University Certificate in Nonprofit Management program. In 2021, she was nominated by her peers and awarded a New England Museum Association Excellence Award. She earned a B.S./B.A. with Distinction from Simmons College.
Quarryroad

Planning Board Discusses Quarry Road Development Project

by Ron Beck

ACTON: The Acton Planning Board convened on Wednesday evening, Dec 20, for a “continuation” hearing for a Planned Conservation Residential Community (PCRC) application for 123 Quarry Road. According to Acton’s Zoning Bylaw section 9, PCRC’s are communities with housing clustered in one section, leaving at least 60% of the property as preserved open space. Sometimes property owners deed some of the open space to the Town. The 123 Quarry Road property has two dwellings on it at present, and the development would add four more. After discussion, the Board continued the hearing to a future meeting, with no decision.

The Quarry Road project requires the granting of a special permit under the PCRC provisions of the Town zoning code. The property is in close proximity to NARA Park and involves potential deeding of a portion of the land to the Town for future open space use.

The discussion focused on the Conservation Commission review, location of the septic field, and an easement to provide public access to the potentially deeded conservation land.
The Acton Planning Director Kristen Guichard and a representative of the applicant’s engineering consultant, Stamski and McNary, reported on the Conservation Commission’s review of the application. A small fraction of the proposed project is within the 100-foot buffer zone of an isolated wetland. Both the Acton Planning Director and the engineering consultant described the project as having minimal impact on that wetland. Both individuals reported that the review of the two departments had indicated the need for an easement to provide access to the proposed conservation-restricted acreage. Stamski and McNary had now added a public easement along the property line.
Conservation Officer Mike Gendron entered the meeting to provide a summary of the Conservation Commission’s deliberations. He conveyed enthusiasm over the potential addition of the new open space and the possibility of connecting other open space parcels and NARA Park with this parcel through a trail that might be enabled by easement.
One Board member asked for some clarification of why the septic field would be located so far from the residences. The Stamski and McNary consulting engineer stated that the septic field is well located because it is at a low point of the property.
Because the portion of the land proposed to be deeded to the town included the septic field, there was discussion of whether the Town would be responsible for the septic field. The engineer stated that no maintenance would be required other than occasional field mowing. The Conservation Officer stated that it would be unusual for the Town to take ownership and responsibility for a septic field serving a private party. The Planning Director concurred.

The property owner, Bettina Norton, expressed her dissatisfaction with the pace of the hearing and review. She asked,  “Has anyone here seen the property we are talking about? It has been extremely well cared for over the years, and is highly suitable for conservation.” The Planning Board members indicated that none of them had viewed or walked the property they were discussing. Norton invited them for a property tour. 

The Board decided to continue the hearing to await the engineering consultant’s wildlife inventory, and to meanwhile direct the Planning Director to prepare a draft opinion of approval. Norton said she was dissatisfied that the Board would not be making a decision and that she would “not be able to sleep at night” until this was finished.

Norton has owned the property since the late 1940s, and made clear that it is her interest that the conservation portion of the property be maintained for the good of the town.

State Approves Acton’s Participation in Fossil Fuel Free Building Construction and Renovation Demonstration Project

Warrent
by Jim Snyder-Grant

ACTON: On December 22, 2023, the Town of Acton received approval from the Department of Energy Resources (DOER) approving the Town’s participation in the Municipal Fossil Fuel Free Building Construction and Renovation Demonstration Project. This approval means that beginning March 22, 2024, new buildings and major rehabilitation projects in Acton must use electricity for heating, cooling, hot water and cooking, instead of piping in any fossil fuels (gas, oil, or propane), unless a waiver is provided by the Town.

In 2021, Town Meeting created Chapter AC of Acton’s General Bylaws (“Regulating Fossil Fuel Infrastructure in Buildings”) that laid out the requirements for fossil-fuel free building in Acton, and asked the state legislature to approve it. In response, instead of directly approving the bylaw, the legislature created a demonstration project in 2022 (Section 84 of Chapter 179). The DOER published regulations (225 CMR 24.00) that established a framework, requirements, and timeline for up to ten communities to participate. Acton then passed Article 13 at the 2023 Town Meeting, which amended Article AC to meet the requirements of the state program, and sent in a formal application in August 2023.  

The intent of the program, and Acton’s Chapter AC, is to reduce the amount of climate change-causing greenhouse gas emissions from new buildings, consistent with the Town’s Climate Action Plan of 2022 and Town Meeting’s declaration of a climate emergency in 2020

Waivers can be requested by a developer or builder if an aspect of a proposed project is financially or technologically unfeasible without the use of fossil fuels. Exceptions to the need for a waiver include buildings where the primary use is as a research laboratory for scientific or medical research, or as hospitals or medical offices. Rehabilitation projects that involve less than 50% of the current floor area are also exempt.  The Select Board will be holding hearings for proposed regulations of the waiver process before the bylaw takes effect. 

A related building code change took effect January 1, 2024: the “municipal opt-in specialized code” came into effect, which residents approved at the 2023 Town Meeting. This new code tightens up insulation and air sealing requirements for new buildings, defines different requirements for all-electric versus fossil-fuel construction, and adds requirements related to wiring for electric-vehicle charging. 

Detailed questions about requirements of the new specialized code and the fossil-fuel free program may be directed to the Town’s Building Department at Town Hall or by email at building@acton-ma.gov.
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Pedestrian-friendly Traffic Signal Installed at Great Road and Brook Street

by Kim Kastens

ACTON: On December 29, workers and a pair of bucket trucks were observed setting up a new traffic signal on Great Road, near the intersection with Brook Street.

This intersection was the site of a fatal accident in October 2022.  At several meetings in the fall of 2022,  the Select Board discussed traffic accidents along Great Road and decided to install a high-intensity activated crosswalk beacon (HAWK) signal at this location. Many pedestrians cross Great Road to access Donelan's and other shops in Gould's Plaza, the Great Road Church, Rapscallion restaurant, the Bruce Freeman Rail Trail, Coach Estate apartments and other destinations.

A HAWK signal protects pedestrians by stopping vehicular traffic as needed. The traffic lights remain dark until a pedestrian activates the call button. The HAWK then shines yellow to alert drivers that a stop signal is imminent and they should prepare to stop. This is followed by red, and the pedestrian begins crossing. Vehicles must stop, as at any other red light. Flashing red means that the pedestrian has probably finished crossing but that drivers should be attentive and proceed only if the intersection is clear.
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Countdown to April 19th, 1775: 2024/1774 New Year’s Resolution

ACTON: In order to better understand and appreciate Acton in the year leading up to the Revolutionary War, which activities, events and/or sites below will you commit to attending, viewing, and/or visiting this year? Visit the museum space on the second floor of the Acton Memorial Library showcasing the town’s unique contribution to the beginning of both the American Revolution and the Civil War and the Pine Hawk display on the ground floor? Attend or view an upcoming Acton 250 Lecture in Town Hall? Joseph Adelman is scheduled to speak on January 30 about the role of 18th century newspapers. Periodically check the Acton 250 Events website for activities both to date and upcoming www.acton-ma.gov/803/Acton-250th-Events. Become familiar with local historical organizations, the Acton Historical Society and the Iron Work Farm, both of which help to understand life in Acton during the pre-Revolutionary period? Both maintain some of Acton’s most historic properties, and welcome new members - actonhistoricalsociety.org and ironworkfarm.org.
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Acton Housing - Recent History and New Developments

by Tom Beals
 
ACTON: Acton has a network of housing management, development, and administrative groups, and a variety of programs and proposals, to maintain or expand housing options for seniors, Town employees, and lower-income residents.
A proposal for an Acton Housing Rehabilitation Trust (AHRT) that would purchase and renovate housing for income-qualified Acton residents was passed at the May 17, 2022 Acton Town Meeting. An analysis of the AHRT was presented to the Acton Select board at the Board's October 16, 2023 meeting by Liz Rust, Director of the multi-town Regional Housing Services Office (RHSO).  According to that analysis, AHRT did not appear to be feasible in the current fiscal environment.
 
Massachusetts law (MGL, Chapter 40(B), commonly referred to as "40B") supports affordable housing by requiring that 10% of each town or city's housing meet specified criteria; compliance with that requirement is documented by listing on the subsidized housing inventory (SIL). The official number of "housing units" is by reference to the US Census. Until recently, Acton had been in compliance with the 40B's requirement, but when revised 40B percentages were released, after the 2020 census and pandemic-related delays, Acton went from 10.1% to 8.1%. When a town falls below that 10% threshold, developers are less bound by zoning regulations: "[40B] created a process for granting "comprehensive permits" for the construction of subsidized low or moderate income housing. These permits streamline the development process by consolidating local permitting. They may supersede various local requirements and regulations, including zoning, and are granted on a case-by-case basis by local Zoning Boards of Appeal following a public hearing."
 
Acton has two groups that acquire 40B-compliant housing. According to the Town website, The Acton Community Housing Corporation (ACHC) is “the Town board charged with facilitating affordable housing ...This quasi-public body is a Select [Board] appointed board, created by a Home Rule petition in 1996. ... The Town's charge to ACHC is to ‘provide affordable housing opportunities for working families with modest incomes.’...The Acton Community Housing Corporation primarily focuses on moderate income households seeking home ownership." By contrast, the Acton Housing Authority (AHA) “provides affordable rental housing units in the Town of Acton and rental assistance in the form of subsidies to low-income individuals and families so that they can rent housing in the private market."
 
The management of ACHC and AHA housing stock is done by the Regional Housing Services Office, directed by the aforementioned Ms. Liz Rust. The RHSO manages the operations of both owner-occupied and rental housing for Acton and nine other towns; that economy of scale provides the client towns with a wide range of services at a very reasonable cost. Ms. Rust gave her close-of-fiscal year annual presentation at the Acton Select Board meeting on June 5, 2023.
 
Acton participates in the Massachusetts Community Preservation Act (CPA) which is funded by a 1.5% property tax surcharge. CPA monies are limited to specific categories including community housing; since 2004, the CPA has disbursed almost six million dollars ($5,968,121) to community housing. (34% of CPA funds have gone to open space; housing and recreation are approximately tied at 23%).
 
Planning for housing has been addressed extensively in long-range planning documents that have been prepared by, and for, Acton. The Acton Master Plan Update (1998), and the Acton2020 (2012) planning documents devote major sections to housing issues. The Community Development Plan (2004) and the Acton Housing Production Plan (2020) deal exclusively with housing issues; having a Housing Production Plan "...give[s] communities that are under the 10% threshold of Chapter 40B, but are making steady progress in producing affordable housing on an annual basis, more control over comprehensive permit applications for a specified period of time."
 
The newest entrant in the Acton housing network comes from the state as the January 2021 Mass. General Laws c.40A § 3A, and later amended. This law applies to the 51 towns and cities that are served by the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority (MBTA), and requires changes to zoning pertaining to multi-family housing. Failure to comply would lead to loss of certain state funding.
 
The details of how Acton will react to the new zoning requirements has not yet been decided. The new regulations require the Town to add multi-family zoning in fifty acres, ten of which have to be within a half mile of the South Acton MBTA station. The South Acton Vision & Action Plan outlines proposed locations for the rezoning. The Planning Department has sought input from residents through surveys and at open houses at the Acton Memorial Library, Senior Center, South Acton Commuter Rail Station. The rezoning plan will be brought to spring Town Meeting in 2024.

PHOTO:
Recent addition to Acton’s affordable housing options: Tavernier Place on Mass. Ave. (Photo by Franny Osman)

ActonTV Hosts Holiday Party

by Avantika Nautiyal

ACTON: ActonTV hosted their Annual Meeting and Holiday Party on Wednesday December 6 at their offices at 16A Craig Rd. The staff and members of the Board of Directors put out a generous buffet for the guests. The studio was transformed into a festive cocktail party venue. The guests were encouraged to explore the studio and camera rooms and to ask questions about the organization.
 
