Concord Oral History Program
Renee Garrelick, Interviewer.
Mr. Monahan has recently retired as Superintendent of the Natural Resources Department where he has served for 30 years.
When I arrived in the fall of 1967, I was actually the first professional staff person that was hired by the town to deal with environmental matters. This was the result of a lot of efforts by many Concordians working with the Town Manager and the Board of Selectman. With Town Meeting approval, the Town put together the Conservation Commission at that time which was created by Tom Flint. In fact Tom was a real initiator of the conservation movement in the Commonwealth. Also the Town Forest Committee, these two groups had been on their own and they were brought together and it was called the Natural Resources Commission. Furthermore, they were looking for more support in the tree crew. Actually there was not a tree warden at that time. Charlie Myette who had served that purpose for many years died of a long illness, and there was a vacancy and they needed some leadership. The town had also been acquiring quite a fair amount of conservation land through the efforts of the Conservation Commission, and they were looking for someone who was experienced and able at managing those properties. So when I came on board I was not only the first staff person for the town, but also the first professional environmentalist to work on the municipal level for anyone in the Commonwealth which was quite an honor.
I would say we had many challenges then. A lot of them were tree based and land based. A tree crew was a very hard working crew. There were actually seven men who worked under me. There was a foreman and we were a fully equipped crew. At that time we were facing the Dutch elm disease which was really ravaging the whole town as it had for quite a number of years. Our real challenges were unfortunately to remove the larger trees that had succumbed to that. Furthermore we were facing the removal of many of the over mature other tree species that were a result of planting efforts back in the mid-1800s when the Concord Ornamental Society planted many of our roadsides that were essentially bare of trees up to that point. So it was the removal of trees, the pruning of trees, the caring for trees and the planning for trees as well as supervising a challenging group of arborists and tree people who are noted to be challenges to work for. You have to be pretty crazy to hand climb these large elm trees. That kept me very busy. Plus we were actively managing conservation at this time. It took a great deal of pride and effort in seeing that the trails were properly managed and maintained and the signs were up and the trees were thinned and pruned. We never did get into commercial harvesting of trees but that was a really big part of it. Furthermore, land acquisition was still an effort the town was pursuing with great vigor and with considerable success. Those were the major areas that we were looking at.
At the time I came Paul Flynn was the Town Manager. Of course, he was kind of a mentor for me at that time. The town was much smaller and being hired as the head of this new department, I essentially was a staff person to the Town Manager, and we met very frequently and he confided in me a lot and asked for my input on quite a variety of issues, many of which ranged far from conservation and environment. The same was true of his successor, Steve Sheiffer. In fact it's interesting when I was first hired by the town, I was just stuck in the second floor of 133 Keyes Road which is where the public works office is, just in a desk that was thrown in with enough room for me to sit in. The secretarial support that I had was Eleanor Decker who was the Town Manager's secretary at the Town House, which made it very inconvenient but at that point I was doing much more field work and working with the crew and could manage on my own. Things certainly wouldn't be that way in this day and age.
When I arrived in 1967 the town prided itself on a lot of very rural roads including dirt roads. In the Virginia Road area that was pretty wild country I must say, the piggery of the Andersons and the horse farm of the Roddays. College Road, the lower portion of it near Barrett's Mill was a very nice little rural road and the same was true of Garfield Road, which is still a pretty nice road today. At that point we were just starting to see a lot of the development on some of the farmlands which began in the Virginia Road area and other areas where the farmlands were converted into housing. It made a substantial change but the town was much more rural. The people talked about preserving the open rural character all the time. That still lingers on these days. I think it was very pleasant especially for me coming down from New Hampshire, it was a much more homey type of feeling the community had. Since then some of the changes that jump out at me are Concord Greene in West Concord was a real major change. I recall driving out Main Street westerly crossing Route 2 and just before you entered into the village of West Concord, on the right was this very nice farm that Comeau's had with a farmhouse surrounded with some elm trees, it was a very nice setting. Now as you know, there are some 250 condo units in that area. And driving a little further where the White Hen Pantry and the West Concord Shopping area are (the Derby farm) that was a nice large house with once again some elm trees, and that's changed a lot of the character.
