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Protecting the Birthplace of the American Revolution,

the cradle of the Environmental Movement,

and the Home of the American Literary Renaissance


Scenic America Names the Birthplace of the American Revolution and the American Environmental Movement a Last Chance Landscape

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: February 24, 2003 

CONTACT: Meg Maguire, Scenic America, 202-543-6200 ext. 11 Marty Pepper Aisenberg, Save Our Heritage, 978-369-6662

Expansion of the Hanscom Field airport and roads serving the airport threatens the distinctive character of four internationally renowned New England towns.

Washington, D.C. - Scenic America, the only national organization dedicated solely to preserving the natural beauty and distinctive character of America's communities and countryside, today named the historic towns of Concord, Lexington, Lincoln and Bedford as one of America's ten most threatened scenic landscapes. The organization released its annual list of ten Last Chance Landscapes today.

Within the four towns are Minute Man National Historical Park, where the American Revolution began and "the shot heard round the world" was fired; Thoreau's Walden Pond and Walden Woods, widely acknowledged as the birthplace of the American conservation movement; Orchard House, where Louisa May Alcott wrote Little Women; Emerson's Old Manse; Great Meadows National Wildlife Refuge; and over 1,000 other historical and natural resources, all located within three miles of the Hanscom Field airport.

These nationally important sites, drawing more than 1.6 million visitors a year from around the world, have been heavily impacted by the tripling of corporate jet flights at Hanscom since 1996 and the recent opening of the airport to commercial airlines. The Massachusetts Port Authority, which owns and operates the airport, has actively promoted this growth, despite unanimous community opposition.

Mass Historical Society head William Fowler speaks at Scenic America press conference, with Save Our Heritage Executive Director Anna Winter and Congressman Marty Meehan looking on

"It is time for the unnecessary commercialization and expansion of Hanscom Field to come to a halt," said Anna Winter, executive director of Save Our Heritage, the citizens' group that nominated the towns for the designation. "Responsible and enforceable guidelines for the operation of the airport are essential to prevent noise, traffic and pollution from overwhelming these vitally important places."

Historians and environmentalists who serve on Save Our Heritage's national advisory board agreed with Winter's assessment. "Concord is being threatened by the expansion of a nearby airport. And this expansion has to be stopped," said historian and Pulitzer Prize-winning author David McCullough. "Once the spell, the spirit, of these treasured places is violated or destroyed, they're never the same again. You can't bring them back." (more) "The expansion of Hanscom Field is one of the worst threats to historic Walden Woods," said recording artist and Walden Woods Project founder Don Henley. "If we can't protect Thoreau's Walden, the birthplace of the environmental movement, we risk losing all our national parks and all our monuments of freedom to commercial development and corporate greed."

And historian Douglas Brinkley, director of the Eisenhower Center for American Studies at the University of New Orleans, said, "We talk of defending freedom and democracy around the world, but we are doing very little to safeguard the very cradle of those ideals here at home."

Documentary filmmaker Ken Burns hailed the designation as a breakthrough. "Now that Scenic America, a respected national organization, has recognized the unique value of the four towns' natural and historical resources and the serious threat posed by airport expansion, Massport and the state government must finally come to understand that the preservation of these resources is not a local issue, but a matter of significant national concern, just as the proposed Disney theme park at the Manassas battlegrounds was," he said. "Considering Massport's aggressive plans for a commercial/corporate jetport at Hanscom, as revealed in its latest environmental report, this year is truly our last chance."

Added actor Christopher Reeve, "We're already ruining so much of this country by our carelessness. This above all others, the place where we began, must not be destroyed. If you don't care about the place where our country was created, then what else should you care about?"

Scenic America's president, Meg Maguire, explained that "each Last Chance Landscape is a place of beauty or distinctive community character chosen because it faces imminent and potentially irrevocable harm. But each winner also possesses a potential solution, a 'last chance' for people at the local, state and national levels to step forward and preserve its scenic beauty before it's too late.

"Americans need airports - in the right places," Maguire continued. "But Americans don't need airports that destroy our historic and scenic heritage. If the Hanscom Field airport continues to grow, it will bring intolerable jet noise, sprawl and increased road traffic to the birthplace of the American Revolution and the American conservation movement."

"We will be calling upon all concerned parties to work together in the coming year to find positive, creative solutions," said Save Our Heritage's Anna Winter. "Possibilities include federal legislation, like the law that regulates sightseeing flights over all national parks; state legislation imposing limits on what Massport can do at Hanscom; an enforceable agreement among the towns, Massport, and the FAA to limit airport growth; or transferring Hanscom from Massport to an alternate authority that would operate the airport in balance with its sensitive environs."

Scenic America is a national, nonprofit organization based in Washington, D.C. whose mission is to preserve and enhance the scenic character of America's communities and countryside. For more information about Scenic America and a detailed description of this year's Last Chance Landscapes, visit, or call Meg Maguire at 202-543-6200 ext. 11.

Save Our Heritage is a nonprofit citizens' group based in Concord, Massachusetts whose mission is to protect the birthplace of the American Revolution, the cradle of the American environmental movement, and the home of the American literary renaissance. For more information, visit, or call Anna West Winter at 978-369-6662. 


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