Five awards were presented at the annual ceremony:
 
  • Member of the Year: Sam Sullivan-Fieldman
  • Youth Member of the Year: Lindsay Wolfson
  • Producer of the Year: Pervin Chowdhury
  • Community Impact Award: Bettina Abe
  • Lifetime Achievement Award: Tom Jacoby
 
In his presentation, Director Marc Duci called for donations to ActonTV. He said that the primary source of funding for Acton TV—cable subscriptions—is shrinking due to the increasing popularity of streaming technology and the decline in cable TV subscribers. The organization has had to scale back significantly on staff and the number of productions they are able to work on. It relies greatly on donations and sponsorships from members of the community to keep the doors open and the mission alive. Duci said financial support helps bring community members together and promotes free speech and creative expression in Acton.
ActonTV is a non-profit 501(c)3 public media forum for all residents, businesses, and organizations in Acton, MA. They provide tools, training, and experience for community members to create and broadcast various television and online programs. 
The  2023 ActonTV Year in Review video features highlights from the past year.
Osman

Two Towns Collaborate to Plan the Powder Mill Road Corridor

by Franny Osman
 
MAYNARD/ACTON: Maynard and Acton residents gathered around large posters depicting their shared Powder Mill Road Corridor on the evening of November 15 at a public Open House in the Maynard Elks Lodge. The Corridor is the section of Route 62 from Stop and Shop in Acton to the intersection with Route 27 in Maynard. One third of the Corridor lies within Acton, the rest within Maynard. The Planning Boards of both towns hosted the event, with support from the Metropolitan Area Planning Council (MAPC) and the Massachusetts Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs.
 
Maynard Planning Director Bill Nemser noted that most of the Powder Mill Corridor consists of private property. “One way or the other, the owners are going to develop it. The Corridor Initiative provides an opportunity for those who will be affected to help shape what that development looks like and how the community can derive the most benefit from this activity.”
 
Participants received handouts that described the Powder Mill Road Corridor Initiative, a collaboration between the two towns to create a long-term community-oriented strategy for the corridor, to guide future growth. The initiative aims to make Powder Mill Road a more welcoming place for people to live, visit, and spend time, by creating an overlay zoning district that supports walkable, mixed-use developments, advances “Complete Streets” ( see Acton's Complete Streets program), and expands access to the Assabet River.
 
Acton’s Planning Director, Kristen Guichard, said that the Corridor’s riverside location is significant. “The Assabet River is an incredible resource and asset to both towns. This zoning proposal is a unique opportunity to align more compatible uses and development along the river to foster both ecological improvement and economic growth.”
 
Visitors strolled through three stations. At the first station, they learned about zoning and saw the proposed vision that was  developed based on the previous year’s work by the two planning boards, planning departments, and participants in previous community outreach, including focus groups and forums. The other two stations detailed the proposed zoning plans for Maynard and Acton, separately. Town staff members answered questions and explained the zoning maps and design recommendations. They asked for input from the visitors, in conversation and through giant poster-sized questionnaires.
 
The proposed zoning overlay districts for each town consist of subdistricts of various qualities based on the peculiarities of the location along the Powder Mill corridor. For each subdistrict, the plan lists allowable uses, both by right and with a special permit--such uses as multifamily, childcare, nursing home, retail, restaurants, and offices—and key dimensional standards such as lot size, height, number of stories, and setbacks from the edges of the property.
 
About forty participants signed in, but the crowd appeared to be somewhat larger over the course of the evening. Healthful snacks were available, purchased at the nearby Assabet Food Co-op. The Food Co-op donated Escarole Bean Soup as well.
 
Guichard appreciated the ability to meet with residents face-to-face. “Most of the public engagement for Phase 1 was conducted virtually, given the timing of the Covid-19 pandemic, so we were very grateful to Maynard for hosting the in-person open house where both communities were able to physically come together on the corridor to share input on the recommended zoning proposals.”
 
The Powder Mill Corridor Plan created in Phase 1 was published in 2022.
 
The next step in the Powder Mill Road Corridor Initiative will be for Acton and Maynard to bring draft zoning articles to their respective planning boards for a public hearing prior to spring 2024 Town Meetings where each community can consider zoning amendments that would make the Overlay Zoning Districts a reality.

PHOTOMaynard representatives, from left: Steve Silverstein, new department head overseeing Planning; Bill Nemser, Planning Director; and Sally Bubier, former Select Board Member.
Discovery

Discovery Museum CEO to Retire

by Nancy Knoblock Hunton

ACTONMany people’s first introduction to Acton is through its Discovery Museum. This year, the children’s museum is on target to have more than 200,000 visitors—90 percent of them from out of town. In addition, approximately 54,000 students will take part in the museum’s hands-on “Traveling Science Workshops,” which reach 110 towns in eastern Massachusetts and New Hampshire. 
 
The Museum is looking towards a new era as long-time Chief Executive Officer Neil Gordon retires at the end of this month.  In a recent interview, Gordon shared his reflections on a decade of transformative growth, increased visibility and accessibility.
 
Gordon led efforts to consolidate the previous two-building museum into one spacious, state-of-the-art facility, open to young and older children of all abilities. He also directed the creation of “Discovery Woods” to reconnect kids to nature. His latest project was installing solar panels to meet the museum’s electricity needs and foster environmental awareness. 
 
One of Gordon’s goals has been to make the museum a welcoming place for everyone. “If you want to be good for kids,” he says, “you have to be good for all kids.” In 2010, the museum created “Open Door Connections” to expand outreach to families of children on the autism spectrum, with hearing or vision impairments, or with sensory sensitivities, and began to offer free or reduced admission opportunities. Today nearly a third of visitors, including teachers, public assistance card users, military families, and foster families, come to the museum at a discount. In addition, the museum offers free admission to all on the first Friday night of each month during the school year and every Friday night throughout the summer. (4:30 to 8:00 pm. Reservations are required.)
 
Gordon came to the Discovery Museum from Boston Children’s Museum in 2009. At the time, attendance was down and finances were not strong.  During his tenure, operating income tripled, and total assets grew from $1.7 million to $11.7 million. In 2013, he led the museum’s first capital campaign in 30 years, which exceeded its goal by raising $8.8 million, proving the community was willing to invest. 
 
Currently the museum employs 71 staff, mostly part-time, including outdoor educators and a dedicated staff member for community partnerships. It benefits from 100 volunteers a year, ranging from high school students to retired folks as well as corporate outing volunteers.
 
The mission of the museum, says Gordon, is to get kids ready to be successful, ready for the future. The focus is on basic scientific method—observation, experimentation, and learning from mistakes. “What future person doesn’t need all those skills whether they’re a scientist or not!” he exclaims. “Everybody needs to understand and be comfortable with the science and technology that’s affecting their world. Having an appreciation of science is particularly important in a world where people are denying the validity of science.”
 
 The creation of Discovery Woods in 2013  grew out of concerns about the growing epidemic of childhood obesity and a lack of connection to outdoors and nature. Gordon realized the outdoors was the “perfect exhibit” with natural materials and plenty of opportunity for discovery. Taking advantage of its four-and-one-half acres of open space, the museum built Discovery Woods with an accessible tree house as the centerpiece.
 
“You want to get kids outside enjoying trees and flowers, digging in the dirt, and finding worms,” says Gordon. “After that, they start to do observation, learn the names of things, learn why worms are out there. Then they progress to saying, ‘That’s something I want to protect and support.’ That’s how you progressively build the next generation of environmental stewards.” 
 
As part of Gordon’s vision to promote environmental sustainability, the museum installed 856 solar panels in 2022. This array not only generates 100% of the electricity needed for the museum, but also enough extra to provide clean energy at a discount to the Acton Housing Authority and four nonprofits.  
 
In 2023, Gordon received numerous awards, citing his strategic vision, innovative work, and outstanding leadership. The most recent was the Lifetime Achievement Award from the New England Museum Association. This past year, he also won the Massachusetts Nonprofit Network Excellence Award, Fred Rogers Institute Helper Award, and Heerwagen Award from the Middlesex Savings Charitable Foundation. 
 
After retirement, Gordon plans to make himself available to other organizations that can benefit from sage management advice. His successor, as of January 1, will be Marie Beam, who has been the museum’s Chief Development Officer for 10 years.

PHOTO:
Retiring CEO Neil Gordon outside the accessible treehouse in Discovery Woods. (Photo courtesy of Discovery Museum)

Acton Clean Energy Coaching Program to Expand

by Debra Simes
 
ACTON: The Town of Acton’s Clean Energy Coaching program, which launched in late winter 2023, is expanding its cadre of trained volunteer coaches. The program provides free access to coaches for residents, businesses, and organizations in Acton interested in learning about and making clean energy upgrades to their homes, buildings, and practices.
 
Residents and businesses who work with coaches to implement one or more clean energy strategies not only reduce their own emissions contributions to the climate crisis, but also advance the community’s progress on its climate goals. The Sustainability Office is developing methods for tracking outcomes of the program.
 
Program coaches have worked, to date, with more than one hundred Acton “clients” to help them understand, plan for, and — when desired — execute clean energy upgrades. Such upgrades might include weatherization and insulation, heat pump systems (for heating and cooling), solar panel installation, cleaner electricity supply via Acton Power Choice (Green or Standard options), electric vehicles (EVs), heat pump appliances (such as clothes dryers and hot water heaters), and more. Coaches can provide information and guidance throughout the learning, decision-making, and execution processes.
 
Acton resident and Clean Energy Coaching client Chloe Morel Haberstro commented, “My Clean Energy Coach came to my home to help me understand my options in making my home more energy efficient. I had done a MassSave energy audit, but didn’t really understand next steps. My coach reviewed my audit, saw my home, heard my concerns, and came up with a potential plan and concrete next steps. Having him come to my home made the process so much easier and more personal. It was clear he had had comprehensive training, was able to answer many of my questions, and then followed up over email with more information. And his enthusiasm for clean energy upgrades was contagious!”
 
Another program client, Acton’s Andy Platt, said, “We are sitting cozily in our newly emissions-free home on the first day following the installation of our heat pump system for heating and cooling. This process began in the spring of 2023 when we met with our Clean Energy Coach during an environmental house tour. Let's be clear: without our coach’s support we likely would never have started this project, much less completed it within seven months. Our coach was by our side throughout the process: introducing us to new terminology, advising us at each step, guiding us in going out for bids, and clarifying with the contractor the need for certain design elements. We are most grateful for this Town of Acton program — a remarkable and helpful clean energy/decarbonization resource.”
 
Eight volunteer coaches were trained before the launch of the program in late winter 2023. In response to demand for these coaching services, the Sustainability Office will expand the number of coaches, and is actively seeking any Acton resident who may be interested in becoming a Clean Energy Coach. According to Acton Sustainability Director Andrea Becerra, coaches will have had some prior experience with clean energy technologies, and would train with Abode Energy Management and other experts. 
 
Any Acton resident interested in becoming a Clean Energy Coach should apply before December 31, using the Acton Clean Energy Coach application form. For more information, email Sustainability@ActonMA.gov or call (978) 929-6515.
 
