Frustrated with the direction that the Upper Charles Trail Committee is headed, a resident is submitting a citizens’ petition for Annual Town Meeting calling for the committee to be disbanded.
Peter LaGoy, chair of the town’s Trails Coordination and Management Committee (TCMC), said he is submitting two petitions.
One requests that the Upper Charles Trail Committee (UCTC) not be allowed to spend any more public funds on the section between 147 and 192 Hayden Rowe Street — referred to as Segment 7. There has been vocal opposition by residents who don’t want to see the trail run along busy Hayden Rowe Street, but the UCTC continues to explore that option, claiming there are no other places to locate the trail.
The other petition calls for the UCTC to be abolished and replaced with a subcommittee of the Trails Coordination and Management Committee. “The subcommittee would have the same task as the UCTC but with a clearer focus on providing route options to the Select Board, and ensuring that public concerns are addressed,” LaGoy shared.
LaGoy said if the second petition passes, he would step down as TCMC chair but remain on the committee — partly so he can focus more on projects and less on public outreach, but also so it’s clear that this petition is not meant as a “power grab” by him.
If the second petition passes at the May 1 Annual Town Meeting, the TCMC would select the members of the new UCTC subcommittee.
“I’d like to see a broader section of folks, in particular folks with young families — the folks who are going to be using the trails for the next 10-20 years,” LaGoy said.
Ten signatures from registered Hopkinton voters are required to submit a citizens’ petition for Annual Town Meeting, and LaGoy said he has twice that number.
The second petition also calls for the TCMC, which focuses on other trails in town, to be renamed the Trails Committee.
The UCTC was formed in 2012 with the goal of connecting to the Upper Charles Trail in Milford and extending it through town and into Ashland. Plans to have the trail run along Hayden Rowe Street — which the town engineer indicated would require land-taking as well as millions of dollars to straighten the road — have been met with resistance from residents.
LaGoy said for this reason he expects support for his petitions.
“The one that says don’t put the trail down Hayden Rowe Street is something that I think passes very easily,” LaGoy said. “People have seen what’s gone on on Main Street, they’ve heard about the controversy here, it’s really simple.
“The other sounds a little more like there’s competition between the two committees. People who haven’t been paying much attention can go, ‘Why one versus the other?’ It’s complicated. Having said that, it does more things and really sort of solves what I see as a problem. That’s going to take more explanation and being more careful in messaging.”
LaGoy said the town has made positive steps in terms of pedestrian connectivity throughout town, and he wants to see everyone moving in the right direction, no matter what his role is.
“There’s a lot of good things going on in town with regard to that [connectivity], but there’s also things that are draining on that and holding the process back,” he said. “To me, the important thing is making sure that this trail moves forward and that the town-wide trails move forward, and I frankly have to stop spending energy arguing on some of this stuff. A lot of these things, the devil’s in the details, and that takes a lot of time to be involved in. There’s a lot of positive stuff going on, and I’d prefer to be working on that than fighting old battles.”
LaGoy compared the UCTC to the committee that proposed an elementary school on Fruit Street in 2011. Residents opposed to districting shot it down at Special Town Meeting. Seven years later, Marathon Elementary School was built on Hayden Rowe Street with widespread support from voters.
“That group of people, they were hard-working, dedicated folks, and they were convinced they were doing the right thing,” LaGoy said. “They were well-meaning, but once you get stuck on your convictions, you can get in trouble. I see the same thing going on here.”
Added LaGoy: “We don’t have the perfect solution, but you know what, we can find the best solutions.”