Also I've spent a lot of time on the rivers. The development of the hospital and the Deaconess complex have certainly changed the rural type character of the community as people travel along Route 2 and also on the rivers, that has really dominated the landscape. I marvel at the woodlands that were down off of Old Marlboro Road now where the Peabody School is and just beyond Sanborn School. That was some pretty wild country there and that's certainly has changed extensively with development.
Furthermore the roadsides to me being an arborist and forester were much more attractive because we still had some of the elm tree-lined streets remaining in the town when I first came. Elm Street and Commonwealth Avenue particularly. Maple Street in West Concord still had sugar maple trees on it. In fact our street here, Grove Street, had its sugar maples too. Many of those succumbed with the use of road salt, old age and conflicts with utility wires and that's changed the character. One thing that I look back at is the change of utility wires over the years. We deal with them being involved in the shade tree management. When I first came, cross arm construction was very common where you had the big cross arms and so there was a lot of visual appearance. Then the technology changed with the fiber optic cable for the telephone communications and other systems for the light plant. But what's happened in recent times there has been such a boom in communications and demand on electrical systems that we find more and more overhead utility wires that I find personally increasingly visually offensive. As I look along Lowell Road, it seems more now like a utility corridor that's built for houses and all of those electrical and other lines that are there. The underground wiring just hasn't kept up with expectations. So that's been to me quite a change in visual character.
I have not liked the towers that have appeared in our community. We are committed to open spaces and environment and it was difficult for me to accept the tower up on Annursnac Hill but I can realize the need for that. It was particularly disturbing to have the very large lighted tower that's on the public works yard here. In our neighborhood of Barrett's Mill Road and Route 2 that receives emergency calls from the Route 495 complex and those towers really do change the character of the town. I, of course, mention this because of the upcoming conflict and controversies over the cell phone towers that are required, but to this date we only have two major visible towers in the town. Of course, some of the other buildings have their own like the public works building. So I've seen the character of the town change a great deal.
It's been frustrating for me wanting to preserve the agricultural areas in town to see some of them lost, to see the wild habitat areas intruded upon. I think it has had a significant effect on the community in many, many ways. It's less of the homey community, but there's a lot more to it than that. I think some of the changes aren't just because of lesser amount of open space. For instance the change in the recreational activities in the town. When I first came, the attitude of the town was more let's just keep open space areas for people to recreate in. The recreation department for instance did manage Emerson and Rideout Playgrounds and was just starting at South Meadow a little bit and they had a couple of lesser playgrounds, but the idea was just let's have space where people can play. The same is true with conservation lands in areas. They just wanted places where people could go out and walk. A lot of kids when they came home would go off and fish and some would actually hunt still and just do things out in the woods that kids do. Now of course, with the playgrounds the town has a full time, very large and well equipped crew that maintains all of that instead of when I first arrived, the town just hired one man with a pickup truck who managed the playgrounds during the summer months. The public works department had a big seven gang ride-on rotary mower that one of their employees would get on at the beginning of the growing season and mow all summer long. Other than that if people wanted to have a goal post to play soccer or have a field lined, they would do that themselves. If the little league wanted their fields lined, they would do it. But times have changed an awful lot.
