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Trails Committee seeks better coordination with town entities

by | Feb 22, 2024 | Featured: News, News

The Trails Committee at its meeting Wednesday raised issues with the lack of connection with town entities on issues that align with its mission.

Chair Peter LaGoy mentioned that the Planning Board has proposed two articles for the Annual Town Meeting warrant that would transfer open space parcels donated to the town as part of the Whisper Way and Emerald Drive (formerly called Connelly Farm) subdivisions. He was contacted by the developer regarding the Emerald Drive parcel (off Hayden Rowe Street, just north of College Street) because of a trail on the site.

The Emerald Drive parcel donation proposed that instead of building an asphalt sidewalk as the original plan delineated, easements on three private lots would be granted to augment an existing trail on the site. This would allow the trail potentially to be moved further away from the wetland area.

“As the Trails Committee, its in our interest to support the easements,” said LaGoy.

“My thought is that, when trail decisions are being made, that should have more formal input than the developer having to ask you for a letter of support,” said member Linda Chuss. “I don’t understand why we wouldn’t have more say in it than just that.”

LaGoy added that this has been an “ongoing issue” with both the Trails Committee and the Open Space Preservation Commission.

Member Fran DeYoung, who formerly served on the Planning Board, said it was “education of the Planning Board” about the committee’s desire for inclusion. He suggested quarterly Planning Board updates by the Trails Committee so that both sides would be apprised of any projects that potentially could foster trail development.

The committee voted 5-0 to allow LaGoy to draft a letter to the Planning Board approving the donation of the Emerald Drive land. It also will include a suggestion of quarterly updates by the Trails Committee.

Town will not fund Trails Committee website development

The committee’s goal of developing a website that would be linked to the town’s webpage was another issue where the committee sought better communication. The issue of developing an independent website previously has been raised at several Trails Committee meetings as well by the Open Space Preservation Commission at its meeting. The Sustainable Green Committee has its own website that could serve as a model.

The idea of separate but linked websites was raised because the committees saw the town’s action on their requests for webpage development on the town side as sluggish. Member Chuck Dauchy, LaGoy said, began working with the town on the idea four years ago.

Chuss, who has spearheaded the project, said the town was not willing to sign an agreement between the website developer and the Trails Committee. An invoice had been submitted to Chuss by the developer because he had performed some initial work on the website’s creation.

“The town doesn’t want to go ahead because the IT [Information Technology] Department said they have a website now in the town that they’ve spent a lot of time making every department belong to,” explained Chuss.

LaGoy pointed out that the IT Department’s work on the Trails Committee page was less than stellar. as wrong pictures were put with trail links.

Chuss said the town refused to return the page to its former state because “the files were lost.” She added that the website developer’s work was quicker and more efficient.

“The idea is not to have something separate out in the ether,” LaGoy stressed, “but to have something that we can kind of control how it works and jump-start it.”

LaGoy said he will approach the town again to seek its approval for the $4,000 expense.

Town Meeting article amending leash law discussed

The committee voted unanimously to submit an article to Town Meeting that proposes amending the town leash law. One change would be to allow dogs to be off leash in the dog park, which currently violates the leash law.

The second would request that the Select Board allow the Trails Committee to try an “alternative dog control approach,” according to LaGoy. The committee proposed allocating chosen trails designated time slots when dogs could be off leash on a temporary basis. This may be discussed at an April forum. The public would be notified of any changes via town meetings, the media and potential signage.

Committee seeks to increase community engagement

The committee members discussed potential future events, including additional trail walks, volunteer work days and workshops focused on plant and bird identification. The Trails Club, the Hopkinton Public Library and the Parks & Recreation Department were mentioned as potential collaborators.

LaGoy noted that the last trail walk had more than twice the usual number of participants, spurred by sunshine and notification in the Hopkinton Independent.

DeYoung suggested reaching out to younger trail users via TikTok. Scouts or teens who use the trails could be involved in creating promotional videos. This idea could be suggested to scouts as a project.

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