The Trails Committee at its meeting Thursday night discussed the future goal of a trail at Legacy Farms South and ways to increase resident awareness about the town’s current trails through improved signage and accessibility.
Chair Peter LaGoy suggested that local carpenters could be hired using the committee’s budget rather than relying on volunteers to complete small-scale projects. There is $10,000 in the current budget allocated for this purpose. He mentioned that a trail loop at the Berry Acres conservation area would be helpful for the nearby apartment residents.
“There’s certainly potential for use if we can make those links right,” said member Chuck Dauchy. He noted that the efforts of Scouts and mountain biking groups to create boardwalks have been successful and are “still an option” or could be used in conjunction with contractors.
One area LaGoy said he would like to target for boardwalk construction is Legacy Farms South. Dauchy noted that more planning would be needed for this longer-term project because much of the area is wetlands. He also stressed the need for work there to meet accessibility standards.
Member Linda Chuss said the focus on accessibility should be directed at one project first so that the committee can learn from it for future efforts. She also noted that the population of Legacy Farms should make it eligible for environmental justice funding from the state.
At a future meeting, members said, they will vote on pursuing funding for a Legacy Farms South trail planning and design study, either through a state grant or through the town’s Community Preservation Committee.
Improved trail signage prioritized
Chuss brought up the need for more visible and uniform trail signage to make people aware of where the trails are. She stressed that there should be signage on roads that would direct people to trails as well as clearly visible signage at trailheads. She showed several potential designs that could be utilized.
Dauchy agreed, saying that many current trail signs are set back from the road and are parallel to it.
“I know two people who live right near Hughes [Trail] — both trail walkers,” Chuss said. “Neither one knew there was a Hughes Trail.”
Part of the confusion with that area is that locals tend to refer to it as the dog park, Chuss added. More prominent signage would make the distinction clear.
LaGoy mentioned the signage for hiking trails in New Hampshire’s White Mountains that is easily recognizable. Chuss countered that she didn’t want signs to be “intimidating” to those looking for more passive recreation opportunities. She suggested a pilot project for signage to see what the public thinks.
LaGoy noted that trail use grew during the pandemic, but trails could be more widely utilized if people were more aware of their locations. He offered to check the town bylaw to garner more information about allowed signage.
Signs also would be helpful for scheduled trail walks and cleanups, members agreed.
Another long-range idea Chuss had is to create informational kiosks at central locations such as Fruit Street and Center Street. She spoke with Julia Chun, the town’s sustainability, economic development and equity project manager, about how this idea could be incorporated into her goal of placemaking. Picnic tables, a gazebo and activities could enhance these areas as gathering spaces as well as create information outlets.
Said Chuss: “The trails could be at the heart of it.”
Future efforts discussed
Committee members will research statistical information regarding dogs in response to prior concerns raised about unleashed dogs on the trails. Data such as the amount of fines and number of tickets issued for violations, injuries reported because of unleashed dogs versus leashed dogs, and the total number of dogs in town would be helpful to present at a forum in January. Input from the town’s animal control officer and the police would augment a presentation.
The next volunteer day will take place at the Hughes property on Saturday, Dec. 2.