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McLean Open Space's New Name: Lone Tree Hill

Name for 88 acres of meadows, trials and hills an homage to Judith Record.

Gene Record told the at their Wednesday night meeting that the day would have been his wife's Judith 66th birthday.

Judith Record was an early and active advocate for the preservation of open space in Belmont. And one area that she paid particular attention was the open area along Concord Avenue owned by .

Gene Record said he remembered the day Judith came home after jogging the trails and meadow, excitedly telling him how wonderful the entire the location was, especially the signature view of a single tree situated in the middle of the meadow.

Later Judith Record created a logo that incorporated a lone tree standing on top of a hill above a surrounding meadow for her own fundraising.

Last Wednesday, Dec. 8, after nearly six months of actively soliciting and debating the issue, the McLean Land Management Committee voted to name the 88-acres of meadows, paths, a swamp and swaths of trees Lone Tree Hill, the name Judith Record help popularized. 

"This is just a wonderful honor for her," said Gene Record of Judith, who died in a bicycle accident a decade ago.

The committee's selection is tentative, said Ellen O'Brien Cushman, Town Clerk and chairwoman of the committee made up of representatives of McLean, the town, the cemetery commission, residents and the Trustees of the Reservation.

The name will need to be accepted by McLean Hospital's Board, the Reservation Trustees and the town through the Board of Selectmen, according to Cushman.

McLean deeded the 118 acres to the town in 2005 after negotiations between the town and hospital resulted in a change to town zoning laws in 1999 that allowed McLean to develop their campus. The majority of the land is open space with 13 acres used for the new town cemetery and housing.

The property can be entered through the Highland Meadow cemetery or across from the Belmont Hill Club on upper Concord Avenue.

While the vote was "an homage to Judith" said Cushman, it was also a calculated choice by a majority of the committee to provide a moniker that will attract visitors as well as donors to this swath of open space.

At the beginning of the meeting, it appeared that historical factors for naming the land would carry the day as committee members and some in the audience were leaning towards using a familiar name in Belmont: Wellington.

In maps of 140 years ago when the land was purchased by what was the predecessor of McLean Hospital, the name of the most prominent feature was Wellington Hill, named, like so many places in town, after the Wellington family beginning with Roger to his descendent, Colonel Jeduthan Wellington, who lived at the base of the hill in the early 19th century.

Earlier this year, the suggested Wellington Hill as a permanent name change.

Another popular choice was naming the land after Frederick Law Olmsted, the landscape architect famous for designing New York City's Central Park and Boston's Emerald Necklace.

But nearly everyone at the meeting agreed that Olmsted's only contribution to the site was picking Belmont for the hospital's new home and dying there as a patient of the hospital in 1903.

But soon Committee members felt that placing an additional Wellington nameplate in Belmont would only confuse the public and hamper needed public support.

"If you go with a strictly historic name, (Wellington Hill) is historically accurate but this name doesn't have to be used," said Harlen Carere, a resident representative to the Land Management Committee.

"In Belmont, Wellington is the school and other sites," Carere noted, adding that he would want a "distinct physical" name for the site and the most dramatic would be Lone Tree Hill.

"There is no confusion what you are talking about. It's dramatic and that will be good for fundraising," he said.

Yet Richard Pichette, representing the town's Historic Commission, said the committee was suggesting that if they would not select a historic place to name the site, "we need to make up a name?"

"It should be about geography," he noted, suggesting that the Lone Tree Hill name has no historic connection to the land.

"Why not Lone Tree Estates or Lone Tree Condos?" he said.

The final vote saw only two members oppose naming the location Lone Tree Hill and later Maratha Moore, the Conservation Commission member on the committee who voted for another name, praised the selection.

Land Management members noted that features on the land, from trails, forest of trees, meadows and even the swamp will have naming opportunities in the future.

As for Gene Record – who is a trustee of the Judith K. Record Memorial Conservation Fund that supports the long-lasting benefits for public enjoyment of open space – he is satisfied that his wife's memory is already secured with the placing of a memorial bench at Lone Tree Hill.

"I am so pleased. Maybe the committee could name a section of the land 'Judy's grove,' but the best way to remember her is by supporting open space," he said.

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