Rock Meadow Can Only Remain Open With The Public’s Cooperation

Photo: Walking dogs at Rock Meadow, Belmont

By Mary Trudeau

Conservation Commission’s agent

In this period of social distancing, public open space provides a valuable respite for citizens experiencing the loss of “normality.” While the Belmont Conservation Commission remains committed to keeping Rock Meadow open and available to residents, the current pandemic has increased meadow usage well beyond normal expectations. While the majority of users are maintaining social distancing guidelines and following the regulations governing the use of the meadowlands, a minority of users are not adhering to the rules. These issues must be addressed if Rock Meadow is to remain open.

Belmont requires all dogs to be leashed. Currently, at Rock Meadow, many dogs are not being leashed, and are running freely throughout the grasslands. Unleashed dogs are dangerous for walkers and dangerous to other dogs. In recent weeks, running dogs have knocked over children, frightened people and otherwise interfered with the safe use of the Meadow. As it is uncertain whether pets can transmit the virus on their fur, or by other means, loose dogs are problematic on a public health level, as well as being illegal in Belmont. Fines of up to $500 per offense can be issued for the failure to leash your dog in Belmont.

Another concern is that dog feces are not being picked up consistently. Some of this is a function of dogs running freely, and the culture of the meadow is being misunderstood by the influx of new visitors.  Fecal contamination throughout the Meadow is a risk to ground and surface waters, as well as to people and wildlife. The Commission has installed a “poop station” at the Mill Street entrance, and we pay for the poop cans to be emptied weekly. The Commission is concerned that if this feces situation worsens, Rock Meadow will become a public health hazard, forcing the closure of the Meadow to all.  

Please stay on the paths. While the COVID virus is at the forefront of our minds, Lyme disease remains rampant in this area. The grasslands along the paths are a source of ticks. The current pattern of users leaving the established paths and traversing the grassy portions of the meadow is increasing contact between humans, dogs and ticks. Ticks are particularly problematic this spring due to the mild weather experienced this winter.  The shortened freeze period has fostered the development of an early and intense tick infestation. Pedestrians and dogs running through the meadowlands, off of the designated paths, are likely to pick up ticks and tick-borne illnesses. 

More than 50 years ago, the Belmont Conservation Commission successfully urged Town Meeting to contribute to the purchase of this land from McLeans Hospital, recognizing the need to preserve this “last piece of open space in the congested and overbuilt Town of Belmont.” Over the past two decades, the Conservation Commission has worked tirelessly to improve and maintain Rock Meadow, an environmentally sensitive resource area.  The Commission recognizes the importance of having open space available, particularly during periods of social isolation. Unfortunately, the current abuses at Rock Meadow are unsustainable. We would hate to close the Meadow, but we need visitors to step up and protect the resource area. Leash your dogs. Pick up poop and discard it in the appropriate containers.  Stay on the paths. Check yourself for ticks. Maintain social distancing.

Thank you for your cooperation. Let’s keep Rock Meadow safe and accessible for all during this challenging time.  

After Review, PGA Rejects Rock Meadow for Golf Tournament Parking

Photo: Rock Meadow Conservation Land. 

A plan to use town conservation land off upper Concord Avenue to park nearly 1,000 vehicles during an upcoming professional golf tournament at Belmont Country Club in June has been abandoned, according to an email from the town’s conservation agent to a resident.

“At this point in time, the Conservation Commission will not be using Rock Meadow as a parking area for the Constellation golf tournament,” Mary Trudeau, Belmont’s conservation officer, wrote to Jeff Miller today, Tuesday, April 21.

Trudeau did not return a call from the Belmontonian for comment. 

According to Belmont Town Administrator David Kale, the PGA decided after reviewing the anticipated traffic coming to and from Belmont and the “complications of the site” on the number of vehicles onto the site, to relocate the majority of the parking to another area nearby. 

“The PGA is always looking at alternatives and they found one that suits their needs a little bit better,” said Kale.

It is unknown where the parking will be situated. 

