Back of the Hill Urban Wild
This 3.30 acres of land is situated on a steep slope that stretches from South Huntington Avenue to Parker Hill Avenue. This is the west side of Mission Hill. The hill is a drumlin, shaped by the coming and going of ice during the ice age 30,000 years ago. Drumlins have a characteristic
tear-drop shape with a precipitous, rounded edge on the west that trails off to a gentle slope on the east. The Back of that Hill is that edge that contains the most wild and inaccessible landscape.
The area is accessed only through Colburn Street off South Huntington Ave. NSTAR Electric constructed a substation in 2004 on land it owned at the base of the slope that was rich in tall Black Willow trees. From Colburn Street a trail runs along a fence above a retaining wall separating the hill from the rear of the apartments that front South Huntington Avenue. Above this trail is an extensive area of restoration involving hundreds of plantings. Previously an almost exclusive area of Norway maples had destroyed all undergrowth on the hill and left the soil bare and eroding. The top of the site about a hundred and fifty feet above, behind the Judge Baker Childrens Center, has an extensive stand of colonizing Sassafras trees. This path extends across the base of the hill and can be followed southward, upward to the area behind 100 South Huntington Ave. This area features a wet plateau area about 50 feet above the apartment building that has been planted with dogwood and winterberry, and is home to indigenous elms, several Black willow, and a huge exotic White Poplar tree.
The Back of the Hill Urban Wild was permanently protected by an agreement orchestrated by the Back of the Hill Community Development Corporation when the Back of the Hill Apartments at 100 South Huntington Avenue were built in the 1970's.