What is the future of the U. Mass extension in Waltham?

The Commonwealth of Massachusetts, in a monetary crisis, has slashed funding of the University of Massachusetts. The University, in response, has announced cuts to the funding of its Extension service, of which the Field Station in Waltham is the largest site. The budget of our local branch of the service has been cut to zero, which means that the University will no longer pay for heat, maintenance, or a staff. The many groups using the Field Station will be hit by fee increases, and they are banding together to find new uses for the facilities to bring in funds to cover the cost of keeping the buildings open and the grounds maintained.

Community Farms Outreach runs Waltham Fields Community Farm, the largest tenant of the site. This non-profit organization supports hunger relief, education, and farm preservation, and is organizing the other tenants of the site to ensure that the Field Station remains open. GROW (Green Rows Of Waltham) is a large community garden that serves many families in Waltham and surrounding communities. Many other garden and conservation groups, such as the Rose Society, use the grounds, greenhouses, auditorium, and offices at the large site.

The Field Station lies in the middle of a large area of green open space in the center of the city. Neighbors of the U. Mass property include Bentley College, the Girl Scouts camp, the Fernald School, and the former U.S. Army Corp. of Engineers property which was returned to the city. The college absorbed DeVincents Farms, one of the last independent fresh produce markets in the city, which closed in the winter of 1998. That farm is now parking lots and athletic fields. They managed to acquire a portion of the Corp. of Engineers land that the city should have had first rights to, as did the New Jewish High School, which is building on that site. The city only acquired a portion of the land, the part occupied by asbestos contaminated buildings, and is spending heavily to clean up the land for more athletic fields. The Fernald School, home to seriously disabled patients, is also being threatened by the Commonwealth's budget cuts, and will close unless new funding arrangements can be made.

Field Station building

DeVincents Farm

The Girl Scouts' Cedar Hill Camp

Army Corp. of Engineers site

Map of the Bentley College area

Bentley College Forest Ave. gate

Waltham Community Farm

GROW (Community Garden)

Waltham Community home page
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Contact Scott Shurr at sshurr@gmail.com Updated: 18 July 2014

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