Debra Simes is a member of the Acton Climate Coalition, which works with the Town of Acton’s Sustainability Office on multiple initiatives, including the Clean Energy Coaching program.
Holidaystroll2023

Thank you from the Maynard Business Alliance

MAYNARD: The Maynard Business Alliance held its TENTH Maynard Holiday Stroll on Saturday, December 2nd beginning with the traditional Countdown to Light Up Memorial Park for the holiday season!  The large crowd was treated to traditional holiday classics performed by the Interlude Music Choir followed by the arrival of Santa on a Maynard Fire Truck!  The sidewalks were filled with people strolling  throughout the festive downtown and enjoying refreshments, live music, and activities while holiday shopping.  Thanks to everyone who came out, we hope you enjoyed the evening!

The MBA Holiday Stroll Committee would like to thank Senator Jamie Eldridge and Select Board Chair Chris DiSilva for joining us, and State Representative Kate Hogan for leading the crowd in the countdown!  
Thank you to the Select Board & Town Administration; Department of Public Works;  Maynard Police Department; Maynard Fire Department; Joe Foster; Steve Valenti & WAVM students Grafton Norris and Owen Wilde; Ella McGaunn Geiger & Devereux Geiger & the Interlude Music Choir; Clayton DeWalt, Kevin Kozik & the Maynard High School Jazz Band, Wind Ensemble and A Cappella Group; Lorne Bell; John Cramer; Anne Heinonen; Amy Loveless; Emily Thayer; Owen Thayer; Glenn & Bonnie Wilson. 

We’d like to recognize the Holiday Stroll Planning Committee for their commitment: Mary Brannelly, Paula Copley, Emily Hanson, Deb Hledik, Sam McCormick, Lizza Smith, Megan Summers, Lynda Thayer, Bill Thornley, Amanda Williams Galvin.

Thank you to our sponsor, Middlesex Savings Bank, and the following businesses and organizations: 6 Bridges Gallery; Action Unlimited; Amory’s Tomb; Art Signals Studio; ArtSpace Maynard; Art’s Specialties; Azucar; Ben’s Raclette; Edward Jones Investments; El Huipil; The Flower Pot; Hair by Michelle Sherman; Inspired Bliss; Interlude Music; Kind Goods; Lo Tide; LOOK Optical; Maynard Outdoor Store; Metrowest Kung Fu; Maynard Trust Building; Miss Tricia’s Dance Studio; Oliver’s Wands and Wizarding Wares; Raspberry Beret; Sanctuary; Smith & Finley Homes; Sugar Snap; VV’s Hair Studio.

REMEMBER TO VOTE FOR YOUR FAVORITE HOLIDAY WINDOW!  Details can be found on the Maynard Business Alliance website www.maynardbusinessalliance.org.

Experience Christmas at Mt. Calvary Lutheran Church with “Angels We Have Heard on High”

Christmas
ACTON: Everyone is invited to attend Mt. Calvary Lutheran Church in Acton for Christmas Eve and Christmas services:

On Christmas Eve, go to Bethlehem and see. Peak through the stable doors, and kneel in amazement before the Christ child, ears ringing from the angels’ song. More so than the shepherds, see who this child is, because He is the good news of great joy for you.

On Christmas Eve you have choices:
 
  • 10am – Are you busy Christmas Eve eve? Visit Mt. Calvary Christmas Eve day for an eloquent service with Christmas carols and a wonderful message of great joy.
  • 3:30pm – The Gingerbread Bash is great for little ones with the wiggles. Families will come together and make a Gingerbread Nativity in the fellowship hall and hear the Christmas story and sing Christmas carols in the sanctuary. This is a great family alternative to the traditional Christmas Eve service.
  • 6:30pm – Join the Shepherds on their journey to Bethlehem in a traditional, beautiful candlelight service. Arrive early for special pre-service music.
  • 9pm – A traditional, festive candlelight and Holy Communion service. Arrive early for special pre-service music.

Then, join Mt. Calvary Christmas Day at 10am for a service of Christmas carols and readings.

Mt. Calvary is located at 472 Massachusetts Avenue. Parking is available off Prospect Street. Handicap parking is available at the Massachusetts Avenue circle drive and the Prospect Street parking lot. Overflow parking is available in the Acton Funeral Home parking lot right next door. For more information, visit mtcalvaryacton.org, call (978) 263-5156, or send an email to info@mtcalvaryacton.org.
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Maynard Hometown Heroes – Phase 4

MAYNARD: The Town of Maynard launched the program in 2019 called “Hometown Heroes.” The objective of the Hometown Heroes is to create banners that will be hung in Maynard honoring Maynard Veterans and Active-Duty military men and women.

Veterans honored through the Hometown Heroes program are defined per Title 38 of the Code of Federal Regulations as “a person who served in the active military, naval, or air service and who was discharged or released under conditions other than dishonorable.” Per the VA.org website, “This definition explains that any individual that completed a service for any branch of armed forces classifies as a veteran as long as they were not dishonorably discharged.”

Any Maynard-based Veteran, whether native or new resident, is welcome to be part of the Hometown Heroes Program. A Veteran or Active Military person who was born and raised in Maynard but does not currently reside in Maynard would also qualify.

The Town of Maynard displays the banners annually from May-November. The location of where the banners are displayed are at the discretion of the Town. The Hometown Heroes Committee and Town of Maynard have designated 46 poles located downtown Maynard for the veterans Killed in Action (KIA).  For Phase 4, we will have additional electric poles that are outfitted with brackets for our newest banners.

Hometown Heroes Banner applications are now available on the Town of Maynard's web page at www.townofmaynard-ma.gov. They are also available at the Maynard Town Hall (on the tables upstairs and downstairs), Maynard Public Library, Maynard-Clinton Lodge of Elks, and Council on Aging office.  Also visit our Maynard Hometown Heroes Facebook page to get questions answered, or call Kim Lalli at (978) 897-9907.
Grinch

Maynard Holiday Parade Rescheduled

MAYNARD: Join the 57th Annual Maynard Holiday Parade, which has been rescheduled to December 17 at 12:45pm in downtown Maynard! Are you eager to see Santa waving at you from a helicopter? Then be sure to look up, because he's the 12:45pm celebrity! At 12:50pm, food collection trucks will roll down the parade route to collect your canned food donations. As a community, we can provide "more love, less hunger."

At 1pm, the parade kicks off, with Maynard resident and volunteer extraordinaire Ellen Duggan leading the way as Grand Marshall. Special Guests of Honor include Fire Chief Angela Lawless; Matt D'Amico, two-time national finalist on American Ninja Warrior TV show; and Will & Liz Doyle, owners of Sanctuary, an events, music, bar & lounge.
Various bands will provide holiday music. Floats, decorated vehicles, and festively dressed walkers representing local businesses, nonprofit organizations, musical groups, and entertainers will round out this joyful event. For more parade details, visit lightuptheholidaysmaynard.com.

Make it an even more special day by arriving early or staying afterward to enjoy a meal and some holiday shopping downtown. Jingle bells, jingle bells, jingle all the way. Oh what fun it is to be in downtown Maynard on parade day!
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Countdown to April 19, 1775:
December 16, 1773
Boston Tea Party Myths and Reality

ACTON: As the tea ships approached Boston Harbor 250 years ago, residents faced a dilemma rooted in British law: Ships had twenty days to unload cargo or sail away; otherwise their cargo would be taxed. Tea taxes were to pay judges and other officials thereby shifting local control to the Crown. The Governor would not let the ships leave, and the provincials made sure the tea was not unloaded. Meeting extralegally, the “Body of the People” recognized no alternative to destroying the tea but took no formal action.

Still, the “destruction of the tea” was a highly organized event. With an oath to secrecy by all involved, contemporary documents reveal little. More detailed accounts were only gathered decades later. Benjamin Carp is currently recognized for the most reliable source on the event, Defiance of the Patriots.
Tea chests were unloaded, emptied overboard, and methodically broken. Men with experience on wharves and ships were essential to the meticulous unloading and reloading of the other cargo. Sailors’ whistles could be heard, but not conversation. With a full moon and noise would the British soldiers and warships move in?

Carp helps readers understand why those involved dressed as Mohawks. Fearing accusations of treason, it was important to separate the meeting from the destruction to protect Boston from royal revenge, so disguises were deemed necessary. But why Mohawks? New York had feared Boston would buckle, and Mohawks were associated with that state’s border. The French and Indian War and the hundredth anniversary of King Phillip’s War lived in recent memory.

How would the British government react? It would be months before word arrived of the dire consequences. Would Acton support Boston? Visit www.acton-ma.gov/803/Acton-250th-Events, to learn more.
Fixit

Fix-It Clinic

by Alissa Nicol

ACTON: A Fix-It Clinic was held at the Acton Memorial Library on Saturday, November 25 from 10am-1pm. The event attracted seventeen individuals and families with a variety of items in need of repair. These items included a clock, handbag, lighted tree, wheelchair, miniature sewing machine, miniature accordion, handmade quilt, and more. There were seven volunteer coaches on hand with a variety of tools and parts to aid in the repairs. More importantly, the coaches provided tutoring so that visitors could learn the tool operation and techniques necessary to do repair work on their own. The clinics help keep broken items out of the landfill, but also build skills and knowledge.

Launched by Rob Gogan, member of the Green Acton Materials Committee, Saturday’s clinic was the third, with two more scheduled in 2024, on February 24 and May 18. Frann Addison, Gogan’s spouse, said “We aim to hold the clinics quarterly.” The success rate is high, and each time a repair is made, a bell is rung to signal a successful outcome. Only occasionally does an item stump a coach, and the owner is sent home with a recommendation for a part to purchase or a repair shop to visit. Jim and Dana Snyder-Grant brought Dana’s wheelchair in hopes of fixing a light that wasn’t working. The light wasn’t fixed, but they learned that replacing a missing screw would most likely do the trick.

Just before the clinic ended at 1pm, a final bell was rung by Lua Akerstein, age 6, to signal the repair of her small sewing machine.

Celebrating Open Space Preservation in Acton

Cooney
by Joe Cooney
 
ACTON: Members and friends of the local non-profit Acton Conservation Trust recently gathered to celebrate President Susan Mitchell-Hardt’s lifetime achievement award from Sudbury Valley Trustees. It felt like a reunion of sorts as leaders of conservation efforts in Acton from the past decades, many now retired, returned to celebrate Susan. In various tributes to Susan, they reflected on the land preservation successes of the last 25 years. Preserving open space has long been a priority in Acton. And, while it takes a whole community to make it happen, it often relies on key individuals along the way to get a project successfully completed.

Andy McGee, past chair of the town’s Open Space Committee, described how virtually all the open space preservation projects he shepherded through the town acquisition process first came from a contact Susan made with a landowner. Another committee chair noted that a meeting wasn’t ever really started until Susan read her report. Another said many landowners would never have met with the town without Susan making the introductions. It took Susan to bring them to the table, “and then they realized we weren’t bad people.” Those introductions are part of the process that often takes years  before a project comes to the voters.

Among those who came to the party were retired members of the Town’s Natural Resources Department, Tom Tidman, Bettina Abe and Fran Portante. Susan has often expressed that without the tireless support and guidance of the Natural Resource Department staff over the years, many of the projects would not have come to fruition.

This land preservation ecosystem of Acton Conservation Trust, Open Space Committee, Community Preservation Committee, Select Board, and Town employees, through the efforts of many individuals, past and present, has resulted in many open space successes. They include early projects such as Morrison Farm, Camp Acton, and Route 2 agricultural fields. In the last decade, preservation wins have included Wright Hill, 176 Central Street, Grassy Pond West, Piper Lane, and Stonefield Farm. 
While Susan recently received the lifetime achievement award, she's far from done, she said, with several more projects in mind over the next few years. Susan was quoted as saying, “My husband Dave is not retiring, so I'm not retiring either!”

PHOTO:
From left, Dave Hardt, Fran Portante, Susan Mitchell-Hardt, Bettina Abe, Andy McGee and Tom Tidman, at a celebration of Susan Mitchell-Hardt.

