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Students Seek to Save Cambridge Wilderness From MDC Bulldozers


Cambridge's only piece of real wilderness may be saved from intruding bulldozers if the efforts of Harvard students Mark DeVoto '61 and Richard Simmers '59 and of the Cambridge Civic Association are successful.

The undeveloped land, lying along the north bank of the Charles River between the Eliot Bridge and the Watertown Arsenal, was first brought to the public's attention by DeVoto's late father, Bernard A. DeVoto '18.

DeVoto and Simmers, by making a catalogue of wild life in the area, have pointed out the acre's importance from a conservationist's view. It contains more than 100 species of plants, about 40 varieties of birds and occasional skunks and muskrats.

Because of the dumping, the streams have been dammed up and have formed a pond. Thus the area encloses habitats for both swamp and dry-land flora and fauna.

The elder DeVoto, writing in his column, "The Easy Chair," in the September, 1955, issue of Harper's Magazine complained of the "deplorable state" into which the land had fallen. "Hell's Half Acre," as he called it, had been "tolerably quiet, tolerably fresh, and a pleasant place to have in a city of 130,000 people" but had recently become an illegal dumping place for Cambridge refuse.

Since his article, the land has been cleaned up somewhat, but is now threatened with annihilation because the Metropolitan District Commssion is considering putting a paved road through it.

Conservationists, and those of Cambridge who "just like the outdoors," as Mrs. Pearl K. Wise, CCA-endorsed City Councilor, expressed it, are opposing this development on the grounds that the area is a necessary part of Cambridge.

Dr. George L. Clarke '27, Harvard ecologist, is anxious to save it because it is the only area near Harvard which "combines accessibility with an opportunity to study the fauna and flora characteristics of the river bank."

If Cambridge can save it from the MDC, Mrs. Wise hopes that the city will make Hell's Half Acre into a wildlife refuge to be called the DeVoto Nature Reservation

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