The change comes a week after the Belmont Conservation Commission narrowly approved a conditional agreement to allow the Professional Golf Association Tour (PGA) to use approximately 11 acres of Rock Meadow Conservation Land for up to 1,000 parking spaces to support crowds attending the Constellation Senior Players Championship, one of the five “major” tournaments of the PGA’s Champions Tour for players over 50 years old.

The tournament will take place from Thursday, June 11 to Sunday, June 14 at the Belmont Country Club. 

During the debate whether to approve the conditional agreement – any fees to use the meadow would be placed in the ConCom’s Victory Garden reserve account to pay for the biannual mowing – Trudeau said the town forces her “to go begging” for grants and other funding to maintain the land as Belmont does not provide monies to the ConCom.

After news of the agreement was made public, several residents questioned the vote to place upwards of 1,000 cars in three locations on the meadow.

The PGA’s decision was welcomed news to those who felt the number of vehicles could lead to pollution and damage to nearby wetlands. 

“For both public policy and environmental reasons, I’m pleased that the decision appears to have been reversed.  Now I’d like to see the town add a budget item for meadow maintenance, and I also encourage all users to donate to the Friends of Rock Meadow,” Miller, a Precinct 1 Town Meeting member, told the Belmontonian. 

ConCom Approves Parking on Rock Meadow for Major Golf Tournament

Photo: The location on Rock Meadow where parking will be located for a golf tournament in June.

The Belmont Conservation Commission narrowly approved a conditional agreement to allow the Professional Golf Association Tour (PGA) to use approximately 11 acres of Rock Meadow Conservation Land off upper Concord Avenue for up to 1,000 parking spaces to support a major golf tournament taking place at Belmont Country Club during the second week of June.

The 3-2 vote came after an hour in which the commission members and Conservation Agent Mary Trudeau debated whether the land – never used for such an activity – would be damaged by vehicular pollution or whether a “yes” vote would set a bad precedence versus the commission’s real need for outside funding to continue the upkeep of the land and the nearby Victory Gardens.

“I am literally begging to find grants and money as the [Town Meeting] doesn’t give [the Conservation Commission] a penny,” said Trudeau, in an impassioned plea to the board to pass the proposal.

The approval came with the proviso that all fees for using the meadow will be placed in the Conservation Commission’s Victory Garden Revolving Account to provide money to mow the meadow.

With the Commission’s approval, the PGA and the town – through its Town Administration Office – will begin negotiations on a contract that will include both fees for parking and for other town services. In addition, the PGA has made considerable charitable contributions to municipalities and

The PGA is scheduled to meet with the Belmont Police Department on Thursday, April 16, to discuss required traffic control and details.

Rock Meadow is 70 acres of public conservation land that includes a meadow, wetlands, streams and woods. It is a part of the Western Greenway, a corridor of undeveloped green spaces that connects the towns of Belmont, Waltham and Lexington. It is a favorite place for hiking, birding, biking, picnicking, cross-country skiing, and community gardening.

The meeting began with a presentation from the PGA’s Joe Rotellini and Geoff Hill to give a highlights of the Constellation Senior Players Championship, one of the five “major” tournaments for older (those on the PGA’s Champions Tour for players over 50 years old) but still very popular golfers such as Bernhard Langer, Tom Watson, Fred Couples and Vijay Singh.

Rotellini, who oversees the day-to-day operation of the tournament, told the commissioners that people will come out to see the marque players and it’s critical to have parking in the area. He stated that the PGA was also in negotiations with other nearby communities for parking.

As part of its extensive management plan, the PGA will require parking from Tuesday, June 9 to Sunday, June 14 with the number of vehicles “ramps up” during the four days of the actual tournament, starting on Thursday, June 11, said Rotellini.

The temporary parking lot will begin to accept cars at approximately 7:30 a.m. with most vehicles departing by sunset. During the week, Winter Street from Concord Avenue to Route 2 will be one-way towards Lexington.