A Look at the Daily Life of Massachusetts Colonists,
With Special Emphasis on Acton

by Kimberly E. B. Hurwitz

On November 13, Acton’s 250 Committee welcomed Dr. Mary Fuhrer as the second speaker in events organized around Acton’s participation in the American Revolution. Dr. Fuhrer, a noted historian who focuses her studies on Colonial New England, is an Acton resident and holds a B.A. from Princeton, an M.A from George Mason University, and a Ph.D. from the University of New Hampshire.

To begin, Dr. Fuhrer invited the over 150 audience members, both in Town Hall and via Zoom, to consider Colonial Acton’s daily life. She pointed out that Acton of the 1770’s was a place most current Actonians would not recognize.

Dr. Fuhrer described five main areas of life: Family and Household, House and Possessions, Farm, Church, and Town

For Family and Household, Dr. Fuhrer described Colonial Actonians as having “deep roots and broad boundaries”. The smalltown families had multiple bonds of marriage or family between them. Families included an average of eight living children, in a patriarchal system. No one in the community lived alone; for example, widows and orphans were taken into other existing households. Additionally, apprentices, hired help, enslaved people, and boarders were added to the “family” unit. 
Houses and Possessions were quite different from today. Average homes were built with just two rooms flanking a hall. The parlor, the most prestigious room, not only was the area where guests were received, but was where the master and mistress of the home slept. The bed’s deep feather mattress could be one of the items the owners were most proud of. The hall, where items of daily use were stored, was both a work and gathering space.  
Later, with kitchens placed at the rear, and more rooms added above, houses grew to the typical “saltbox” style. Home was primarily the domain of women, who worked the vegetable garden, fed and clothed the family, and processed the harvest from the farm.  

Dr. Fuhrer produced a list of every possession in Captain Isaac Davis’ home after his death. Each item was cataloged and valued to determine the estate’s worth for matters of inheritance. 

The Farm was the core of family life. While some residents had other jobs, everyone in town farmed. Farms provided sustenance, security, civic identity, and independence for the family, and the entire town. 

To sustain the average family, a minimum of sixty acres was necessary. Acreage was set aside as woodlots, for heating and cooking fuel; tillage for growing crops such as grains or flax; and pastureland and orchards to provide apples for hard cider, something deemed safer to drink than water! The remaining land housed the home, barn, and vegetable garden.

Neighborhood took on significant meaning. Neighbors were the glue holding the town together; when help was needed, neighbors assisted. The greatest accolade that could be bestowed on a townsperson was, “He/she was a good neighbor”. The idea of “commonwealth” was prevalent; neighbors helped each other to ensure success for all.

In Colonial times, Church was of major importance. The Puritan Church in New England was a “Covenant Church”, Dr. Fuhrer explained. The Church was considered a “body” and all members were responsible for the well-being, and behavior, of each other, furthering both oversight and bonds between residents.
Lastly, Dr. Fuhrer introduced the idea of Town. Residents “belonged” to the town. Belonging was a specific legal designation. One “belonged” if one was born in or married someone who was born in the town. An outsider could come to “belong” if they resided in town and paid taxes for ten years. If these conditions were not met, one would never “belong”; no rights or assistance would be forthcoming. Town also encompassed daily governing: the establishment of schools, marking the boundaries of town lines, and even Town Meetings, which functioned the way Acton’s Town Meeting still does today.
ABRHS students from Mary Price Maddox’s classes again joined the attendees, as many had done for the first lecture in this series. Afterward, two students spoke with members of the Acton Minutemen to discuss joining the historical re-enactment company.

A video recording of Dr. Fuhrer’s talk is available on ActonTV’s YouTube channel. The next event planned by the Acton 250 Committee will be a walking tour of Acton Center on December 10. 
Actongreen

Senator Eldridge's Green Advisory Council Meets with Municipal Sustainability Directors

by Kim Kastens
 
ACTON: On November 18, State Senator Jamie Eldridge convened the fall meeting of his Green Advisory Council at West Acton Villageworks. Residents and community leaders from across Senator Eldridge's district assembled to share ideas about how to protect the local environment and respond to the global climate emergency. The invited speakers were town sustainability directors. 
 
Senator Eldridge opened the meeting by sharing progress on several environmental bills that he is sponsoring. Notable among these is the Environmental Bond Bill, which would authorize Massachusetts to issue bonds for capital projects. The current five-year Environment and Climate bond expires in 2023, and Senator Eldridge is working on the successor bill, which he hopes will include $100M towards municipal vulnerability preparedness including climate resiliency. 
 
The two dozen attendees each introduced themselves, their organizations, and a glimpse of an environmental initiative in their town. The glimpses spanned everything from storm windows for a historic church in Stow, to a bylaw on tree clearing in Harvard, to an environmental book club based in Boxborough.   
 
Andrea Becerra, the Town of Acton Sustainability Director, joined the meeting by zoom. She discussed four initiatives that her office is working on. She stressed that each of these could serve as a model for other towns, and that each involved extensive resident participation. First, was the Energize Acton program. Individuals or teams commit to take actions to cut down on their greenhouse gas emissions, such as insulating their home or eating more plant-based meals. They enter their commitments and accomplishments into a web-based dashboard, and Becerra's office tracks the cumulative emission reduction townwide. 

Dashboard on which participants in Energize Acton can enter their commitments to decrease their greenhouse gas emissions.  From https://community.massenergize.org/ActonMA/actions
 
Second, was the Neighborhood Clean Heating & Cooling Project, a pilot project to encourage households that currently heat with fuel oil to consider switching to electrical heating via a heat pump. The Sustainability Office worked with the GIS department to identify a neighborhood with a high concentration of oil burners, then worked with the energy management company Abode to help homeowners in that neighborhood obtain and understand energy audits and contractor quotes for heat pump conversions.  
 
Becerra's third program was the Acton Business Energy Efficiency Grant Program. Under this program, funded with ARPA funds, businesses were encouraged to sign up for a free energy audit through MassSaves.  If a business undertook energy upgrades identified by the audit, the Town reimbursed up to $2000 of the cost above and beyond any other state or federal rebates.  And finally, Becerra discussed Acton's energy coach program. Acton paid for seven local residents to be trained as "Energy Coaches." Since the program began early this year, these coaches have offered personalized guidance to approximately one hundred residents to help them save energy or shift to less carbon-intensive energy sources.  
 
Eric Simms, Sustainability Director for the Town of Concord, spoke about Concord-specific programs. Simms stressed the value of towns working together; a dozen regional sustainability directors meet monthly to exchange ideas and suggestions. In a response to a question, Simms discussed how sustainability is being taken into account as the Town of Concord envisions reuse of the NMI Superfund Site, a 47-acre property located on Rt 62 about half a mile from the Acton town line. He stated that solar panels and battery storage are a likely use for part of the site. 
 
After the formal meeting adjourned, many attendees lingered and mingled.  Much sharing of ideas and exchanging of contact information could be observed. Senator Eldridge convenes such meetings several times a year, and invites "activists, municipal officials, advocates, and non-profit members to come together and share ideas on how to better protect our environment and combat climate change." To be notified of future meetings, email the Senator's Environmental Policy Advisor, Immaculate Mchome at Immaculate.Mchome@masenate.gov.

Community Conversation about Migrant Families Moving to Minuteman Inn Shelter

The Town of Acton put out the following press release on November 16, 2023.  Submitted by Franny Osman

ACTON: Town Manager John Mangiaratti is pleased to report that the Town of Acton, in collaboration with the Acton Boxborough Regional School District and Acton-Boxborough United Way, hosted a community conversation and panel on welcoming incoming migrant families to the Town of Acton.

On Tuesday night [November 14], 100 residents gathered with Town Manager Mangiaratti and representatives of Police, Fire, Community Services and Diversity, Equity & Inclusion Departments, the Acton-Boxborough Regional School District, the United Way and several social services agencies for a panel discussion and community conversation about dozens of Haitian asylum seekers who will soon be housed in the Minuteman Inn in a state emergency shelter.

Held at the Human Services Building, the panel discussion was moderated by Rebecca Manseau Barnett, and included Fania Valerie J. Alvarez, a local resident and Haitian immigrant; Acton Police Officer Monicka Jean-Baptiste; Andrea Woehler of Dignity in Asylum, a volunteer agency that seeks to assist asylum seekers, and Colby O’Brien and Jeffrey Handler of Making Opportunity Count, which will supervise the shelter.
Town Manager Mangiaratti told those in attendance that Making Opportunity Count will be on site at the shelter 24 hours a day, seven days a week, providing supervision and assistance to migrants.

State Representatives Dan Sena and Simon Cataldo also spoke, noting that the Town of Acton, the school district and all other stakeholders were notified well in advance of the state’s plans to use Minuteman Inn as a shelter, which enabled all of those agencies to begin preparations. 

“We’re getting a really big and important head start, and every stakeholder has stepped up in a major way,” Cataldo said. “The fact that so many of you are here and learning about the situation and finding ways to help and figuring out and learning and listening is incredibly important.”

The shelter is expected to open to migrants on Monday, [November 20].

The discussion also focused on Haitian culture, and Officer Jean-Baptiste taught those in attendance several basic phrases in Haitian Creole, the language spoken by most of the migrants who will be coming to Acton. 

The panel discussion was followed by a question-and answer session with town officials and members of the panel. 
“I am proud to work in a such a welcoming and caring Community,” said Town Manager John Mangiaratti. “Thank you to Laura Ducharme and Wanjiku Gachugi for their efforts to coordinate this event with our community partners. Thank you to Becky Barnett for moderating the discussion, and a special thank you to Acton Police Officer Jean-Baptiste for bringing her personal perspective and helping to educate our community on Haitian culture.”

More Details on the Community Conversation about the Minuteman Inn Shelter
Quote and Information provided by Marion Maxwell, shared by a resident who attended Tuesday evening’s (Nov. 14) meeting at the Acton Council on Aging about the families moving to the Minuteman Inn. 

“...The new shelter at The Minuteman Inn (old Concordian) will get its first guests on Monday, November 20. There will eventually be thirty-three families. They expect that about 20% will be homeless Massachusetts families and 80% will be Haitian asylum seekers. They explained the difference between refugees (vetted and approved for benefits before they arrive in the US) and asylum seekers, who are here legally but have not gone through any of the steps yet beyond getting here. They need to get a work permit before they can work, and that generally takes six to twelve months. These groups are usually about 60% kids and 40% adults; the kids are mostly under 8. There are a lot of pregnant women and a lot of babies, not many teens.   

“The organization developing and running the site is called Making Opportunity Count (MOC). They run the Concord shelter at the old Best Western, and they provide a lot of services and help and understanding to their residents. (And they understand that the larger problem is affordable housing. And getting a work permit, and daycare.) There was a Haitian immigrant presenter who was in the shelter system six years ago. She talked about how when she first got into a shelter, she was grateful but afraid all the time, didn't want to ask for help, didn't really want to talk to anyone for a while. When she was ready, she was able to get involved more. She said when people smiled, it helped her to feel welcome. Another presenter was an Acton Police Officer, Monika Jean-Baptiste, another young Haitian immigrant.