Getting back to the open space, I think a lot of the kids don't feel comfortable about going in their yards and they can't find these backyards to go into to. There are more structured activities for them, and of course more television and computers to play with and organized games and more pressure on studies. The shortage of land kind of relates I think to a lot of the growing up of youngsters. If you carry that on a little further, I think it is appropriate to note back in the late ‘60s and early ‘70s when there was such a focus on the environment, people were still building small houses, the developers were not so pushy and they were much more laid back. If you suggested to them, well, gee maybe 10 houses are too much there, maybe we could deal with six or seven, they were very willing even though legally they might be able to do it -- produce the number of houses to better fit into the property. Then the homeowners and the builders themselves would look to building smaller houses and try to put them into the environment so they settled in. Actually before I arrived, the Conantum area was an example where they just tucked these houses into one of Thoreau's favorite wooded areas. I would hate to think what would have happen if Conantum were developed today because today's approach is more like let's bulldoze down all the trees and the topography and let's create our own landscape and let's put in these large houses and dominate them. So rather than fitting into the environment like they did years ago in a very accommodating way, people tend to want to establish their own little domain that they've built around what they wanted to do. I think that is a real major change. It will continue to impact the town for many years. I don't think townspeople fully realize how much the community will change because as houses are sold, we will see a lot more people coming in to bulldoze down the smaller, older houses that were nestled in on larger lots. Instead very large structures will be built with manicured landscapes that don't blend in so well to the environment from our perspective.
You remember also everybody used to look after their own yard. They would have small yards and they would mow the lawns themselves or get their kids to do it or a neighbor's kid to do it, and nowadays, I think it would really be interesting to see how many people are employed in Concord maintaining landscapes of these properties. That's probably one of our biggest employment opportunities for people. These yard areas along with the houses are getting much bigger and from the environmental perspective much more consumptive of environmental open space and materials and the like.
There is no question that Concord has done a wonderful job with the acquisition of open space. On the other hand I wouldn't ignore the successes in many other communities too, especially in recent times. Many towns that we don't recognize being major preservers of open space land has accomplished some great things. Billerica for instance. Acton our neighboring community has done a great deal. But Concord over the years has been extremely fortunate in acquiring the land. I often think back at the celebration of the town's 350th birthday with the acquisition of Fairyland, which is right across from the high school and next to Route 2 on Walden Street. At that point it was 78 acres and since then it has been added onto so that holding now is over 150 acres. It's been a place that's been favored by Concordians for many years. I've seen a lot of uses change there, but it is still used a great deal.
Hapgood Wright in 1935 set aside money I believe for 50 years to come forward and use the money which is very small now. It's like $2000 and the interest off that would be used toward celebrating in the town. We were very fortunate that the money went for the acquisition of the Hapgood Wright Town Forest. I think the townspeople had the vision. He had set aside the money for them because he had a very strong commitment from the townspeople that I think carries through to this day. In fact the town did vote to acquire the Mattison Field property in the old Nine Acre Corner area, 43 acres of very valuable land valued at probably $3.9 million. That's a major commitment of the town towards that to raise $1.2 million to purchase that. So the effort in that regard has continued. Other major purchases of course were the purchase of the Punkatasset conservation land in the early ‘70s, some 92 acres off Monument Street. It was the major coup at that point because it is a symbolic area that is kind of at the entrance way into the Estabrook Woods which was owned by Harvard University, a very beloved piece of property in our area. The Annursnac land that we actually also purchased from Harvard University up off Strawberry Hill Road around the same time was used by the Department of Physics and Applied Sciences to do a lot of their research. I was pleased to be involved with that which was actually a larger acquisition. As we look over the years, there have been many, many acquisitions a lot of which frankly had been pursued and successfully pursued thanks to the efforts of neighbors and other people who really care for the property. Many times they came to the town as a result of threats that they might be developed and converted into housing uses, and that has motivated a lot of people to feel that it is critical to save their neighborhood areas from continuing development. On the other hand we've also been fortunate that a number of land owners have been, especially in the earlier years, very supportive of selling land or giving land to the town for much less than their actual worth. To them land was just such an important resource that they didn't want to see it destroyed.
Since the land trust increased in their activity, they've tended to be kind of the recipient in more of these lands than initially. I've worked closely with the Conservation Land Trust. They've been very successful in their missions that have focused on land acquisitions and also obtaining conservation restrictions. Many times it's daily that I'm involved in a project that they're involved with. Just today I can think of three or four issues that I was involved with the land trust. They've been successful and doing a wonderful job and I sure hope they continue. It's an increasing challenge. The past two years with the efforts they did on the Mattison Field acquisition and the year before with the Estabrook Woods efforts were kind of real milestones for the land trust. We all do need to work together.
