Interview by Julia Lynne Milot, Friends of the Blue Hills intern
Pete Jackson is a Blue Hills Champion, someone who has signed up for monthly giving to the Friends of the Blue Hills. Pete has been a Friends of the Blue Hills member and volunteer for over 35 years. He and his family have enjoyed this parcel of public land for many years, and will continue to enjoy it for years to come. Here is his story.
What’s your favorite thing to do when you visit the Blue Hills?
Well, we have a lot, but two things in particular come to mind. I take my dog hiking, and I do photography.
Oh nice! What’s your dog’s name?
Lucy, that’s lovely.
Yep, she’s an English Setter and she loves to be outside!
It’s such a convenient thing to be able to bring your pets along to explore as buddies.
So when you think of the Blue Hills, which memory stands out the most and why?
Well, I’ve been in town for thirty five years, and I’ve been going out to the Blue Hills forever in that time. And I worked with the MDC which is now DCR, doing several design and construction projects in the Blue Hills. I’ve worked as a private consultant for the Trailside Museum: I’ve done several projects there as well. So the improvements are some of the first things that come to mind. So really there’s no one thing. It’s a place that I love and a place that I think is very important to the metropolitan area. So really, no one thing.
That’s almost better than having one specific thing, having many memories and endeavors all in one place.
Yeah, both my kids went to the camp at Chickatawbut and this summer my grandkids are gonna go. So that’ll be great.
Oh that’s so lovely, I remember when I did summer camp when I was younger! It was so fun to spend childhood outside, running around, and having such a wonderful place leads to such beautiful memories.
So you said that you’ve been here for a while, how did you first hear about the Friends of the Blue Hills?
I don’t know if I remember exactly how. It was way back when Dave Hodgdon was getting it going, and that was in the 80’s. It’s just really always been there, and I’ve always participated in one way or another. Dave Hodgdon and then Tom Palmer was the president, and was involved with several things at that time. And I’ll say, the organization gets better and better, I think.
Definitely, over time being able to learn from that past is definitely beneficial.
So why would you say you support the Friends of the Blue Hills?
I mean the Blue Hills is a very important place and it needs advocates. There have been a lot of times when the Friends have been able to mobilize people to learn about issues or threats that are coming to the Hills and things like that. Organizing people as advocates is very important.
And getting more people out into the Blue Hills, the trail work that they do, it’s just something that DCR isn’t able to keep up with by itself. And that’s just really important.
I think that anything that both encourages people to use the Blue Hills and encourages DCR to put more energy into them is a positive thing.
Definitely, so would you say that’s the same reason why you decided to become a Blue Hills Champion? Or was there more than just that?
Well, it is for those reasons, but rather than making a periodic donation in general I figured just giving a monthly contribution like that is a lot easier for me. And overall, it probably amounts to a little more money than I used to give before, and that’s a good thing.
Yeah and it’s great for the Friends of the Blue Hills to have such dependable supporters, that we can count on and in turn can count on us to always do our best.
I know we mentioned this a little bit earlier, but if the Blue Hills weren’t protected and preserved how might your life be different?
I probably wouldn’t live here. When my wife and I were looking for a place with the presence of open space along the Neponset, of course there wasn’t any open space back then, but the Neponset was there. And the Blue Hills is really the reason we chose this community. To be close to the Red Line which we both used to commute, but at the same time have the wonderful open space to get out and explore in. It was a big part of our decision to live here. The whole metropolitan area would be drastically altered if the Blue Hills wasn’t protected. Not only are there the ecological benefits of having it there, but particularly people in urban areas need escapes from the city. Need places to appreciate nature, to be out and meet other people, out on the trails and things like that. It’s just a tremendously important resource. So protecting it is important because it’s threatened all the time.
Absolutely. In terms of people in Boston and the whole metropolitan area getting out there, it can be incredibly important for an individual’s mental health as well as physical health to be able to access public land.
Are there any other stories, thoughts or feelings you want to convey about why the Blue Hills are important to you?
I mean to wrap it up in general, I think there’s a lot of things people should be aware of. As a landscape architect, Charles Eliot who was a big impetus behind the parks system, he’s kind of a hero of mine in history. The history of the landscape is just so important.
One of the most important projects I ever undertook in the Blue Hills was restoring the historic Chickatawbut Hill overlook of the Boston skyline created in the 1890’s. When I started with DCR back in 1986 the trees had completely grown in and blocked the view, such a historic view. And so I was able to complete the work to open up the vista to Boston again which is just something I’m really proud of.
I noticed that it was growing in and blocking the view again, and it’s something I think DCR should be pushed to keep and maintain, that historic vista. And keep it there for so many people to enjoy. It’s such an important historic feature, it’s important to me that it’s preserved.
Absolutely, there’s so much history in the Blue Hills. And so many people who live around and near the Blue Hills are so invested in that history.
That’s true, there’s a lot of good defenders out there.
Definitely. One final question, if someone goes to the Blue Hills today for the first time ever, what is the overwhelming feeling they will have and why?
Well it depends what they do! If they go for a hike, just the feeling of a large amount of open space to explore and wander around in. To see and hear the sounds of nature. If they’re going for the first time, I would encourage them to go to the Trailside Museum, which is just such a wonder. For many years I’ve loved it, and over the years it’s almost closed due to lack of funding. And I always thought that was the totally opposite thing to do, that they should develop it even more because it’s so important to particularly the kids. It’s so important to see the wildlife, and appreciate nature in the city. So other than recommending the Trailside, overall, just appreciation for the beauty and the vastness of the open space. It’s really special.
Very true. Thank you for that answer, and I agree that learning and experiencing go hand in hand and influence each other. Well that about sums it up! Thanks for your time and for sharing your experiences!
Thank you for talking to me… and for being a Blue Hills Champion!