Dan McKanan’s remembrance of the environmental movement in the 19th century resonates with climate change and conservation issues that we face now (“A century before the first Earth Day, there was the Forest Festival in the Middlesex Fells,” Ideas, April 10). The seeds of complacency McKanan references have borne decaying fruit today, as Massachusetts ranks last in the United States in per capita spending on parks, according to the UMass Donahue Institute’s December 2021 Department of Conservation and Recreation Special Commission Report. Organizations such as Friends of the Fells that are cited in McKanan’s piece have been strong voices for the environment, but DCR controls the parks, and the agency doesn’t have adequate resources to succeed.
We recommend a three-pronged approach to reviving DCR’s capacity, based on the special commission’s recommendations. First, the state’s executive branch should quarterback an effort to restore faith in DCR. Second, DCR should carry out the strategic plan recommended by the commission. Third, the Legislature should substantially increase resources to DCR.
Commonwealth budget surpluses, American Rescue Plan Act funds, and federal infrastructure dollars provide a once-in-a-generation opportunity to reverse the tide of neglect and to reclaim the park system originally envisioned by Elizur Wright, Frederick Law Olmsted, and other parks pioneers. We urge state officials to act now to rescue our state parks, before it’s too late.
Jeffrey N. Buxbaum, chair
Chris Redfern, executive director
Friends of the Middlesex Fells Reservation