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Cheesecake Brook: A Story of Community-Driven Restoration
Cheesecake Brook in Newton is a tributary to the Charles River that has been highly engineered over the years, leading to poor water quality and increased flooding. In 2019, CRWA began working with the local community to develop a vision for restoring the brook. This community input, with help from environmental engineers, resulted in a conceptual design for the restoration of the brook from Watertown Street to the Charles River. The vision includes removing the stone banks, planting native vegetation along the banks, and restoring the natural curvature of the stream. 
Naturalizing this stream would improve water quality and stream habitat, help reduce stormwater flooding, and vegetated and shaded banks will help keep water cool during hot, dry summer weather. Restoring Cheesecake Brook would turn an often overlooked “ditch” into a natural feature of the landscape once again. Surrounded by schools, playing fields, and bike routes, this project also provides excellent educational value to understand how humans and nature interact while reuniting the Newton community along this forgotten gem. CRWA hopes that this community-driven visioning process becomes a model for other stream restoration projects in urban settings.

Learn more by reading our vision sheet, watching the recording of the latest public meeting, or viewing our other online resources.

This project is generously funded by the Gerstner Family Foundation.
News at a Glance
  • #GivingTuesday is right around the corner—this coming Tuesday, December 1st! While there are many worthy causes, the Charles River, so much cleaner than it was, yet still plagued by cyanobacteria blooms, invasive species growth, and stormwater pollution, needs you! Please consider CRWA as you think about your philanthropic priorities this #GivingTuesday. Help us address current challenges, and prepare for the fight against a changing climate. It is big and we will need your help. Thank you!

  • Good news—drought conditions are gradually improving and our watershed is down to Level 1 and 2 Drought status. Water conservation is still needed, but the river and surrounding land are starting to recover. 

  • Great news—the MA House of Representatives released its Fiscal Year 2021 Budget proposal, which includes significant growth for the Department of Conservation and Recreation, Department of Environmental Protection, and Natural Heritage and Endangered Species Program. This support will help state agencies to better safeguard our natural resources, protect public health, and invest in climate resilience and adaptation.

  • Terrific news—Secretary Pollack announced last week that MassDOT will wait to decide on the preferred design for the I-90 project until after the next round of environmental review takes place, likely next summer. This means that before moving forward with critical project decisions, MassDOT and the public will have a better understanding of each design’s impacts on the Charles River, including whether certain approaches could be approved under state and federal environmental laws. This outcome reflects our recent comments to MassDOT: why choose a preferred alternative when there are no good options on the table? While we support an at-grade version of the project, the at-grade version currently proposed would have unacceptable impacts to the river, including filling in part of the river to build Soldiers Field Road, and likely would not receive necessary permits. MassDOT’s decision today allows more time to make improvements to the at-grade design, including looking at revised traffic analyses that take into account changed commuting and traffic patterns resulting from the pandemic. We believe that building less roadway is the best way to move forward and will continue advocating for increased focus on river bank restoration and enhancement, improving stormwater management, and building climate resilience. Read more in our comment letter.

  • As you may have heard, there was a combined sewer overflow (CSO) discharged to the Charles River yesterday. Yes, that means poop in the river. We support H.4921, legislation that will require public notifications whenever there is a sewage spill, a requirement that Massachusetts is currently lacking. Read more.

  • On this day five months ago, a cyanobacteria bloom advisory was recommended for the Lower Basin of the Charles River. That advisory is still in place today, though the bloom briefly dissipated in late July. The public health advisory cannot be rescinded until the Department of Public Health collects two consecutive samples, one week apart, with cyanobacteria levels below the DPH threshold; we will continue to coordinate with them and monitor the bloom. In the meantime, people and pets should avoid contact with the water. Stay updated through our website and social media.

  • If you spot any drains blocked by fallen leaves, don’t *leaf* them there, help clear them out! While they can help enrich soil on land, leaves that are blown or swept into storm drains can become a source of water pollution once they enter waterways and decompose, releasing phosphorus into the water. Too much phosphorus (especially in a river that is already as nutrient-rich as the Charles) spurs the growth of invasive species and cyanobacteria blooms, threatening safe recreation and aquatic life.

  • The Charles River Climate Compact is one year strong! A recent study found that participants find their memberships valuable for opportunities of regional coordination, information sharing, and grant support for prioritized needs.

  • We hosted another Massachusetts Municipal Separate Storm Sewer System (MS4) Permit workshop this month, where CRWA staff demonstrated EPA's best management practices (BMP) Accounting and Tracking Tool (BATT), made specifically for communities to track phosphorus and nitrogen load changes associated with green infrastructure. This workshop was made possible by funding from the Foundation for Metrowest.

  • Looking for something to watch over the holidays? We recommend the documentary I Am Greta, which delves into the climate crisis from the perspective of young activist and Nobel Peace Prize nominee Greta Thunberg.
Get Involved
  • Interested in getting involved with one of the oldest and largest volunteer water sampling programs in the country? Learn more about our Volunteer Monthly Monitoring program from a short video and apply online.

  • Looking for gift ideas? Check out our CRWA apparel. It’s the gift that keeps on giving: 100% of proceeds directly fund our critical work.

Upcoming Events
  • From all of us at CRWA, have a Happy (and safe) Thanksgiving!

  • Most events have been made virtual through 2020. As a science-based organization, we encourage you to continue following CDC recommendations, like wearing a mask and maintaining a safe social distance from others. We wish you and your family continued health during these difficult times.
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