One thing I would like to add that I think is an interesting perspective and it surprises me in some ways and that is that a lot of people nowadays just assume that all land should be open and accessible for them to walk on because why would you have land unless you can use it for active recreation purposes. This you know is a real change. When I first came to town, the real commitment was to try to preserve land for land's sake and for the environment. We were thinking about preserving wildlife habitat, we were thinking about protecting lands that serve for flood protection and flood storage that would attenuate pollution in wetland areas that were aesthetically pleasing. All of these other sorts of issues. Certainly we thought it would be great if people could walk through them, but we didn't really go out and buy land because this was a place where people could walk. Nowadays if people can't either walk on it or really see it all the time, they say why own it and why bother to be involved with it. I think they're missing the bigger picture.
One part of the picture that we kind of touched on a little bit that might be interesting is that 30 years ago we had many more neighborhoods than we have today. One of the reasons we had these neighborhoods is that there were pieces of open space that divided the neighborhoods and gave them their own integrity and their own character. What's happened is that these open spaces in many cases have been developed so neighborhoods have essentially been kind of all grouped together. Like the area around Old Bedford Road and Bedford Street, you used to have kind of separate neighborhood areas and as each new development goes in on Bedford Street and areas get developed, they lose their individual integrity. To me that is quite unfortunate. One area that we've been very fortunate in preserving and protecting thanks to the efforts of the townspeople and state and federal laws are the wetland and flood plain areas. This is the key to a lot of Concord because that's one division of areas and neighborhoods that have essentially maintained its integrity and we were most fortunate there because a lot of those flood plain wetlands actually provide a great variety of other benefits as well as just wetlands. For instance the Old Calf Pasture on Lowell Road that was purchased I think for $500. A very token flood plain land, essentially unbuildable, and people used to say why the devil did you ever buy that. Now it's one of the more heavily used parcels of conservation land with the trails, picnic areas, boat launching and the visual open space character and so forth. That's a very important part of the character of Concord. People ask why do we buy them but there are many, many values that we are able to obtain from those parcels.
There is no question that there is change in technologies and regulations and everybody has their different definitions. It is very confusing right now. I'm bothered administratively trying to work with the situation using the town's original base maps from aerial photographs done in 1960. Then using those photographs and topographic maps taken from them, the town for a little over $15,000 back in 1975 had the entire town walked and the wetlands were delineated and those were put on maps that were actually approved at town meeting that created a wetland conservancy district. That was really outstanding work at that time and they are still used a lot today to determine proximity of construction projects to wetland areas. That's 25 years old and our wetlands have changed a lot since then. Furthermore, we defined wetlands differently than we do now because now we not only use vegetation but we use the hydrology and soil conditions to do that so that needs to be redone. It would be a major undertaking and a major expense. I would also like to point out that I get frustrated from the state level when people talk about the depletion of all the wetlands in the Commonwealth, and particularly about the need to carve up uplands and convert them to wetlands to compensate for any filling that does evolve as a result of construction projects where people might have to cross wetlands to gain access to buildable ones. It bothers me to cut down nice upland trees to make more wetlands.
