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Farmers Market, dog park issues top Parks & Rec agenda

by | Feb 28, 2024 | Featured: News, News

The Parks & Recreation Commission heard an update on the Hopkinton Farmers Market and discussed issues at the Fruit Street dog park during Tuesday’s meeting.

Longtime organizer Laura Davis introduced Julie Beauchemin, who will be leading the Farmers Market going forward when it opens every Sunday from 1 -5 p.m. from June 9 to Oct. 13.

Davis noted the Farmers Market had 30% fewer vendors last year and was down 70% from the year before that. She said organizers are hoping to “reinvigorate” the enterprise, noting they are unable to give out scholarships as they have in the past because of the previous season’s performance.

Beauchemin, who is from Holliston, said she is the director of business development for a solar company and works a lot with town departments and farmers.

“I’m right around the corner,” she said. “It is a good organization and I want to help and be in the community.”

Commission member Laura Hanson said, “The Farmer’s Market is a great asset to Hopkinton and people really love it.”

Fifteen vendors have signed up so far (at between $20 and $25 per day), and Davis said she is looking for the Hopkinton Board of Health to lower its food permit fee from $100 to $50 to be more in line with other towns. [Editor’s note: This paragraph has been updated to fix incorrect information about the vendors’ fees.]

She said that Ashland and other towns have many student volunteers and spoke about reaching out to high school clubs to find kids to help set up, conduct fundraisers and assist at events, for example.

The Farmers Market started 11 years ago, and the number of board members and volunteers has declined. Commission members noted it would take a team effort to revitalize it.

Dog park problem reviewed

Commission chair Dan Terry said when the dog park opened two years ago, the idea was to have rules posted on signs and see how it went before deciding on whether it was necessary to “have a structure around” enforcement.

Parks & Rec Director Jon Lewitus said he has received feedback from the public about enforcing rules over the past few months. “Events have gotten my attention,” he said.

Lewitus clarified that the department received calls from a resident concerning an “out-of-town business owner” bringing 8-10 dogs to the park at one time. He said the caller had safety concerns and reported the dogs were not being watched and were exhibiting “erratic” behaviors, Lewitus relayed.

Resident Kevin MacDonald said that he and his wife walk their dog daily around the same time. MacDonald said he leaned toward “self-policing,” which the “regular folks are very good about. … Everyone gets along pretty well.”

MacDonald said having a three-dog limit per person was “common sense.”

The police and animal control officer were called a few times, but there is little they can do without bylaws in place, said Bill Proctor, the town’s animal control officer.

He said that people from all over the state are allowed to use the park because of how it was funded.

Lewitus noted that after the person with multiple dogs was spoken to, he “took it to heart” and keeps to himself in a small area with only three dogs now.

“I’m a hands-on Parks & Rec director, and I went on site,” Lewitus said. He added he is happy to get calls and address these types of situations. “Rules make sense, but signs can only do so much. It is up to people to police themselves.”

Terry said it appeared to be a temporary issue that was addressed.

Though it is too late for the upcoming Annual Town Meeting, the Commission could consider issuing fines when the rules are broken. That would be done via a bylaw.

New program coordinator announced

Lewitus announced Maureen Sammon as the new program coordinator, starting March 18.

Lewitus said she had worked as a recreation supervisor/outdoor education coordinator in Peabody and ran day camps for the Metrowest YMCA.

Town Common uses approved

In other business, the board gave approval to Vineyard Church for a free glow-in-the-dark Easter egg hunt on the Town Common on March 30 from 6-8:30 p.m.

Members also approved an event on May 18 from 1-4 p.m. co-sponsored by the Historical Society and Hopkinton Freedom Team.

Anne Mattina explained that the event, Reading Frederick Douglass Together, would feature students and adults taking turns reading passages from his speeches. She said the Historical Society received a Mass Humanities grant for the program, and she expects a maximum of 100 attendees.

She said there would be packaged snacks and bottled water available. Lewitus will meet and help guide the sponsors to a location on part of the Town Common to set up.

Sandy Beach schedule proposed

Lewitus outlined a schedule for Sandy Beach’s summer dates of operation as follows: Starting May 25, weekends only; starting June 22, open seven days a week; Aug. 18 marks end of seven days; and Sept. 2 is the last day of use (contingent on staffing).

Lewitus said some high school and college students had reached out regarding seasonal employment, which prompted a discussion about the difficulty of recruiting and keeping lifeguards.

To get more individuals certified, commission member Seth Kenney asked if the town could sponsor training courses by the Red Cross and/or provide reimbursement for completing the certification course.

It was noted that open water certification is required and possible in Westborough. Lewitus said discussions had begun about collaborating with other towns to have the training available. He said training money could be put in the budget for summer 2025 to come out of the general fund.

The commission also agreed to add employees as residents to its policy about beach access.

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