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Pedestrian bridge proposals dominate Conservation Commission meeting

by | Sep 27, 2023 | Business, Featured: News, News

The Conservation Commission at its meeting Tuesday night focused its attention on separate proposals for pedestrian footbridges.

The commission approved 6-0 the request of an Eagle Scout to construct a pedestrian footbridge at Berry Acres Trail. Projects of this type historically have been submitted by Eagle Scouts and approved, noted member Jim Ciriello.

The scout, Ethan Davan, explained that the pedestrian bridge will be placed at “a flooded section of the trail caused by beavers.” It will consist of three 10-foot wooden sections across the flooded area. The high school junior anticipates beginning construction as soon as possible. Lumber will be carried in by hand.

“This area has been flooded by beavers for the last 2 to 2½ years,” added Chuck Dauchy, a member of the Trails Committee and a director of the Hopkinton Area Land Trust. He said that it would be helpful for residents in the neighboring apartment complex to access this “important section” of the trail.

Chair Jeff Barnes asked if there would be a ramp placed so that mountain bikes would be able to access this boardwalk-style footbridge. Dauchy noted that he has been working with the New England Mountain Bike Association, which he said “provided good guidance on making trails more bike friendly.”

While Barnes acknowledged that the bridge would not be ADA compliant, the ramp would be useful for people with accessibility issues as well.

HALT exemption for Fruit Street trail bridges approved

Dauchy appeared later in the meeting as a HALT director to request an exemption for trail bridges, which was approved unanimously. He also is the trails steward for the Fruit Street area.

Dauchy attributed flooding on the Fruit Street and Pratt Farm properties to beaver activity. Over the summer, he noted significant beaver activity upstream. To alleviate the problems at the flooded trail areas, he proposed several bridges like the one described by the scout earlier to keep the trail network connected.

Five areas were targeted in Dauchy’s proposal to make the area more accessible. He pointed out that when one bridge was constructed three years ago, the water was 2 feet below it. It now appears almost level with the water in a photograph he provided the commission. One of his goals was to raise the height of the bridge to adapt to the rising water level.

Said Dauchy: “What we’re trying to do is restore the trail network to passability.”

Barnes reiterated his concern about the ends being ramped to allow for mountain bike access. Dauchy replied that the bridges would be “bicycle negotiable.”

Conservation administrator Kim Ciaramicoli commended HALT for “taking steps to live with and accommodate the beavers.” She noted that beavers are a “keystone species” that help create functioning ecosystems as they adapt to activity on the land.

Added Dauchy: “It’s been fascinating for me to see how quickly they can change an area.”

Anna Rogers, the environmental and inspectional services coordinator, said she toured the areas that were in Dauchy’s proposals and was “super impressed” with the markings that made the trail system easy to follow.

Request for reconsideration approved for 188-190 Fruit Street in light of new proposal

A request for reconsideration was filed regarding the 188-190 Fruit Street property. While the commission could only vote on the request and not discuss the new plan for the property, Barnes said that the commission in previous meetings “might be more amenable” to one single-family home on the property rather than the two previously proposed because of soil and grading conditions.

The commission voted to reopen the hearing. The new proposal will be discussed at the next meeting on Oct. 10 to allow time for the developer to notify abutters.

Hopkinton Stone and Garden notice of intent hearing continued

The notice of intent hearing for 28 Lumber Street was continued until the next meeting. The proposal is for a  two-story commercial medical office building on a 3.4-acre vacant lot close to the Hopkinton Stone and Garden nursery property.

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