The Upper Charles Trail Committee tried to get back on track at its meeting Wednesday night and revisited the debate over which option would be preferred to get from Milford to the Marathon School area.
The committee previously had expressed support for a route along Hayden Rowe Street (Route 85), although at the last meeting some members encouraged revisiting a plan to send the trail west of the Charlesview neighborhood after Town Engineer Dave Daltorio said Hayden Rowe likely would require a major makeover to accommodate the trail.
“I do think that we owe it to [Trails Club representative] Peter [LaGoy] and his group that came up with this alternative route proposal to do a thorough evaluation of it ourselves,” UCTC Member Bob Snyder said. “And in my mind that evaluation should start with the likelihood of being able to secure the cooperation of the abutters, the property owners, the neighbors and so on. They are, in most instances, they’re people that we have dealt with and have not won any cooperation from in the past.
“And I think we need to know if there’s some reason to believe if there’s hope for a different outcome now, before we even worry about this flyover bridge [that would cross Route 85 at the Milford border]. Because the flyover bridge assumes using that alternative route. And I like the alternative route proposal, but I really do question whether the response we’ve encountered the past from the affected neighbors would change. I think that’s the most important thing for us to determine.”
Daltorio said the western route is not a new plan — it was something the UCTC looked at a number of years ago.
“It’s my understanding the alignment that the Trails Club presented recently that you’re referring to was the original route your committee looked at for the most part, and you ran into roadblocks with private property and so forth and some significant outcry from some neighborhoods, Charlesview and some other neighborhoods,” Daltorio said. “So I get confused when your own committee refers to a new alignment, because it’s something you folks looked at.”
UCTC Chair Jane Moran noted that the committee has not reached out to potential abutters for about five years, primarily because the people asked not to be contacted anymore.
UCTC Member Ken Parker countered that the western proposal from a few years ago is not the same as the current one.
“I want to remind people that the objections were for the trail to go directly on the neighborhood streets in Charlesview, and that is what raised a lot of objections,” he said. “There wasn’t any formal survey taken as to whether people objected to the trail going west of Charlesview.”
Added Parker: “With regards to the roadblocks we’ve encountered before, as far as I know, there’s only one property owner who raised an objection on the west and told us not to talk to him again. I don’t think it’s reasonable to allow a single landowner to block the entire route. However strong his opinions are, I think he owes it to the town to at least explain why he has that view and whether or not he would accommodate any kind of remediation, like, for example, payment for an easement — which is something, for all I know, we never raised with him.
“So maybe I’m wrong about that, but my understanding is there’s a single property owner on the west who’s blocked that route. Now we’ve recently heard from a lot of people along Hayden Rowe who aren’t keen on having their front yards cut into to accommodate the trail right down Hayden Rowe, and a lot of other people who don’t like the trail going down Hayden Rowe.”
Moran said that she had multiple conversations with a Charlesview-area property owner a few years ago and was told “point blank no” at the time, although she was not aware if that individual might have changed his mind since then.
“It’s worth investigating, if that’s what folks want to do,” Moran said, and a few members voiced support for it.
The committee also invited Hopkinton Fire Chief Bill Miller to share his thoughts on trail planning and any concerns emergency personnel might have.
Miller said the key for him is “accessibility, to get our apparatus in is really important.” Miller also said markings are vital, so people can give an accurate description of where they are.
He referenced a recent case in which a hiker suffered a broken ankle on a trail and was unable to walk, and it took first responders almost two hours to locate and access the individual.
“You’ve raised our awareness here, big-time,” said UCTC Member Eric Sonnett. “When you tell me that a broken ankle took you two hours to get to, you’re not going to lose the patient. But if somebody had a heart attack on one of our trails, time is critical. In two hours you’d be taking a corpse out and not a broke ankle. So I think we have to be ultra-aware when we do this of how we mark it and whatever state-of-the-art system we can put in to identify where the person is.”
Regarding the trail surface, Miller said pavement would be preferred, although he added that stone dust is fine as long as it’s maintained properly.