It's now surprising and people talk about it a lot but with the decline of the farmers in the community, the areas where they farmed and had ditches that were built generations before, the farmers no longer maintain the ditches and people who live in the residential areas now look at the ditches as something to be filled in. When you fill in the ditches and the water gets forced elsewhere, you end up with wetlands, instead of being contained by ditches, are starting to spread out in greater distances. Another major aspect is the runoff from our roads in town. The town does a wonderful job maintaining its roads in the wintertime when there are snow and ice problems but that's putting down a lot of sand. Much of the sand over years finds its way into the ditches and into the streams in town. I'm pleased that the current administration had done a much more concerted effort to remove the sand before it gets down into our drainage systems. The Millbrook is the best example I think of and a lot of people are aware of. When I came to town, there were brook trout in the Millbrook. They were all up and down the Millbrook. It had been acknowledged as really great fishing. People would catch 15-inch trout and larger. In fact I have a mounted specimen in my vaults down in the office that is some 20 inches long that was caught in the Millbrook. It had a lot of undercut banks and it had deep pools in it where the cool water set that the trout need to survive, but what I was seeing over time was that the street sand just built up in the bottoms of the ditches. It makes it impossible to have appropriate habitat. It also makes it impossible for the stream itself to function as it used to function when it had been cleaned out before all the sand came in. So the water tends to spill out much, much more. It's like filling a bathtub up and you're almost to the top and you're jumping in, your bathroom floor becomes the wetlands. That's been a problem. You can go between Keyes Road and the Millbrook now and see all the dead trees, signs of the iron oxide forming in the water. It's a real mess. I remember we used to walk down in there to the brook but instead the brook can't stay in the channel, it's created a lot of other side channels, its water level has increased, the trees have died, it's really changed. There's an area that's much more a wetland than it was 30 years ago.
And the other of course is there has been a real push as developments have occurred in town to make certain that the runoff resulting from development doesn't impact downstream. So we have essentially a no runoff concept which means that many developments require building these retention/detentions to hold water which also creates some good areas for wetlands to develop which has been an improvement in many ways.
The wildlife in Concord has excited me a great deal. There have been a lot of changes, and I think there are a lot of changes for the town that most people don't fully realize but they will shortly. To let that out of the hat right now, the real surprise right now is the beaver issue. With the cessation of trapping beaver and muskrat and other animals that's traditionally been done in Concord, the beaver which has very few enemies other than automobiles and a few others, that we will tend to have some major population explosions. We've faced some very serious problems of beaver flooding out houses, septic systems, roadways. They will feed on shade trees and flowering trees right in people's back yards. It's going to be a rough tough situation for Concord because as you think about our community, we have a lot of rich bottom land, a lot of wetlands. This produces a lot of excellent food and cover for the beaver so we can be seeing a lot of beaver who have just started up being active over the last couple of years explode. There are two places in particular that are problems. In fact people have been commenting lately on the large beaver lodge developed in the Millbrook as you head out of town on Cambridge Turnpike. This is the first lodge that I think many people have ever seen in the town of Concord. The beaver problems right now besides the Millbrook are in the Spencer Brook, the whole length of it, and Jennie Duggan Brook has some issues. Macone's Pond also has beaver and the beaver do of course live in the Assabet River. That doesn't cause any problems because they live on the banks.
There are some major land use issues and I'm sure conflicts with the animal rights people. We've also seen a few more porcupine come back. I've seen them several times up in the Estabrook Woods which were never around before. I miss the pheasants a lot. Years ago the state used to stock them for hunting. This was before the equine encephalitis carried by the mosquitoes decimated the pheasant population. Although I was talking to a lady today who enjoys seeing a cock pheasant out on her property off Virginia Road on Quail Run at the old Anderson Farm, but we don't see so many pheasants any more. The deer population is similar to the beaver. That's a major challenge. The issues of course with the deer are the animals feeding on people's shrubbery around their houses and the hazard they do create for automobiles. Of course, lyme disease is a concern. The deer ticks that carry lyme disease have been found in Concord, but personally I'm not aware of any instances where a person was actually bitten by a deer tick and picked up lyme disease in Concord, although I'm sure Emerson Hospital has diagnosed many such instances. That remains a concern. It was reported a few years ago a moose was in town. It wouldn't surprise me to see more of those. We have not had any bear in town to my knowledge but I think that is only a matter of time. There was a resident in Carlisle who says the bear population are increasing. The coyotes are another big story. We hear stories of as many as 60 coyotes in Concord. Periodically one will move into a residential area. There was one down on Elsinore Street a few years ago. It was feeding on domestic cats which certainly did not bode well with the cat lovers. I think we will also have increased problems with coyotes. The populations will go up and down but trapping was used to help control the coyotes where they were getting too close to people's residences. Without that technique we might find those animals will become more prevalent.
