Congratulations to the Friends of the Blue Hills’ members and all our partners! After more than two decades, we succeeded in passing the Public Lands Preservation Act!
A huge thank you to Rep. Ruth Balser and Senator James B. Eldridge for sponsoring this bill through countless legislative sessions.
The bill to protect our public land would not have passed were it not for support from our members and partners… and dozens of meetings with decision makers, hundreds of letters and emails to legislators, many letters to the editors,* and endless dedication to the Blue Hills and our public land.
The intent of the bill that was recently signed by the governor, is to prevent the loss of acreage of our public land.
As you may know, our public land, including the Blue Hills, is vulnerable to ‘land exchanges.’ With a two-thirds vote of each branch of the legislature, our parkland – covered by Article 97 of the Commonwealth Constitution – can be taken away or changed in use.
For the Blue Hills, the protection this new law affords, is not theoretical
In the early 2000s, land in the Blue Hills was approved to be transferred to private ownership. The legislative vote to approve the swap took place in the middle of the night on the last day of a legislative session, without a public hearing. This bill would help protect future loss of land in the Blue Hills… and all our public parks.
The law would now require that:
- Any public land taken must be replaced by land of comparable acreage, location, and market and natural resource value, (which would help protect the total acreage of parkland)
- Evidence that a feasible alternative to destroying parkland is not available.
- Notification of the public and the Executive Office of Environmental Affairs prior to filing legislation petitioning a change in the use or disposition of public land.
The legislation gives the Executive Office of Environmental Affairs the authority to waive the requirement for a public entity to provide replacement land and/or funding.
The law reflects existing policies and procedures intended to protect our public land, but the current policies were just that… policies that could have been changes on the whim of the administration on Beacon Hill.
Congratulations to our members and partners… and to the Commonwealth for taking this step to safeguard the Blue Hills and all our public land.
* You can read a couple of letters to the editor here: in the Boston Globe and Commonwealth Magazine.
Photo: Joyce Barnes (Hyde Park)