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TCMC votes unanimously on new name, recommends Upper Charles Trail Committee become subcommittee

by | Jul 20, 2023 | Featured: News, News

The Trail Coordination and Management Committee on Wednesday night voted unanimously to rename itself as the Trails Committee and to recommend that the Upper Charles Trail Committee become a Trails Committee subcommittee under the new name of the Upper Charles Trail Building Committee.

During the 90-minute meeting, chair Peter LaGoy said these moves were consistent with Town Meeting’s vote in May on a nonbinding article that called for the current UCTC to be disbanded and reformulated as a subcommittee under the Trails Committee. Renaming the TCMC as the Trails Committee will help the community understand that it is the overarching body that oversees the town’s trails, because some residents would request help regarding UCTC trails when it was not within that committee’s purview.

By contrast, the Upper Charles Trail Building Committee (referred to as the UCBC) would focus solely on creating a shared-use trail through the town to connect to Milford and Ashland. It also is consistent with the Select Board’s request for the TCMC’s advice as “content experts,” LaGoy said.

“Most other towns are simply trails committees,” LaGoy explained. “It makes it easier so residents will know where to look.”

The committee also formulated its mission statement, vision statement and charge after some discussion. The mission statement articulated the committee’s goals of “maintaining, enhancing and developing user-friendly trail networks throughout Hopkinton.”

“That covers all the bases,” noted member Chuck Dauchy.

Member Fran DeYoung put forward the need for the charge to align with the town charter and reflect the town’s character. LaGoy also stressed that the committee’s role as a group of volunteers is to facilitate, fund and oversee trail construction activities rather than perform the actual work on the trails.

The structure and makeup of the UCBC also were discussed. LaGoy suggested that the UCBC be comprised of seven members to equal the number of Trails Committee members, with one of its members coming from the Trails Committee. He questioned the role of liaisons in both committees, noting that many of the same people tend to get tapped for committee service. Relying on the same people potentially could discourage new members from wanting to join, he said.

Instead, LaGoy suggested having at-large members commit to communicating with committee chairs on a regular basis to relay information between entities. DeYoung also suggested committee updates once per quarter.

Members noted that not all Trails Committee members need to have trail experience, but they do need to demonstrate an interest in trails. LaGoy said this will help the Select Board in determining the “balance of representation” of the committee members the Select Board will appoint regarding demographics and “a mix of valuable skill sets” that the committee can utilize. Institutional knowledge can be balanced with new energy and skills, members said.

DeYoung also suggested that a trail network master plan be “baked into” the town’s master plan, which is updated every 10 years. This would allow the committee to be a resource for the Planning Board and increase connectivity among committees.

The committee also discussed its relationship with the UCTC and then voted to recommend to the Select Board that it be incorporated into the Trails Committee as its subcommittee with a new name. LaGoy said that, “on bigger money matters,” the Trails Committee and UCBC should have a two-thirds vote of members from each body to approve funding requests, giving state grant proposals as an example. The number of members and the two-thirds majority on “big items” should be reflected in both entities’ structures.

Said LaGoy: “It’s still a recommendation to the Select Board, which is going to make the decision in any case.”

Trail surface decisions may be another issue where a two-thirds majority would be helpful in decision making. LaGoy noted that if two-thirds of the bodies can’t be convinced of an option, “then it probably isn’t the best way to go.”

“We should be developing the trails in town and doing what is important,” LaGoy stressed.

LaGoy said he would draft a memo to the Select Board outlining the Trails Committee’s decisions and recommendations.

Trail volunteer activities discussed

The committee discussed its volunteer work on Echo Trail earlier this month, which included expanding parking, repairing the bridge and clearing the land on the side of the trail.

On Aug. 5, a volunteer day is planned from 9 a.m.-noon. Bench cutting and rock moving will be some of the activities that will take place at the Greenwood site.

The committee also is organizing (with the Hopkinton Public Library) a guided walk for families at the Hughes Trail next Thursday (July 27).

UCT western alternative’s future unclear

LaGoy reported that he attended last week’s Community Preservation Committee meeting and spoke about the western alternative for the Upper Charles Trail. He had spoken to two property owners who would be impacted by the trail, with the remaining one needing permission being the Gorman property.

“The CPC is in the process of throwing a wrench in the works a little bit,” he said.

At that meeting, CPC chair Ken Weismantel told LaGoy that he needed to present easement requests or written permission for his proposal for CPC funding for engineering work for the proposed western alternative trail before money is spent on the project.

LaGoy noted that in the article approved at Town Meeting for the western route, the Gorman property was not mentioned. He added that the Gorman family has not yet responded to his written request.

There also was a discrepancy about an alternative for the Gorman property that would go through Daniel Road.

“I will not push it,” LaGoy said of the possibility of a trail going through Daniel Road. “But the town owns the land. The town can do with it as they choose. I won’t.”

At the CPC meeting, Weismantel said he suspected that Daniel Road residents would oppose a trail there.

The CPC was to discuss this issue at its meeting Thursday evening.

Project updates

Wood has been purchased for a storage shed at the Hughes Trail that needs a new roof and siding, LaGoy said. He is waiting for a building permit to be issued. Volunteer labor will be used.

Lumber also has been purchased for upcoming bridge work.

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