“Apparently, some/many Haitian immigrants escaped the violence and chaos originally by going to South America, to Brazil or Chile or Peru. They may have spent quite some time there already, and made their way north through Central America and Mexico to finally get here. Some can speak Spanish or Portuguese. And Haitian Creole is sort of a French-Spanish mix, so French or Spanish knowledge may allow you to communicate with the immigrants. (Also note that Duolingo has Haitian Creole….)
“The messages we got included: be patient. The first families are only arriving on Monday [November 20]. It will take a few weeks to get all the rooms filled. Then they'll need time to settle and rest, and to figure out what people's needs are and how best to use the space, etc. After a bit, there will be opportunities for the community to help in many ways. MOC is busy running the operation, so help will be mediated by the Acton Boxborough United Way at https://sites.google.com/abuw.org/resources/supporting-families-at-actons-emergency-shelter. That's who we should contact if we have stuff or services or ideas to share. They already know they'll need winter clothing, coats, boots, etc, in new or gently used ("consignable") condition (there's a drop box outside the Acton Boxborough Resource Center offices in the administration building on Charter Rd).”     

Further information: ACTON TV has produced a long video about the Haitian immigrants videotaped at a meeting of involved Town staff and others called Fostering Cultural Humility, at www.youtube.com/watch?v=9QtD9f-qbhk .

Acton Boxborough United Way will coordinate donations through the  AB Resource Center. It is important that all donations go through the AB Resource Center (15 Charter Road, Acton) as the shelter itself does not have space to accept/sort donations. Until more details are available as to specific needs, donations can be accepted through AB Resource Center’s  AB Exchange, a space where Acton and Boxborough residents can access essential items they need to thrive. They are presently looking for winter coats, boots, and pants for all ages (new, or consignment-quality). An Amazon Wish List AB United Way set up is another way to contribute specific items to AB Exchange.
Acton 250 screened

Countdown to April 19th, 1775 - Samuel Adams: Instigator of a Tea Party and a Revolution

ACTON: How could Adams have orchestrated both what came to be known as the Boston Tea Party and the beginning of the American Revolution? In her recent best- seller The Revolutionary: Samuel Adams Stacy Shiff explains how his continual foresight and creativity drove pivotal events even when he was not in sight.

“A born committee man, he thrived on collaboration.” Now we would say that Adams was networking through the 1750s-1770s. A tax collector, he was on the docks and in the shops. Elected to the House, he became Clerk with control over documents. The 18th century was the “golden age of newspapers.” Adams was the force behind the Boston Gazette, the town’s leading publication. When tensions erupted, he controlled the information flow in multiple directions.

“He seemed to define himself by resistance.” Reacting to British import taxes, Adams lobbied for “non-importation,” a form of passive resistance, across the colony and beyond. Reeling specifically from the Townshend import duties, Adams pushed to send a Circular Letter, intended as a plea to King George, to the other colonies beginning the north-south communication pattern so crucial to the revolution. In late 1772, by force of will Adams created a new entity uniting Boston and the countryside against challenges to local control, a “committee of correspondence.”

Adams’s strategies rested on a shared commitment to secrecy. Contemporaries viewed his political activity as bordering on treason punishable by death. Better to burn communications upon receipt creating a challenge for historians. Although Adams was believed central to “the destruction of the tea” celebrated next month, his role cannot actually be proven then or now.

The Acton Memorial Library Book Group will discuss The Revolutionary November 21 at 6:30pm.
Rachelstudio

ArtSpace Hosts 1st Downtown Holiday Popup

MAYNARD: ArtSpace Maynard announces its Holiday Popup art and craft sale, to be held in conjunction with Maynard’s Holiday Stroll on December 2. Artists will open their studio doors at their new home, 74 Main Street (2nd floor), along with guest artists and craftspeople will also attend: Sara Matias of Bumpy Beeler Jewelry, Jennifer Hofmann of Jennifer's Handmade Soaps, and Kristen Pezzano of Magaloo Jewelry of Maynard. A Friends and Family Preview event begins at 4pm. The Holiday Stroll tree and menorah lighting will be held at 5:45pm in Memorial Park. The Stroll, sponsored by the Maynard Business Alliance, ends at 8:30pm. For more information, contact Suchitra Mumford, Executive Director, ArtSpace Maynard at (978) 897-9828 or maynardartspace@gmail.com.
Santa in helicopter

Maynard Holiday Parade

MAYNARD: Join the 57th Annual Maynard Holiday Parade on December 3rd in downtown Maynard! At 1:45pm, look up to see Santa waving at the crowd from a helicopter! Food collection trucks will roll down the parade route at 1:50pm. (Remember to bring canned food donations for our local food pantries. Together, we can lessen food insecurity for our neighbors.) At 2pm, the parade kicks off, with Maynard resident and volunteer extraordinaire Ellen Duggan leading the way as Grand Marshall. Special Guests of Honor include Fire Chief Angela Lawless; Matt D'Amico, two-time national finalist on American Ninja Warrior TV show; and Will & Liz Doyle, owners of Sanctuary, an events, music, bar & lounge.

The amazing Maynard High School Band will provide festive holiday music, along with a variety of holiday floats, decorated vehicles, and festively dressed walkers representing local businesses, organizations, musical groups, and entertainers. WAVM, the Maynard High School radio/tv station, will emcee the event live from Sanctuary at 82 Main Street. Add to the excitement by arriving early or staying afterward to enjoy a meal and some holiday shopping downtown.

Tis the season! For more parade details, including parade sponsors, see lightuptheholidaysmaynard.com.
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Open Table Family-to-Family Holiday Drive Returns

CONCORD/MAYNARD: Open Table, the MetroWest charity dedicated to fighting hunger and building healthy communities, today announced that the Open Table Family-to-Family Gift Bag Drive is back for the fourth year in a row. The program offers community members the opportunity to create special holiday gift bags for either a local family and/or a senior who are clients of Open Table.
Open Table provides participants with a list of suggested items to fill a gift bag, then sends daily reminders and other information each of the first 12 days of December. Items must be unwrapped as this allows Open Table to determine an appropriate recipient for each bag.
Families can use the following suggestions to create a gift bag for a family or a senior:

Day 1:  Movie Night Snack (popcorn, pretzels, or chips)
Day 2:  Special Breakfast  (pancake mix and syrup or scone/muffin mix)
Day 3:  Fun activity (puzzle or board game for family or cards/game/book for senior)
Day 4:  $25 Pharmacy or Visa gift card (please place in a marked envelope)
Day 5:  Favorite baking mix (brownies, cookies, cake) and cooking oil as needed
Day 6:  Moisturizer or hand cream for cold weather
Day 7:  Hot chocolate mix, coffee or tea
Day 8:  Festive kitchen towel
Day 9:  Favorite store-bought holiday sweets
Day 10: Olive oil (plastic or metal container, no glass please)
Day 11:  Favorite spread for toast (jams, jellies, nut butters)
Day 12:  Dried fruits and/or nuts

All items must be placed in one reusable bag, such as the large T.J. Maxx bag. Gift bags will be collected at 33 Main Street in Maynard on December 15, 2-6pm, and at 40 Beharrell Street in Concord on December 16, 10am-1pm. Clients will receive gift bags with the final food distribution of 2023. Please note, Open Table is unable to accept home-baked goodies for the gift bags. 

“This is a wonderful opportunity to make the holidays a bit brighter not only for the families who rely on Open Table, but for those who donate as well,” said Alexandra DePalo, executive director, Open Table. "For many members of the community this program is a meaningful part of their holiday season, and we are so grateful for that!”

If you have any questions about this program, please contact the coordinator, Carolyn, at ccoffin@opentable.org. Sign up to make a gift bag at opentable.org/family-to-family.
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Emma Cryan Becomes First Female Eagle Scout in Maynard

MAYNARD: Emma Cryan just became the first female Eagle Scout of Maynard! In 2018, Scouts BSA, formerly known as Boy Scouts, welcomed girls into the program. At the end of 2019, Cryan found Troop 65 Sudbury (which is an all-girls troop). It wasn’t until the summer of 2021 that she made it her goal to become an Eagle Scout after being inspired by female Eagle Scouts she had met at a summer camp. After many years of hard work, she finally reached her goal.

For her Eagle project, Emma decided to combine her interests in psychology and music and create sensory kits to be available at Maynard Public Schools. The kits are available for anyone to use at school performances, as well as with the school nurses and with the resource officer. The kits contained a variety of sensory tools such as earplugs, sunglasses, fidgets, and weighted lap pads, to make school events more accessible to people with sensory sensitivities.

Emma would like to give a huge thank you to everyone who made her achievement possible with their time, donations and support.
Tree lighting au ad

Maynard Business Alliance Hosts Maynard Holiday Stroll

MAYNARD: Join a beloved Maynard tradition – the Annual Maynard Holiday Stroll on December 2 from 6-8:30pm. Enjoy the Lighting of Memorial Park, holiday caroling led by Interlude Music beginning at 5:45pm, followed by an exciting countdown to light up the park at 6pm and then the highly anticipated Santa sighting as he arrives on a Maynard Fire Truck!  Spend the remainder of your evening walking through downtown Maynard and taking in the sights and sounds of the holidays. Many downtown businesses will be open offering shopping specials, live music, light refreshments, and more.

Don’t forget another beloved Maynard holiday tradition:  The 57th annual Holiday Parade will be held on December 3 starting at 2pm!

Visit the Maynard Business Alliance website at maynardbusinessalliance.org or follow them on Facebook (facebook.com/maynardbusinessalliance) for details. For Holiday Parade information, visit maynardholidayparade.com.
Spook

Spooktacular October with Acton Recreation

by Melissa Settipani-Rufo

ACTON: In collaboration with a local company called Pumpkin Guts Productions, Acton’s Recreation Department hosted three events this past month at NARA Park. The inaugural “Nightmare at NARA: Haunted Trail Walk in the Park” ran every Friday and Saturday in October (weather permitting). The event relied on 37 volunteers from the community, ranging in age from 12 to 80. A kid friendly “No Scare” event for young trick-or-treaters, without the scare actors and jump scares, was held on October 28. Finally, “Monsterbash,” a DJ’d dance party with costume contest, games and snacks, continued this year at NARA, on October 20. More than 1,000 people attended all of these Halloween events. If you didn’t have a chance to experience the spooks, don’t worry; the Recreation Department plans to bring back these events in 2024!

PHOTO: “The Swamp Monster” jumps out of the wetlands at “Nightmare at NARA”.


Melissa Settipani-Rufo is Acton’s Recreation Director.

Budgets, Finances, and a Possible Override at Board and Committee Meetings

by Tom Beals

ACTON: The budget and the potential for an override were again prominent at the November 2, 2023 Acton-Boxborough (AB) School Committee meeting, the November 6, 2023 Acton Leadership Group and Select Board meetings, and the November 7, 2023 Acton Finance Committee meeting. Health care costs for both Town and School personnel were discussed at the aforementioned meetings and were a major factor in budget shortfalls.

Finance Committee member Steve Noone reviewed health care costs at the November 6 Select Board meeting. Acton and the AB Regional School District self-insure through a Health Insurance Trust (HIT). The HIT, like commercial insurance companies, buys re-insurance to cover rare large claims. The collective number of
insured people is large enough that in past years, claims history has been an adequate predictor of future costs. Mr. Noone reviewed several factors that have led to unanticipated expenses.

There was reduced health care utilization during the Covid pandemic, followed by a post-pandemic surge; and after years of relatively stable prices, the recent increased inflation continues to raise medical costs. Advances in medical biology have produced
treatments of astounding and unprecedented efficacy, but those treatments have unprecedented costs. The HIT has had large claims that have not been completely covered by reinsurance. Although alternatives for medical coverage of Acton and the AB Schools are being explored, the present costs must be handled in the current and next fiscal years and that may require higher costs for covered personnel.