The turkeys are another story. I'd like to see some more turkeys come into Concord although I'm sure there would be some challenges. I'm always looking to see when I see somebody's strawberry patch because they can do quite a job on a strawberry patch. I hear stories that there was a flock of about 30 of them this past winter that were up near the Route 2 rotary circle on the reformatory farm property. They were hanging around. There has been one in the Conantum area. The summer before last there was a crazy turkey that came into the public works yard area and used to sit up on top of the big red van that Concord Oil parked out back, and sit there and just gobble away. It would come right up to the summer conservation crew working on the landscaping and sit right beside the folks doing the work. But I assume we will have increased numbers of turkeys. It is kind of exciting that we have some more of these animals that we've never had before, but many of us feel that one of the reasons that they are coming here is that they're losing habitat elsewhere.
Relative to all that I think it is interesting to point out my observations on birding. Concord has had some exceptional birders, in fact with international reputations. But my only outstanding birder is the naturalist of all types. People who know grasses and wildflowers, you just name them. I'm hoping someday that this will be catalogued. Particularly it's been exciting to see birds and I've seen a lot in my capacity as administrator for our division to promote feeding the birds and watching birds because I think if people do that they can understand how important not only birds are but the habitat that birds live in. If they realize that birds like people need food, cover or shelter and water. It's amazing when people start looking at birds they start thinking about where do they nest so that gee, maybe we shouldn't cut down that dead tree after all because there is a woodpecker that lives in it. There's been a big boon of bird watching and interest. I was excited that the bird store came to Concord and is helping to promote that as well. In fact bird watching is one of the fastest growing outdoor recreation activities. It's really big business Â¾ how much bird seed is sold in a year. We're seeing changes in the bird population. It's been exciting to get reports of bald eagles and the osprey seem to be returning to the rivers much more than they have in the past. A real disappointment however are the meadow birds. There used be a lot of meadowlarks and we used to see them here on Barrett's Mill Road at reformatory farm and also the bobolinks. As people not only develop these fields for housing and not only the houses but as the trees grow up in the fields, you lose the open field, and furthermore as many people almost religiously mow these fields remove the habitat for these meadow birds. There are a lot of people who just like to see manicured green open fields, and it's been a conflict for me personally managing our conservation lands to get people to realize that if you cut the field in June and you chop up all the little nesting areas and chase the birds off, you're going to eliminate those populations of birds. So at this point I'm not sure frankly if there are any nesting meadowlarks in the town of Concord. I know that one went through at Mattison Field last year and that would be nice to bring that back. Also we're trying to provide for them but they require quite large areas.
Butterflies are also something that people are very interested in. A lot of the birders now have become very interested in butterflies. I think Dick Walton spoke out for that movement. The dragonfly is also of interest. People have gone from birds to butterflies to dragonflies. That's been very exciting. One of the things I will miss a great deal about Concord is having close access to these extremely competent and committed naturalists who are not only experts in observing but keep outstanding journals on their interests. But the interests do change. Also passive outdoor recreation itself has changed a lot. When we first came, people liked the outdoor activity like ice skating in the wintertime and people walked a fair amount. They kind of walked just to get out in the woods. They didn't do it just for exercise. And I'm sure you'd see a kid riding a shortcut through the woods on a bicycle. Skiers, there aren't many skiers any more. The horseback riders, there was a lot more trail riding on horses at that time. Over the years we've of course seen not just the kids riding through the woods on trail bikes and creating conflict on conservation uses. We've seen a great decline on horse trail riding. There are still many horses in town but not so much trail riding because of the increased vehicular traffic on the roads. And also the fact that the houses are developed and people no longer want to let people ride through their properties. That's one of the big differences. People used to talk about growing up and just roaming one property on another and it certainly isn't that way now. Everyone now feel that they pay so much for taxes that it's their own. Many of the people who are quite wealthy are very paranoid about their liability. They are not anxious to have people come through their property and it is certainly an understandable concern. They also want their peace and quiet. They pay for it and they want it. Attitudes are a lot different now than they used to be. That's most unfortunate and this relates back to my earlier point about the kids. They used to be able to roam through people's backyards. Nowadays I think one of the best ways to run through backyards is put some binoculars over your neck. For some reason birders have maintained a pretty good relationship with people, and they feel if you're looking for birds, you should be relatively harmless. I think that's one area we perhaps missed the boat on when we really didn't push hard to get public rights of way to allow people to walk through on private property. Even back then it was a difficult thing to do. You hated to make an issue out of it by offering to pay somebody for the right to go through. Then they might say gee, I don't want to really formalize that.
