There are 367 private roads in Newton and they are very strange legal beasts. The city has no legal responsibility for the upkeep of the pavement on these streets. Maintenance of the paving is completely the responsibility of the homeowners on those streets.
Some friends of mine, Jim Lerner & Anita Springer, live on Tamarac Rd in Upper Falls, a particularly curious private road. Most private ways are dead ends, or very short streets with no or little traffic. Tamarac Rd, because of the history of the area, is not your typical private road.
On one end, it connects to Rockland Place, another private road that is one of the most charming little winding back roads in the neighborhood. If you look at a map of 1874 you can clearly see both an unlabeled Rockland Place and Tamarac Rd. Today the other end of Tamarac Rd connects to the circular Roundwood Rd. Back on that 1874 map, Roundwood Rd didn’t exist, it was property owned by the Woodward family.
Sometime in the 20th century, the city created a set of streets – Roundwood Rd, Hickory Cliff, Hemlock Rd, White Pine Rd as regular public city streets. The whole circular little enclave is called Eliot Hill. It looks like maybe all the houses there were built around the same time as a subdivision. The entrance to Eliot Hill is a little street that enters Route 9 at a busy/fast stretch of that road. At first glance, Eliot Hill appears to be a standalone island of houses with a single entrance from Rt 9. In fact though, there is a connection out the back way to little private Tamarac Rd.
These days, with Route 9 being what it is, residents there are immensely grateful to have a back way out.
These days the pavement on Tamarac Rd is in pretty tough shape. The only way to repave the road is for the homeowners to ante up the money themselves and hire a private contractor. In general that’s a very tough proposition because you need to get all the neighbors to agree to the plan and the financing.
Jim & Anita decided to put up the money themselves to do their end of the street. Their next door neighbor is Anil Adayanthaya, he sent out a note via email and NextDoor to the neighbors describing what Jim and Anita are doing and urged them to chip in to help pay for it. Immediately the surrounding neighbors began dropping off checks.
On Saturday, Anil’s across the street neighbor John “Bucky” Eysenbach had a brainstorm. He set up a chair out on Tamarac Rd. Every time a passing car drove by he flagged it down and explained to the drivers what was going on. Most of those drivers lived up on Roundwood, White Pine and Hickory Hill Rds rather than on Tamarac Rd. Once he explained what was going on, and that neighbors were all pitching in to upgrade the private Tamarac Rd, a bunch of these folks from neighboring streets that use Tamarac every day agreed to pitch in.
By the end of the weekend their little lemonade stand fundraising approach raised $5600 from neighbors on the connected streets, which was a great shot in the arm for the paving fund.
Hats off to Jim and Anita for starting the ball rolling and picking up a big piece of the tab, to the neighbors on Tamarac who immediately pitched in, to Anil and Bucky who came up with the idea of casting a wider net, especially to the folks up on Eliot Hill who immediately got that they have a stake in the fate of Tamarac Rd and stepped up to the plate too.
A great story all around.