At the November 2 School Committee meeting, School Superintendent Peter Light gave a detailed description of increased expenses for the Acton-Boxborough Regional School District. Emphasizing that the model was not a budget proposal, Mr. Light presented a ‘level services’ model that showed what revenue would be required to maintain AB Regional School District services at the present level. Mr. Light showed dramatic cost increases in personnel, health insurance, special education tuition and transportation, and other factors. In summary, Mr. Light said, “Our expenses are projected to exceed revenues by about $7 million”. (See a related article about the November 2 School Committee meeting, written and published by the Boxborough
News.
At the November 6 Select Board meeting, Town Manager John  Mangiaratti presented a level service estimate for the town. Although Mr. Mangiaratti did not provide an explicit bottom-line deficiency, he listed a number of increases to fixed costs including replacing the Department of Public Works fueling station and funding the ongoing "Other Post Employment Benefits" (OPEB) account. Other anticipated costs include replacing a 2009-vintage Fire Department ladder truck, which has a 3-year build time. As costs are prioritized, "nice to have" vs. "need to have" evaluations will be debated. The Town Manager's recommended budget is scheduled for presentation on December 18, 2023.

The upcoming apparent budget shortfall has led to discussion of raising Acton's property taxes, which provide the majority of the town's funding. Proposition 2-1/2 limits annual property tax increases to a maximum of 2½ percent, unless the town votes to
‘override’ the limit. If town management deems it necessary to come to the voters with an override request, the Finance Committee will be asked for their opinion.

The possibility of an override was discussed at the November 7 Finance Committee meeting. Committee members noted that in the past, when the possibility of an override was foreseen, town residents–potential voters at Town Meeting–were alerted to that possibility, and were kept informed about the reasons for the requested override. Committee members wanted to understand the amount of a potential override, and to project the duration of the fiscal margin an override would provide, and seemed frustrated by the lack of definitive numbers at this stage of the financial planning cycle.
Osman

Acton Hosts Creative Placemaking Workshop

by Franny Osman

ACTON: Last winter, when the Metropolitan Area Planning Council (MAPC) was looking for two communities to participate in a Regional Trails Creative Placemaking Project , Acton stepped up. Economic and Community Development Director Julie Pierce recognized an opportunity to use art to enhance our new trails and adjacent business districts.
 
“I offered the Town of Acton as a participating town specifically because I was interested in the Technical Assistance offered by MAPC to create a strategic plan for Public Art in Acton along with the great funding for an artist to create a project here in town,” Pierce explained in an email exchange.
 
Acton and Holliston were chosen for the project, which introduces the communities to Creative Placemaking through a planning workshop and funds, and assists the towns with a temporary public art exhibit. According to the MAPC, “Creative Placemaking is a planning and community development process that occurs when planners, community development practitioners, artists, and others deliberately integrate art and culture into community revitalization work—placing arts at the table with land  use, transportation, economic development, education, housing, infrastructure, and public safety strategies.”
 
On Thursday, November 2, the Town hosted approximately twenty-five people—both employees and residents--from Acton, Holliston, Westboro, Sudbury, and Concord, for the planning workshop. The group zeroed in on one of our trails, the Bruce Freeman Rail Trail, and its relationship to the businesses, roads and residences surrounding it. MAPC staff specialists in arts and culture, transportation, economic development, humanities, and  government affairs led the group in mapping exercises and discussions about how to foster a sense of welcome and  belonging for those who live, work and play in Acton; how we can connect the Bruce Freeman Rail Trail with businesses and the town center; and the experience of (or lack of connection to) the Trail for regional visitors and people just passing through town. The Town of Acton provided a bus to bring participants to “walkshops” at three spots along the Bruce Freeman Rail Trail, where the focus was on design, signage, street crossings, and connection to the adjoining businesses.
 
Catherine Usoff, chair of the Economic Development Committee, and Ann Chang, also of the EDC, joined the event. Usoff said, “The trail is such a great resource. We need to integrate it with the businesses. We want people passing through to know what’s there.”
 
Paul Fenton, Director of Environmental and Outdoor Education at the Discovery Museum, recognizes the advantage of the museum’s proximity to trails, both in Great Hill and at the nearby Assabet River Rail Trail. He creates opportunities for museum visitors to get outside. “When you build a rail trail, your house value just went up,” he said at the workshop.
 
Pedal Power bicycle store owner Joyce Reischutz provided a business owner’s perspective. After the walks, she welcomed the visitors to her store where they saw her new automatic glass door to the Rail Trail at the rear as well as an accessible bathroom. There was a lot of discussion about how to let trail users know what store’s back end they are looking at and where amenities are, as well as let business customers know where they can rent a bike, approach the trail, park a car.
 
Reischutz is concerned about the loss of independent stores such as Gould’s, whose owners retired in May after 89 years. She pointed out how much those businesses support local activities such as Scouting and school groups. “I look and I see businesses on the edge. People don’t realize that your small businesses are your middle class, and the middle class is what supports your community.”
 
Acton Memorial Library Community Engagement Librarian Rebecca Schmidt was in her element at the workshop. “It was a nice networking opportunity with other people who work in town or live in town. We’re actually doing cool things for the future…making meaningful plans.” One participant spoke of events that might connect one town’s library to another using the Trail. Another suggested live performances along the trail. Presenters showed examples of Creative Placemaking in Natick Center, at Malden River, and at Medfield State Hospital.
 
Residents will have a chance to propose temporary outdoor art and culture activities along the trail when MAPC puts out the call for art in February and March, 2024.

PHOTO: Economic and Community Development Director Julie Pierce (left) discusses trails with staff and Select Board members  from Westboro, Lexington, and Holliston.

 
 Franny Osman is an Acton resident and vice-chair of the Minuteman Area Group for Interlocal Coordination (MAGIC) subregion of the MAPC.
Hosmer

“Acton’s Schools Then and Now” at the Hosmer House

by Alissa Nicol

ACTON: The Acton Historical Society (AHS) hosted its monthly Open House at the Hosmer House Museum on October 21, and visitors had a chance to view the new exhibit, “Acton's Schools, Then and Now.” Also on display was a poster project by two 2023 Acton Boxborough Regional High School (ABRHS) graduates, Emi Fung and Isha Agarwal, on immigration, discrimination, and changing racial demographics at ABRHS.

The schools exhibit, set up in a room at the front of the house, featured informational panels with numerous photos from the AHS collection, maps, school desks, and a slate from an Acton school. One interesting narrative outlined the “high school question” that gave rise to “legendary fighting” in the Town. In 1907, there was no high school in Acton, and the state’s intervention resulted in students in grades 10-12 being sent to Concord High School. Ella Miller reported on a 1914 Town Meeting vote of whether to build a high school in Acton, with 160 “yes” and 162 “no” votes, noting that Reverend Wood and Frank Knowlton were the “chief speakers against.” After another decade of grappling with the question of whether and where to build a secondary school, in 1925, the Acton High School program began.
 
Population growth saw Acton facing crowded classrooms in all of its schools by 1949. A room for a first grade class had to be rented at the Center Congregational church. A search for additional classroom space began. By 1951, Acton was sending two classes of second graders to Maynard schools, and another first grade class was meeting upstairs at  the Center Fire Station. Exploring the exhibit, AHS member Dick O’Neil recalled that his sister Mary, now living in Florida, attended school at the fire station. Another member, Bill Klauer, recalled attending second grade at the Coolidge school in Maynard until a fire forced students to return to West Acton to attend class in the Jenks Apartments.

Many of the schoolhouses shown in exhibit photos have long ago been torn down, but a few remain. A c. 1797 schoolhouse at 86 School Street in South Acton still stands, and is a residence. The late 1840s schoolhouse located at 239 Arlington Street was remodeled and moved to 33-35 Spruce Street, another residence. The 1839 school located at 68 Harris Street in North Acton, although a dwelling for over 100 years, was recently torn down to build the North Acton Fire Station that opened last spring. The village schools all closed between 1957 and 1959, and the growing student population was educated at the schools on the “Educational Campus” on Charter Road and, later, the “Minot Avenue School” that became Conant, as well as Gates and Douglas elementary schools (now demolished and rebuilt at the new Boardwalk Campus) in West Acton. 

One info panel provided biographies of several key figures, teachers, principals and a school physician, in the history of our schools, for whom many are named: Paul P. Gates, Luther Conant, Florence Merriam, Marion L. Towne, Julia McCarthy, and Raymond J. Grey.

Another museum visitor, Alex Chayrigues, a high school student at Concord Carlisle Regional High School, stopped by the Hosmer House to interview AHS members about Acton residents who fought in the Battle at the Old North Bridge in Concord on April 19, 1775. Chayrigues is a member of a youth leadership team of the American Battlefield Trust, a national organization working to promote battlefield preservation. He is profiling some of the soldiers who fought that day in Concord. “I’m doing a passion project,” says Chayrigues. The project will culminate in an exhibit at the Concord Free Public Library or the Concord Museum next spring.

Set up in the kitchen were several posters featuring quotes from oral histories compiled by Acton Boxborough students Fung and Agarwal this past summer. The pair interviewed ABRHS students, collected demographic information from district enrollment records, and located class photos depicting the changing face of the high school population over time, from the graduating class of 1988 to the class of 2023. One student visitor noted, “I think at least in my experience, discrimination manifested in a culture of ‘South Asian people are irrelevant to our community at best.’ And they occupy a very specific [space].” Another student recalled, “[At ABRHS] I think there was a lot of that social segregation. And it was very stratified based on race lines.” Another student opined, “It’s not necessarily actions of other people, but more of the apathy. Like I think it’s like [the feeling of] no one’s gonna look at you and see you really… lf they feel uncomfortable by your presence, they’ll ignore you.” Another student offered, “Looking back, it would have been nicer to be much more integrated with the rest of Acton and everything else. But…that’s how it was because of the social structure and the cultural structures.” Yet another student expressed, “Today, there’s a lot that goes on in Acton…and it comes from every immigrant culture. For us being immigrants, it’s fabulous to see it grow this way.” 

For more information about the Acton Historical Society, visit their website at https://www.actonhistoricalsociety.org/

PHOTO:
Visitors and AHS Members explore and discuss the “Acton’s Schools, Then and Now” exhibit at the Hosmer House Museum.
Arnum

Acton Has a New Fire Chief

ACTON: Congratulations to Fire Chief Anita Arnum! A swearing in ceremony was held October 23 at the Public Safety Facility. Chief Arnum’s appointment took effect on October 13, 2023, making her the tenth chief in the department’s history and the first woman to lead the department. Chief Arnum was sworn in by Town Clerk Eva Szkaradek, and pinned by Martha Arnum (Chief Arnum’s Mother). Town Manager John Mangiaratti, Select Board Members David Martin and Alissa Nicol, current and past members of the Acton Fire Department, Police Department employees, and staff from other departments attended the ceremony.        

Arnum began her career with the Acton Fire Department as a full-time firefighter in 1989. She was promoted to the rank of Lieutenant in January 2012 and named Captain in March 2017. She was named Deputy Chief and Town Emergency Management Director in November 2020. 

Arnum has a Bachelor's Degree in Microbiology and Chemistry from UMass Amherst, and a Bachelor's Degree in Fire Science from Anna Maria College. She is also a graduate of the Grants Management Certificate Program from Management Concepts, and a graduate of the Chief Fire Officer Training Program at the University of Massachusetts Donahue Institute. 

Arnum is a state and nationally registered paramedic, a member of the State Hazmat Response Team, and a member of the Federal Emergency Management Agency's National Search and Rescue System. She is also certified in numerous technical rescue fields, and is qualified as an instructor/trainer in EMS, hazmat, firefighting, and technical rescue. 

She is known for fostering positive relationships between town departments and the community, and constantly seeks out opportunities for the Department to train, grow, and work with other communities to stay at the forefront of technology.

