At its meeting Wednesday night, the Upper Charles Trail Committee addressed feedback it has received about its trail proposal and discussed ways to better connect with the public about its goals and ideas.
UCTC Chair Jane Moran explained that the committee has “just begun a process” and is receptive to all opinions.
“I would like to reinforce the fact that all ideas matter,” she said. “We continue to look forward to as much input as possible, and dialogue. This will all go to the benefit for the best possible outcome and product that we, as a town, are really desiring. This committee will continue to evaluate all of the alignments as we continue to receive them, and study them and engineer them. As a reminder, it is our charge to present two alignments to the Select Board. That is our goal, and that is what we will do.”
Town Engineer Dave Daltorio said he is working on a webpage that he hopes will be live within the next two weeks. The page would include documents related to the project as well as answers to frequently asked questions — some of which he answered Wednesday.
One of the biggest concerns about the project is the section that would run along Hayden Rowe Street and cross the busy road multiple times.
“The plan presented to date by the committee, it shows two alternatives on that plan, so it can get confusing,” Daltorio said. “There’s four [crossing] locations that are shown on that plan, but one is an existing location at EMC Park [and another already has a crosswalk]. Ultimately, there would be two new locations.”
Following a public meeting in December in which numerous residents raised objections to the plan, Daltorio noted that the committee decided to hold off on making a presentation to the Select Board. Hopkinton Trails Club representative Peter LaGoy presented an alternative proposal at a meeting two weeks ago.
“I hope all can remember they are hearing the concerns of the public, and they have taken actions on some of those already,” Daltorio said of the committee members. “The committee has stated they are not in opposition to a proposed alignment and are welcome to ideas for more trails. And just from my standpoint, there is no need for the town to decide between two or three or four trails. The town is always hopeful that construction of all sorts of trails can proceed. It doesn’t have to be a one or another scenario.”
The most discussed section of the entire trail — which the committee hopes will eventually connect Milford to Ashland — is the campus trail connector off Hayden Rowe Street.
Committee Member Cynthia Esthimer explained that this section is a priority.
“The reason that we have focused initially on the campus trail connector is because we are looking for a brighter, greener future when it really is safe and it really is encouraged to have kids walk to school, kids ride bikes to schools, and parents walk to pick them up, and for siblings to be able to go from the high school to pick up a younger sibling,” she said. “We’re really hoping to encourage folks to get out, of course, but to be able to get the connectivity from schools, downtown, to the [Town] Common, to EMC Park. That’s kind of what we’re aiming for. But of course in this whole process of listening and gathering what people are interested in and what people want, our grand vision needs to take that all into account.”
The School Committee, at a recent meeting, voted unanimously not to support a trail going through the Irvine-Todaro property, which includes Marathon School and an adjoining parcel, citing safety as well as the possibility for a new school building being built there.
Daltorio countered that Town Meeting voters voiced support for putting trails on that land. He also noted that the town is slated to acquire a parcel that abuts that property, which could help alleviate concerns.
“There is a piece of property that abuts both the Marathon School property … and EMC Park,” he said. “There’s a subdivision that’s going in right behind both of those [off Blueberry Lane] and a piece of property is being transferred to the town as part of that development. That will allow designers more flexibility in coming up with different alignment alternatives to extend the distance, the proximity this trail would be to where they have outside activities for the children. It pushes it more toward just parking areas.
“We will continue to coordinate those changes with the School Committee as you folks continue to want to use those properties for trails.”