The Upper Charles Trail Committee (UCTC) at its 90-minute meeting Wednesday night discussed the inclusion of previous data from emails and a survey on the town website to help the public better understand the committee’s initiatives as well as to increase transparency.
Dave Daltorio, the town engineer and facilities director, said that he and Michelle Murdock, the town’s professional project specialist, have been compiling answers to questions raised in emails as well as a previous survey about the community’s vision for the trails. He presented the second FAQ results to UCTC chair Jane Moran before the meeting, and he said he expected to post a third FAQ to the UCTC page on the town website.
This effort mainly came about to answer questions regarding two trail engineering studies. One is the controversial study for Segment 6 that was funded last year by a MassTrails grant. This proposed trail would cross Hayden Rowe Street and loop around the Marathon Elementary School, which the School Committee opposed.
The other was for a proposed engineering study for Segment 1, which runs from Hopkinton State Park to East Main Street near the proposed International Marathon Center. The Community Preservation Committee (CPC) recently approved a request for $48,400 for an engineering study for consideration at Town Meeting, noted member Eric Sonnett.
There are two FAQ documents, Daltorio explained. The first FAQ sheet, released last year, broke questions into categories and was “a summary of 100 emails.” A second document pertained to more general questions received over the past year. This new FAQ responded to queries from more recent emails.
“There are still a few questions remaining that Michelle and I continue to work on,” Daltorio said. “We wanted to make sure that we’re not answering duplicate questions.”
Moran said this is part of an “ongoing effort” to keep residents apprised of the committee’s work. At the next meeting on Feb. 1 at 6:30 p.m., Moran said that Murdock will be giving a presentation on how to access the UCTC’s information, which is stored on a Google Drive on the town website.
Treasurer Scott Knous, who has been working to increase public outreach about the UCTC, said that although the FAQ is helpful, he didn’t believe the public would be satisfied with summaries of the forms.
“There have been very loud voices about transparency on the emails we received and the actual full text of the feedback forms,” he told the committee, rather than “actual artifacts.”
Public comment forms from a previous UCTC forum will be scanned in and posted on the website within the next day, Daltorio said. Most survey forms did not include comments, Murdock added.
When a question was asked about members publicly saying where they stand on issues, Moran noted that they “do express our points of view at every meeting.”
At that point, member Cynthia Esthimer asked that “a bit of a timeout” be called because most of the discussion revolved around the past rather than the committee’s current goals.
“We’re doing our best and we’re pedaling as fast as we can to get the residents of Hopkinton what they need to hear to best make decisions,” she said, suggesting that quarterly updates would be more efficient.
Said Daltorio: “It’s not a living document; it’s a snapshot in time.”
He added that “complete transparency is what our goal is.”
For clarity, Knous suggested that the UCTC form a statement explaining what decisions it has made and which topics are under review.
Moran noted that a MassTrails grant application for an engineering study for Segment 1 cannot be submitted until the work on the current study is completed. Daltorio noted that MassTrails tends to be more favorable to applications that promote trail connectivity, particularly if they connect town properties.
Moran also said that a future goal is to “examine our overall connectivity” to trail systems.
Knous pushed for “a holistic view” toward the trails, rather than taking them into consideration as segments.
He added that a committee goal he has been working on is elevating community engagement. He said he would like to see 200 emails in the near future.
The committee also unanimously approved the annual report for the past year, which was submitted for review by member Eli Post.