Local resident and researcher David Cormier appeared before the Historical Commission at its meeting on March 2 seeking its assistance in preserving Old Town Road, which was first documented in 1732 as a dirt road.
Cormier began researching the history of the road as part of his research on Lake Maspenock, he explained. It served as the original cart path that early settlers used to travel between Hopkinton and what is now Milford.
“It predates Purchase Street and South Street,” he said. “I think it was the original cart road. That’s why they called it Old Town Road back in the day.”
Some of the farms along the original Old Town Road were owned by some of Hopkinton’s forefathers, including the Nelson and Bell families. The original road runs far longer and east of the one that currently bears the same name from the town. Cormier said he wanted to do more detailed research but has been unable to access records from the Historical Society due to COVID-19 restrictions.
He compiled a history of the road using some historic maps, deeds and land documents. Using Google Earth, he pieced together the path of the road, which runs at the eastern shoreline of Milford at the town line, right behind the Dell EMC software company on South Street.
Cormier shared a presentation, available at The Complete History of Lake Maspenock (maspenock.com/#five), which shows his research. The road starts as a dirt path behind Hayward Street and continues through wetlands to property behind Amherst Road. It then veers back into a dirt road that runs south until it merges with the Hopkinton portion of Pine Island Road.
Member Stacy Spies noted that part of the road still has the original stone wall. She said she was recently in a workshop where she learned that funds could be procured for the survey of stone walls. In Connecticut, some stones have been stolen from walls because of their historic value.
“[The instructor] was saying that town-wide survey and planning grants could be used for that,” she explained. “That could be pretty cool.”
Other avenues would be to get funds for an archaeological study of the wells on the property or an archeological grant from the Massachusetts Historical Commission.
By bringing it to the committee’s attention, Cormier hoped to find a way to preserve the area as conservation land. He noted that there is no such land set aside in that part of town.
“If you’ve ever hiked the area, it’s a beautiful area,” he said, noting that there was once an old sawmill near the lake. “I was hoping that we could do some kind of protection on it, but I know it’s private property.”
While chair Michael Roughan explained that the Historical Commission has no power over land use, another approach suggested by Eric Sonnett would be to talk with EMC to see if an arrangement can be reached for access rights for a hiking trail.
“The reason EMC bought it was as a buffer,” Sonnett explained, “because the owners would sell it to developers. The lots that could be made in that parcel would get [$2 million] and $3 million homes on them. It’s probably the most expensive, best piece of property undeveloped in the town of Hopkinton.”
If money could be sought through the Community Preservation Commission, there would be a conservation restriction placed on the land. This would accomplish EMC’s goal at a benefit to the town, if EMC agreed.
“They could just sell off the development rights, so it could be a tax benefit to them,” Spies added.
The board recommended that Cormier speak with EMC about his efforts.
“I’m really not sure what it is that we can do,” Cormier said. “But I wanted to bring it to everyone’s attention, basically.”
“I’m not sure the town’s going to be really happy to give up the tax revenue,” Sonnett said. The property currently is assessed at $1.446 million.