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Letter to the Editor: UCTC member opposes articles calling for change

by | Apr 22, 2023 | Letter to Editor

Town Meeting Articles 47 and 48, both citizens’ petitions, bear quite specifically upon the Upper Charles Trail Committee (UCTC). As a 10-year member of the UCTC, I want to set my own position straight on these matters.

Warrant Article 47 calls for the UCTC to be shut down and replaced by a subcommittee of the Trails Coordination and Management Committee (TCMC). Although the petitioner is the co-chair of the TCMC, he has consistently maintained that his motion is not motivated by his TCMC role. I accept his claim and acknowledge his considerable trail-building skills.

Warrant Article 48 calls for the suspension of all funding for a section of the Upper Charles Trail (UCT) that is aligned along Hayden Rowe Street from approximately lot 147 south to lot 192.

I oppose each of these proposals for the reasons below, beginning with the latter.

Article 48: The route along Hayden Rowe Street is the only viable route to get between these endpoints that we have been able to find in the 10 years that we have been looking. We have meanwhile endorsed the petitioner’s search for a viable alternative, and we would be profoundly pleased to support any preferable route or routes that should emerge from that effort. But as of now, there is no other viable alternative. There ARE “hoped-for” alternatives, just none that are viable and validated. If this trail were a “home” project of mine that had one known solution, along with a number of “hoped-for” solutions, I would not declare the known solution to be off limits. For that simple reason, I do not support Article 48.

Article 47: Because the proposed UCTC regime would support Article 48, I cannot support this leadership change. My own reason for joining the UCTC 10 or more years ago was to contribute to the planning and building of a bikeable trail that connects the Milford UCT trailhead to the Hopkinton State Park. Having a Hopkinton UCT that makes that connection is my highest priority. A subcommittee that is willing to discard a known solution for a set of unknowns seems less likely to make the bikeable trail a reality.

— Bob Snyder, Hopkinton

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  1. Richard Cunningham

    There is a difference between being “viable” and sensible, for although something may be viable, it is not always wise to act upon it.
    • Is it sensible to have users of the trail cross Hayden Rowe Street three times to get from Milford to the Hopkinton Center for the Arts or vice versa?
    • Is it sensible to have the Upper Charles trail cross 15 driveways, endangering both users and home owners attempting to back out of their driveways?
    • Is it sensible to have a trail on a road that it always congested and where cars and heavy duty trucks travel at 40-50 miles per hour despite posted speed limits and is a major thoroughfare for anyone traveling north or south, in or out of town?
    • Is it sensible to have a trail on a road that abuts four schools and within a few years a fifth school, particularly since the school committee voted 5-0 AGAINST this segment of the trail?
    • Is it sensible that in order to establish the trail on Hayden Rowe, the road itself may possibly have to be reconfigured to accommodate it?
    • Is it sensible to allow a trail that may, in some instances, be within 10-15 feet of a home owners front door? Is it something that you would want?
    • Is it sensible to curb the east side of Hayden Rowe for the trail so that there is no soft pullover for cars and trucks in order to allow emergency vehicles to pass through?
    • Is it sensible to believe that this segment of the trail will even get much use given the noise, congestion, and potential danger or will it ultimately be a misuse of town finances?

    For these reasons I will be voting YES on Article 48. The plan to run the Upper Charles trail along Hayden Rowe may be “viable”, but there are too many negative ramifications in doing so. This plan affects not just the residents on Hayden Rowe but the residents of the town as a whole.

    Richard Cunningham

  2. Bob Snyder

    Thank you, Mr. Cunningham, for reading and responding to my letter. I must repeat that we hope that ANYONE, including the petitioner, can find a proven superior alternative. That hope is expressed in my letter. Your list of issues with the known viable route is helpful. It certainly incentivizes the quest for an alternative. But I repeat that as long as the Hayden Rowe alignment is our only known solution, I don’t want to throw it away. For me, it would be unfortunate to force UCT through bikers to ride ON Hayden Rowe Street (rather than along side parts of it), to get from Milford to Ashland.

