Symmes Parks and Woods

A Conservation Easement at Symmes

As a condition to permitting the development of housing at the site of Arlington’s former Symmes Hospital, the town required a ‘conservation easement’, to be held by the  Arlington Conservation Commission and the Arlington Land Trust. The purpose of the easement:

  • Provide general public with access to natural open space and parks for enjoyment and passive outdoor recreation
  • Preservation of scenic vistas
  • Preservation and enhancement of native plantings and landscaping
  • Protection of urban forest that buffers and mitigates the effects of intensive residential and commercial land uses.


Neighbors and volunteer stewards may be interested in the ‘Forest Management Plan‘ prepared to guide a long-term effort to improve the health of the wooded areas, and the Symmes conservation restriction ‘Baseline Documentation Report‘ documenting the status of the parks and woods at the inception of the conservation easement.


Symmes Parks and Open Spaces: A Neighbor’s Perspective

….Reprinted from ALT News,  Fall 2015

The residents of the Arlington 360 apartments and townhomes and Brightview Senior Living have enjoyed calling Arlington home for almost two years now, and all of Arlington’s residents have benefited from the new public open spaces that were created as part of the development approval process. Although this project was once the source of great concern for abutters and other neighbors due to its magnitude, uncertainties, and delays, the site has finally become a popular community gathering spot.

As an abutter I, with many of my neighbors, attended numerous public meetings to ensure that this project would not adversely impact our homes and quality of life. We watched with chagrin at the start of site preparation when significant oaks trees were cut down and the blasting and rock crushing began, and then we watched in dismay as the equipment was removed from the property after the economic crisis halted construction. We were left with plywood fencing surrounding the dusty barren landscape for more than three years with no idea when or if this project would ever be completed.

Fortunately for Arlington, the project was resurrected by a partnership including Jake Upton, a member of the original development team, who worked closely with neighbors and members of the Arlington Land Trust and Conservation Commission to facilitate the legal conservation restriction that now protects nearly half of the site as landscaped parks and woodlands.

As the project neared completion and the construction barriers were removed, the neighborhood began to rediscover its natural and built environment. During the years when the hospital crowned the hill, some lovely views of the Boston skyline could be seen from inside the buildings, but the wooded areas and buffers surrounding the site were often cluttered with litter and other debris from years of neglect.

Now both new residents and long-time neighbors are incorporating walks around the Arlington 360 complex to enjoy the unobstructed views of the Boston skyline, the two new parks, and other dedicated conservation areas. Many 360 and Brightview residents have also started to explore their larger neighborhood, walking with their families and dogs along Woodside Lane and other nearby streets.

A true community space is now thriving in our neighborhood. The total lunar eclipse in September, for example, brought many neighbors into Hattie Symmes Park where we met residents of Arlington 360 and those from other parts of town to view that magnificent event.

To encourage more of this kind of exchange, the Land Trust and Conservation Commission are fostering the creation of a Friends of the Symmes Woods group to provide input – and hands-on help – to improve the health and appearance of the woods and to explore other potential activities for the community. Landscaping decisions will be guided by a Forest Management Plan created with the help of a certified arborist, and will include whether and where to locate walking trails and what new species of trees or other plants should be introduced.

If you are interested in joining the Friends of the Symmes Woods, please contact me via email at

Karen Johnson, Woodside Lane


To review a brief chronology of Arlington’s acquisition of the Symmes property,
see “Symmes Parks and Woods“.