The parking plan will be laid out by a professional management firm hired by the PGA. Under the plan envisioned by the Tour, a pair of temporary curb cuts will be placed along Concord Avenue near the intersection of Winter Street (see image) that will allow a one-way circular loop where a shuttle bus will pick up attendees and deliver them to the country club. The cut will require moving large rocks that occupy the spaces.

“It is a temporary roadway that may require stones if it rains,” said Trudeau.

That portion of the North Meadow will be the location of the largest of three parking areas, used by 700 vehicle spaces from June 9 to 14. The activity will likely require moving a proposed sheep grazing site. (see image)


The second lot, expected to be used from June 12 to June 14, is what most residents recognize as Rock Meadow adjacent to the Mill Street entrance and the Victory Gardens. Up to 250 vehicles can use this location.

A final, and smallest, parking area will be located to the south of the first two sites, accompanying 150 spaces. Rotellini said if it does rain during the event, it’s unlikely to use the second and third areas as crowd numbers will be dampened.

In addition to setting up and roping off the parking areas, the PGA is insured up to $10 million, is set to acquire all permits, will bring in public restrooms and trash containers which will be cleaned at the end of each day, and have the necessary number of shuttle buses available to allow for 10 minutes between trips.

Rotellini said he and Trudeau have had discussions on repairing and restoring the meadow for any damage beyond the normal wear and tear expected from the activity that week. He said the property will be video recorded before the land is used to resolve any problems.

“We are the PGA tour. We do things the right way,” said Rotellini, saying the PGA hopes to create a working relationship with Belmont so when the tour hopefully returns – the Senior Players Championship will be in other locations in 2016 and 2017 – “we can rekindle those partnerships.”

Trudeau said she had discussed the proposal with Belmont Town Counsel George Hall, who judged that there didn’t appear to be a conflict using conservation land, granted to the town via state charter, for this activity.

Commissioner Margaret Velie asked if it wouldn’t be prudent to request a review with the state’s Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs “because it is conservation land.”

In addition, she expressed concern for restoring the land and the possible release of pollution by the vehicles while on the meadow for up to six days.

Following on Velie’s line, David Webster said Rock Meadow was created “for passive recreation uses,” and by approving the plan, “how do tell our neighbors they can’t use the meadow for another uses?”

“This will set a bad precedence. What’s next? Soccer fields? Dog parks?” he said.

But Commission Chair James Roth said he didn’t see any long-term problems from having the vehicles on the site as the “hard and firm” soil is similar to farmland “just that we’re growing grass.”

For Trudeau, the concerns of conservation and possibly opening the area for other activity were trumped by the desperate financial state the commission finds itself. She noted that Belmont is an outlier from surrounding communities as it does not fund the Conservation Commission – what she called “our zero budget” – to pay for the necessary upkeep of the land.

“We’re in a tight spot, and there is no willingness by Town Meeting to fund us,” said Trudeau.

The PGA’s Rotellini reiterated that through the Tour’s “charitable side” that gives to locales where events take place, a donation to fund two years of necessary mowing – approximately $2,000 – could be forthcoming.

“That’s what interests us,” he said.

When it appeared that the commissioners were evenly split 2-2 on the measure – with Miriam Weil joining Roth willing to vote to approve the plan – Commissioner Charles Chiang arrived and immediately voted “yes” to move the plan forward.

The plan now goes to the town where a contract is expected by April 28.

Public Meeting on Intergenerational Walking Path at Clay Pit Pond

The Belmont Conservation Commission is sponsoring a public, interactive meeting with BETA Group to review initial design for Intergenerational Walking Path at Clay Pit Pond.  BETA Group, the landscape architects selected to create the phased Master Plan will be attending the meeting.  The meeting is open to the public.  This is a great opportunity to work with a professional design team and help create a community park at Clay Pit Pond.

The Community Preservation Act has funded this project to produce a phased, master plan to create a fully accessible, intergenerational walking path at Clay Pit Pond. As part of the proposal, the Commission continues to sponsor meetings to include suggestions and comments from local officials and residents interested in the Clay Pit Pond park.  The meeting will review the progress on the Master Plan, as drafted by BETA Group.