PHOTO: Town Clerk Eva Szkaradek swears in Acton’s 10th Fire Chief Anita Arnum. Credit: Alissa Nicol


Republished from the Town of Acton Facebook page.  
Smh

Acton Conservation Trust’s Susan Mitchell-Hardt Receives Life-Time Achievement Award

by Nancy Knoblock Hunton

ACTON: In the 1600s, Concord farmers used the land now known as Acton as a grazing pasture for their cows and other animals. Today the community of Acton has more than 24,000 residents and depends on conservation lands to preserve open space for present and future generations. Susan Mitchell-Hardt, president of the Acton Conservation Trust (ACT) for the past 25 years, has worked hard to save local properties from development and preserve their natural resources and beauty. The nonprofit, volunteer-staffed organization she heads works closely with the town of Acton and targets priority properties to protect, based on the Town Open Space and Recreation Plan. It also offers nature-oriented events to engage the community.

ACT trains and partners with the Sudbury Valley Trustees (SVT) in land protection. In recognition of her preservation efforts, the SVT presented Mitchell-Hardt with a life-time achievement award on October 18. “Susan’s positive and abundant energy are what makes her great to work with and how she is able to accomplish so much!” says Laura Mattei, Director of Conservation for Sudbury Valley Trustees.

In a recent interview, Mitchell-Hardt recounted how her love for riding horses during her Ohio childhood led her to develop a strong connection to open space. When her family of six (plus two horses and a pony) moved to Spring Hill Farm in Acton, the surrounding area faced development pressures. Conservation-minded neighbors in Acton and Concord fought back, teaching Mitchell-Hardt valuable lessons in community action and land trusts. Starting in 1995, she participated in successful campaigns to preserve Camp Acton and the Morrison Farm. In 1998, she teamed up with Karen O’Neill to revive the Acton Conservation Trust.

After Massachusetts passed the Community Preservation Act (CPA) in 2000, Mitchell-Hardt chaired a local ballot question committee, whose efforts resulted in adoption of the CPA by the town of Acton. Due in large part to the CPA, ACT has been able to initiate projects leading to the preservation of 11 properties with more in the pipeline. Recent land acquisitions have included:  a critical portion of woods ringing Great Hill field in South Acton, 10.9 acres of scenic land along Grassy Pond and Newtown Road, and 12 acres abutting the Mt. Hope Cemetery entrance to the Heath Hen Meadow Brook Conservation Land, allowing for greater access and extension of trails.

Mitchell-Hardt has also helped lead efforts to create an Agricultural Commission in Acton and pass a Right-to-Farm bylaw. In addition to being president of ACT, she has volunteered for town committees, including Open Space, Community Preservation, and East Acton Village.

ACT begins the process of preserving land by contacting owners of “priority parcels”— those adjoining existing conservation lands or stand-alone properties. After expressing interest in conservation for their property, Mitchell-Hardt meets with the owners, and they walk the land together. Next, ACT presents a proposal to the Open Space Committee, and the Chair of the Committee brings it to the Select Board to get their buy-in.  If approved by the Select Board, it goes to town meeting for a vote. At this stage, ACT launches a campaign that includes familiarizing voters with the property, letter-writing, leading walks, fund-raising, and turning out the vote.

“These things can take 15 to 20 years from first contact to bearing fruit, so to speak,” says Mitchell-Hardt. “We plant the seed, let them know the town has a great deal of interest, and try to maintain contact on a regular basis. Then suddenly they can get inspired to sell the property for one reason or another, and it happens.”  Mitchell-Hardt uses her enthusiasm and persuasive skills to encourage owners to conserve their property. While there is a conservation land tax credit, for most people, says Mitchell-Hardt, the real incentive is “feeling good that you’ve created a legacy that might be a model for other people who want to do the same thing and can afford to.”

Susan and her husband, Dave, are still stewarding Spring Hill Farm, battling invasives, preserving the 1750 house and 1820 barn, and encouraging their children to get involved with their local land conservation trusts. Leading by example, they have recently applied for a conservation restriction on a portion of their own property.

PHOTO: Susan Mitchell-Hart, winner of a lifetime achievement award from the Sudbury Valley Trustees. Credit: Jody Harris
Piecontest

Friends of the Acton Libraries’ Apple Pie Contest

by Alissa Nicol

ACTON: The Friends of the Acton Libraries’ second annual Apple Pie Contest drew 7 entries from Acton residents, and winners were announced in the Meeting Room on the first floor of the Memorial Library on Sunday afternoon, October 29. The judging of the pies had taken place the day before under the guidance of Head Judge Joan Milnes, a member of the Acton Woman’s Club, food columnist, and former pie judge for the Topsfield Fair. Other judges included the 2022 Apple Pie Contest winners, Nethra Packiam (15 and under category) and Janet Irons (adult category), as well as Library Assistant in Patron Services, Donna White. According to Milnes, White won a prize about ten years ago for her own apple pie at the Topsfield Fair.

Milnes announced the 2023 winners to the expectant, and hungry, crowd. Cecilia Russella Pollard won the “15 and under” category with her Granny Smith, Gala and Jazz filled pie. She learned about the contest from an announcement published in the RJ Grey Jr. High newsletter. Other than a couple of practice attempts made solely in preparation for the contest, this was Russella Pollard’s first pie. She seemed very pleased with her win.

Jessica and Henry Martyn won the “general bakers all ages” category which replaced last year’s “adult” category to accommodate baking pairs. Now in 6th grade, Henry Martyn is an experienced baker, baking with his family from the age of 6 or 7. He and his mom used two apple varieties in their winning pie: about ¾ of the filling was Granny Smith and the rest Honeycrisp. An unexpected filling ingredient was a tiny bit of vanilla extract. The Martyns looked at four or five pie crust recipes before settling on a French pâte brisée recipe. Why? Jessica Martyn said it was the most straightforward and didn’t call for shortening. In support of her son’s passion for baking, she has signed Henry up for a Community Education baking series. The first class in the series will be “Apples, Apples, Apples” where Henry will be making three apple desserts. “I have at least five cookbooks,” Henry shared. He saw the announcement on the library’s electronic message board one day, and knew he wanted to enter the contest.

All attendees enjoyed a slice (or more) of pie. Whipped cream and cheddar cheese slices were available to accompany the pies, as well as cider donuts and cold apple cider. The two winning pies were gone first, of course, but it was not long before all 7 pie plates were empty. The Friends of the Acton Libraries is a volunteer organization dedicated to funding the town’s elementary, middle, and high school library budgets. To learn more about the group, visit friends-of-the-acton-libraries.square.site.

PHOTO: 2022 winners Nethra Packiam and Janet Irons and 2023 winners Henry and Jessica Martyn and Cecilia Russella Pollard stand with the pie entries and Head Judge Joan Milnes.  
Nov snow von brincken

“Creating Winter Gardens & Beyond: Using the Art of Lay-out Design”

ACTON: On November 7 at 10:30pm, Acton Garden Club will present “Creating Winter Gardens & Beyond: Using the Art of Lay-out Design” with Maria von Brincken, Landscape Designer in Acton Town Hall Room 204. Learn how to create winter gardens that delight and inspire. You’ll learn lay-out techniques that work in all seasons. Discover how to make a winter garden that is the bones of the four-season landscape.

Maria von Brincken, principle of Maria von Brincken Landscape Garden Design, is an award-winning certified designer (APLD and LI) celebrating over 30 years in professional practice. Maria specializes in beautiful earth-friendly landscapes and colorful flower gardens using native plants designed for you and your family. Trained as a fine artist, color theorist, and organic gardener Maria brings years of critical design thinking to her landscape solutions. Her design has been featured in Fine Gardening Magazine, Landscape Ideasu Can Use, Front Yard IdeaBook, and others. A former contributing editor to LandShapes Magazine, you can read her blog online at mariavonbrincken.com. Visit her website to view her portfolio and to book her Home Gardener Coaching Services and Design Planning.

This program is open to the public at 10:30am following the Acton Garden Club business meeting for members. For more information about the Acton Garden Club go to actongardenclub.org.
Evyatar

Congregation Beth Elohim Welcomes Ilan Evyatar

ACTON: For its Jewish Book Month author event, Congregation Beth Elohim welcomes Ilan Evyatar, former columnist for the Jerusalem Post. Evyatar will be speaking on 'Israel at War: Fighting the Iranian Axis' on November 5 at 10am via Zoom. To receive the zoom link, please register at www.bethelohim.org/event/book-month.You can order the book through Silver Unicorn at www.silverunicornbooks.com. There is no charge for this event, though a donation, by non-congregants to the Adult Education Fund would be appreciated. The link to donate is www.bethelohim.org/donate.
 
llan Evyatar is former editor-in-chief of the award-winning magazine The Jerusalem Report, and a former News Director, columnist, and senior contributor at The Jerusalem Post. He has edited and translated several books and has worked as a speechwriter and ghostwriter. Born in Israel and raised in London, England, he has interviewed a wide variety of top intelligence officials, as well as leading political, business, and cultural personalities. He is the co-author, with Yonah Jeremy Bob, of the recently published Target Tehran, a history of Israel's attempts to thwart Iran's nuclear weapons program, and how it leveraged mutual fear of Iran to forge alliances with Gulf Arab states.

A-B Family Network Semi-Annual Clothing Swap

ACTON: Acton-Boxborough Family Network is back with their semi-annual clothing swap, November 5 from 8-10am in the Parker Damon Building upper parking lot.
Donations will be accepted including clean, unstained newborn baby-children’s size 10/Med clothing (no socks, shoes or underwear) and gently-used maternity clothes (no undergarments). Please sort and label bags/boxes by sizes. Donation drop-offs will be accepted thru November 3 at the following locations:
 
  • Acton: 8 Heather Hill Road (Leave inside brown bench on porch);
  • Acton: 23 Evergreen Road (Leave on covered porch near porch swing);
  • Acton: 3 Pearl Street (Leave on bench on porch)
  • Boxborough: 1120 Burroughs Road (Leave in plastic bin outside garage)

This is a free and public event. Anyone can donate and any one can come "shop" the event. This is a great opportunity to come together as a community and help our neighbors. Any items remaining at the end of the event will be donated to local charities.
Mary fuhrer

Historian Mary Fuhrer Explores Daily Life in Colonial Acton

ACTON: Stop by the Acton 250 Lecture Series on November 13 at 7pm at Acton Town Hall as the Acton 250 Committee focuses on the everyday people and daily life in Acton with Mary Fuhrer. This illustrated talk will explore family, households, farms, neighbors, and the fabric of village life to recover the world of the Minutemen. It was a world far different from our own; it is the world that laid the groundwork for revolution. The Acton 250 Committee continues to sponsor a series of lectures on the history leading up to the momentous events of 1775 and 1776. The lectures will help us understand what life was like in our community in that era and share the less told stories of residents. This presentation will be available live on ActonTV and by zoom at https://actonma.zoom.us/j/81741134640. All event information is located at www.actonma.gov/250.

Mary Fuhrer is a Ph.D. social historian who for the past 30 years has interpreted village life in colonial and early Republic Massachusetts. She has authored two books and numerous articles on daily life and change in small town Massachusetts, presented at history conferences and institutes, and served as a consulting historian to Freedom’s Way, Massachusetts Humanities, and the Massachusetts Historical Society, as well as serving as the co-author of MassMoments. She was awarded the Massachusetts History Commendation for her work in public history.

PHOTO by Julie L'Heureux
Fall leaves on lawn 5 300x400

Fall Nature Gardening Tip: Leave Leaves Alone

As a rule in nature and gardening, keep leaves in place whenever possible. Leaving the leaves alone is a good way to support native pollinators and other insects and wildlife.  These valuable insects rely on the habitat fallen leaves provide, especially over the winter months.  Dead leaves also decompose creating compost that can improve soil structure and fertility. 
 