The other thing that I think the earlier Conservation Committee felt strongly about and I've inherited too, much to the chagrin to others, is the concern about the town of Concord getting trampled to death. I think it's important for people to realize that Concord has probably opened its arms to the other people in the Commonwealth and throughout the world as much as any other community of our size. When you consider the amount of use that Walden Pond affords people, the Great Meadow Wildlife Refuge, Minuteman National Historical Park and many of our conservation lands, there aren't many towns that have the visitation and use that we do. Then when you consider the number of cyclists who use Concord as a hub for their cycling activities, the runners and joggers who do the same and these are many people who are nonresidents. We do provide a wide variety of opportunity. Starting off where I said, the Conservation Committee over time wanted to buy land for conservation purposes. Now we're really concerned that excessive use will have some negative impacts on those values, wildlife habitat, so there has been some hesitancy on some of our parts to really publicize it. The problem that I face from a department perspective is essentially I'm one person only with a secretary, and if we publicize and have articles in the Boston Globe and attract more people with different reasons, you deal with litter and the like and I could never tolerate it. It's kind of like let's be open and let people come to the town but let's not overly deal with it. I know at Walden Pond they are facing a project that is nearly $1.5 million to restore the banks largely because of the overuse. And we just don't have those resources to do things like that, but the town is working hard to do a good job to come up with a good trail map and publicize that. Most of the people if they want to find out where a piece of property is, they can find a youngster and they can usually find out. Through all this although our department is kept small, I wish frankly I had been more aggressive about it over the years.
I would like to make note that the leaders in the community have been extremely supportive of the environment. It's been a real blessing to me to be able to work in such a community as Concord because when you go to the Board of Selectmen for instance, you don't find yourself with people who have no awareness of the environment. Even right now we have Sally Schnitzer who is a former NRC member, very astute and very committed to the environment. Arthur Fulman who was a former member of our commission and others. They understand where we're coming from and are extremely supportive. I know in recent years it's been very unfortunate with the conflicts with the affordable housing interests and Housing Authority versus Conservation. To me it's been a most inappropriate conflict. But even on those other committees there are extremely strong environmentalists and they understand where we're coming from, though they may have different priorities. The Planning Board, the Finance Committee, even the Town Managers over the years have been extremely supportive. Otherwise I could have been dumped on pretty hard so it was very helpful to me to have such overwhelming support. The number of people who have come to support the environment and conservation time after time for different issues, it's really been outstanding. I'm sure that will continue on. Over the years that will do a lot to preserve the community.
The fantastic turnout at the retirement reception meant a lot to me because I'm really a people person and I'm not one who takes a lot of credit for what we've accomplished. I think it's the townspeople who have really come together to accomplish what they have in the way of conservation efforts, land acquisition and caring for the land. I'm sure they will continue. They might be fighting over small parcels of land in the future, but nevertheless, I'm sure the environmental community will remain strong. I will certainly miss it. I hope the town stays with the open rural character as much as possible.