  3. Peter K LaGoy

    Referring to the Hayden Rowe route as a “viable route” and “a known solution,” is inaccurate. A shared use path along Hayden Rowe is not possible without either an unknown number of land takings (potentially impossible) or a major roadway reroute (potentially infeasible). And to Mr. Cunningham’s comments, even if viable, it makes little sense. There are alternatives; that these were not thoroughly pursued is the reason why a yes vote on both articles is important.

  4. Bob Snyder

    Thank you, Mr. LaGoy for presenting some important considerations, along with your opinions. The need to resurvey Hayden Rowe Street is old news. It is necessary and will surely be expensive. It would be necessary in order to to avoid taking any private land along the segment under discussion. A route that brings the UCT between the previously discussed end points that involves no taking of private land is a viable known solution to completing a bikeable UCT through Hopkinton. The UCTC, as previously stated, hopes that Mr. LaGoy can find a better solution. Meanwhile this known solution should not be discarded. I vote no on Article 48.

    • Peter LaGoy

      Hayden Rowe was surveyed at the request of the UCTC this summer.
      No route was found that did not require land takings.
      This was stated by UCTC engineers at a UCTC meeting.

  5. Bob Snyder

    Thank you and you are correct. The preliminary survey revealed that the road would need to be repositioned, or rerouted, to avoid taking any private property. We had hoped for a better outcome. The comprehensive resurvey of the road, combined with the repositioning of the road, would be expensive. It would be the cost to bear to avoid taking private property. It is a poor solution to this portion of the UCT routing problem. We should not pursue it now and we are not doing so. I sincerely hope that Mr. LaGoy can find a better solution from the efforts that he has underway.
    Nevertheless, it seems unwise to eliminate it as a future solution in case it emerges as our last resort.

  6. Jane Moran

    I also oppose Article 47 and 48. I believe the Select Board and our governing Town Charter have the structure to manage all our town committees.

    The Select Board over the past year has appointed three new members to the Upper Charles Trail Committee and they have brought new, fresh ideas to the conversation.

    The Upper Charles Trail Committee voted unanimously to put the (eastern) or Segment 7, Hayden Rowe approach on HOLD until Mr. LaGoy , the Trails Club and the Trails Coordination and Management Committee (TCMC) complete their study of the western alternative, including a bridge crossing over Rt 85 near the Milford UCT parking lot. They plan to complete some of this work using monies they hope to receive at this Annual Town Meeting.

    To be fair, the UCTC did look at the western alternative a few years ago and found three obstacles that we could not surmount at the time:

    1) private property issues- you can’t force someone to sell their land if they don’t want to,

    2) wetland delineations- with a project this complex the State will allow only a certain percentage of the project to negatively impact wetlands, so we have to consider the entire route. The southern section contains the vast amount of wetlands and for this reason alone a bridge over Rt 85 could be attractive

    3) a bridge crossing over Rt 85 near the Milford UCT parking lot, which would need to be built to State DOT standards and mostly in the town of Milford. This committee did reach out to Milford several years ago with negative results.

    Having said all that I do support Mr. LaGoys’ and others efforts to repeat this exercise and hope he and his colleagues have a positive resolution and that the UCTC, TCMC, the Trails Club and other trail groups can continue to collaborate and make Hopkinton the most progressive trails oriented town in the state.

    • Peter LaGoy

      While the UCTC may have voted to slow work on Segment 7 (Hayden Rowe), they continue to spend funds on Segment 6, by the Marathon School, a segment that was voted against unanimously by the school committee and that has no value as part of the trail without Segment 7.

      And as to private property concerns being an impediment, that issue has been an impediment of convenience for the UCTC. Their July 2017 report on Phase 4 noted that private property taking would be required on Hayden Rowe, yet they focused on this route.

      A bridge will be required at the Milford UCT parking area, either over Rt 85 (80 ft) or over 110 feet of beaver pond on the UCTC’s route. I’d prefer to spend bridge funds safely crossing Rt 85 if at all possible. The beaver pond crossing is not on UCTC’s maps and has not been discussed in their meetings. We need a UCTC with knowledge of local terrain to address complex issues. Vote yes on Articles 47 and 48.

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