This being said, leaves need to be managed in yards to see the most benefit. Leaves shouldn't simply go unmanaged. If nothing is done, layers of fallen leaves can cause damage by blocking out light and smothering plants which can kill them. Often a little redistribution of the leaf layer to prevent a thick mat of leaves from forming is all that is needed to prevent this type of damage. Excessively thick layers of leaves (greater than 6 to 8 inches) may need to be reduced or removed. Whenever possible move them to mulched garden areas with fewer leaves or create a compost pile onsite to keep all that beneficial organic matter in your yard.
 
Mow-mulching the leaves on the lawn has many advantages, including reducing noise and greenhouse gases, and enhancing the health of your yard. The shredded/mulched leaf material  creates valuable compost, which enriches the topsoil. Leaf mulching also limits spreading dust and contaminants into the air and saves you time and money. The benefits of mulching the leaves into the lawn are numerous and scientifically proven.  Mulching:
  • is quieter and cleaner than leaf blowing;
  • reduces the need for fertilizer and avoids water pollution by reducing phosphorus and fertilizer leaching;
  • reduces the safety hazard of piled up or bagged leaves on the roadsides and saves taxpayer money for municipal leaf collection;
  • improves soil structure, water retention and percolation;
  • encourages the grass roots to penetrate more deeply, improving grass health; and
  • makes the lawn more resilient to weather events like drought and flooding.

Don't blow... mow! 
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The Walk Against Hate Rally

by Bob & Janet Furey

ACTON: “The opposite of love is not hate, it's indifference. The opposite of art is not ugliness, it's indifference. The opposite of faith is not heresy, it's indifference. And the opposite of life is not death, it's indifference.”

With this quotation from Elie Wiesel, Sen. Jamie Eldridge opened the Walk Against Hate Rally at Acton-Boxborough Regional High School at 2pm on October 15.
Sen. Eldridge, Rabbi Braham David, Reverend Eleanor Terry, Rabbi Jonah Steinberg, and Sukanuka Phoenix spoke of a series of hateful actions that have occurred in the local area over the past several years: anti-semitic graffiti, racism against Black and Muslim students, and efforts to ban LGBTQ books at the library.
The rally, planned since April 2023 by a number of local religious, educational, and civic groups, was a response to intolerance and prejudice.

With world events of early this month, the rally seemed even more poignant.
The sun cleared the heavy gray clouds to the south as the crowd headed out from the high school toward Gardner Field, a mile to the west. A giant “WALK AGAINST HATE” banner led the parade for the 2:30 start.

The breeze kept walkers cool, and a police escort kept them safe crossing and following Rt 111. Some 600 participants walked, scooted, or rode along the 20-minute route.

Strangers chatted with strangers, friends supported one another, and drivers beeped as they passed the parade. Volunteers wearing orange safety vests  and blue and white “WALK AGAINST HATE” t-shirts and buttons, stood at corners or guided the crowd along the sidewalk.

Blue and white hand-held New England ADL placards advertising the walk with an appeal to “Join the Acton-Boxborough Community” and full-color “DIVERSITY IS STRENGTH” posters hovered above walkers.

Many people displayed hand-made signs pleading for peace: “In a World of Hate…Create a Legacy of HOPE.”  “NO place for HATE.” “BLACK LIVES MATTER.” “HALT HATE.” “ACTON TENANTS OPPOSE HATE.” “LOVE NOT HATE.” Some wore shirts urging “PEACE” and “LOVE LOUD.”

The walk ended at the Gardner Field after 3:00 for song, snacks, and water refills as children moved to the structures at the playground.

At 3:30 Rep Simon Cataldo offered concluding remarks and began by saying, “I stand before you as a state representative, as a father. A husband. A son. But above all of those things, as a Jew. A descendant of Abraham. A tiny little speck in thousands of years in my people’s history.”

Cataldo spoke of the pain he was feeling since the massacre of Israelis by Hamas, but his message was not one of hate or revenge. Rather it was a call for social justice.

He spoke of learning the meaning of “tikkun olam” which requires all Jews to attempt to “repair the world.” Cataldo explained that, “the command of tikkun olam knows no color or creed or gender. That hate against any one group is a threat to all groups.”

He went on to note the “beautiful” diversity of the Acton community and spoke of the need for allies in the battle against hate. Specifically, Cataldo recognized the Acton-Boxborough school superintendent, Peter Light, as an ally for his thoughtful October 12 email which “…elicited fundamental truth and moral clarity.”

Cataldo’s final words were ones of community. “To those of you who are parents of Jewish children, and who worry, I’m with you. To the children who have seen swastikas on chalkboards in your schools, I’m with you. To the Muslim parents who think back to 9/11 and remember the hate that followed, and worry about your children, I’m with you. To the allies, I see you, and I’m with you. I’ll always be with you, for many reasons, but most of all, because I’m a Jew.”

The rally was sponsored by forty local organizations and planned by Congregation Beth Elohim in Acton, Church of the Good Shepherd, New England Anti-Defamation League, and Acton-Boxborough Regional School District’s Diversity Equity and Inclusion director.

PHOTO: Rep. Simon Cataldo speaks at Gardner Field in West Acton during the Walk against Hate. (Franny Osman)
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Brainstorming Session about a Potential South Acton Cultural District

by Franny Osman

ACTON: On October 15, seventeen people came together in Exchange Hall in Acton to brainstorm about a potential South Acton Cultural District, a gathering hosted by the Acton Boxborough Cultural Council (ABCC). Sergiy Georgiyev, co-owner of Magenta Dance Place, offered the third floor historic dance hall for the meeting and joined the discussion.

Representatives of Iron Work Farm (stewards of the Jones Tavern and Faulkner Homestead),  Discovery Museum, ABCC, Acton Boxborough United Way, and a few local business owners, artists, and interested residents heard a presentation by Jin Yang, chair of the ABCC, on what comprises a Cultural District according to the Mass Cultural Council and what steps the community would take to create one. The primary goals of a Mass Cultural Council Cultural District are to:

• Attract artists and cultural enterprises
• Encourage business and job development
• Establish the district as a tourist destination
• Preserve and reuse historic buildings
• Enhance property values
• Foster and preserve local cultural development.

Attendees participated in a brainstorming session where they were encouraged to share wild, expansive ideas about the  cultural future of South Acton, and not to “poopoo” anyone’s fantasies. The fact that Exchange Hall itself is for sale served as inspiration for some of the creative ideas about what South Acton could look like in the future.

Participants asked questions about what boundaries the district would have; which land or buildings are vacant; what partners might be engaged; how transportation could enhance access to the area.

If the ideas shared that night were actualized, high school students would dance at a ball; families would walk from the Discovery Museum to a nearby café; artists would show their work in galleries; students would perform at outdoor stages; train riders would enjoy discounts at local establishments—or reduced train tickets; local residents would walk to stores; people would walk under the Main St. bridge; and strollers would visit a historic park along Fort Pond Brook, not only at the 53 River St. site but at a “hidden gem” called the Sawmill Lot, which one resident raved about. Train enthusiasts and historic tourists would find exhibits; folk dancers would enjoy an event at Magenta Dance Place; visitors would use new maps, directories, and improved signs as they navigated paths decorated with flowers in planters.

As a next step, ABCC will convene a second meeting, with the hope that an organizational team emerges to carry the project forward. The group was aware that some creators of Cultural Districts use consultants to help with the application process. The Mass Cultural Council provides funding for local districts. Not so long ago, the West Acton Village Merchants Association did just this, and was close to approaching the Select Board with an application for a West Acton Cultural District when the pandemic began. Jin Yang pointed out that some towns, for example Concord, have more than one Cultural District. It was at a tour of the West Concord Junction Cultural District, hosted by Massachusetts Cultural Council Executive Director Michael J. Bobbitt and State Rep. Simon Cataldo, that the idea of a South Acton district was first broached. Jin Yang, Select Board Member Alissa Nicol, and Franny Osman organized Sunday’s meeting. If readers are interested in attending the next meeting about a South Acton Cultural District, they should write to abccinformation@gmail.com.

Franny Osman is a member of the South Acton Vision Advisory Group. 
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West Acton Oktoberfest Celebrates Community Spirit & Local Businesses

by Dr. Pam Jarboe

ACTON: West Acton came alive on October 14 as residents and visitors gathered to celebrate the annual Oktoberfest. This highly anticipated event showcased the village's greatest asset, its community spirit. In recent years, Oktoberfest has often not been held due to the pandemic and the renovations to Gardner Field Playground. Many volunteers showed up in the early morning hours Saturday to help neighbors recreate this gathering.

With a wide range of activities, delicious food, and live entertainment, the festival provided a memorable experience for all attendees. One of the highlights of Oktoberfest was the opportunity for local businesses to showcase their products and services. From charming animal balloons from Critter Sitters to the steady deliciousness of New London Pizza, the festival provided a platform for many establishments to connect with the community and share their offerings.

The True West Brewery, known for its warm ambiance and exceptional brews, served people in an outdoor café area where festival-goers could enjoy a brew and good company, enticing visitors to take a moment to savor the flavors and engage in conversations with friends and neighbors.

Another local gem, The Silver Unicorn Bookstore, transported their storefront into a mini book oasis, offering festival attendees a chance to peruse a curated selection of books. "We wanted to create an opportunity to grab a good book while enjoying the festivities," shared owner Paul Swydan.

Annette Lochrie, WAVMA Secretary and advocate for local businesses, shared her thoughts on the significance of Oktoberfest for West Acton. "Events like Oktoberfest are crucial for fostering a sense of community and supporting our local economy. They provide an opportunity for residents to come together, celebrate our town's unique character, and discover the incredible businesses that make West Acton thrive."

 WAVMA President Dr. Pam Jarboe added, "Small businesses are the backbone of our community. They not only contribute to our local economy but also create a sense of place and identity. Oktoberfest serves as a reminder of the incredible talent and passion that exists within our town. I truly think that West Acton Village is a destination and a GREAT Place To Spend A Day.”

Dr. Pam Jarboe is a chiropractor in Acton and President of the West Acton Village Merchants Association.
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Latinos Group Enjoys Dances from a Bariety of Latin Cultures

by Maribel Mendoza

ACTON:The Acton Latino Family Network, founded by longtime Acton resident Zoila Ricciardi, serves as a welcoming haven for all Latinos and is dedicated to building a close-knit community while offering support to one another. The group has been meeting informally once a month at the Acton Memorial Library and seeks to foster connections and share helpful information. The network, which informally calls itself the "AB Latinos group," is an inclusive space, open to all.

During their October 8 gathering, the group enjoyed a performance from “AB Tradiciones Unidas” a dynamic Latin American dance group comprising elementary students from Acton and Boxborough, led by Natalia Castillo. These young performers brought Latin America's vibrant cultural tapestry to life through their energetic performance, showcasing dances from Mexico, Colombia, Venezuela, Puerto Rico, and Peru. Much like the larger AB Latinos group, AB Tradiciones Unidas aims to promote a sense of community while immersing themselves in the rich cultural traditions of Latin America through music and dance.

The AB Latinos group symbolizes unity and cultural pride, offering a sense of belonging essential to our Acton and Boxborough communities.

Join the next AB Latinos group meeting to build connections and celebrate our diverse community while fostering a strong sense of community and support. The next event will be on November 4th,  at the Acton Memorial Library Meeting Room, and will celebrate the Mexican Día de los Muertos (Day of the Dead).

PHOTO: Elementary School performers at the October meeting of the Acton Latino Family Network. (Maribel Mendoza)

Maribel Mendoza is a parent of an AB Tradiciones Unidas dancer.