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Upper Charles chair visits TCMC meeting to address differences in perspective

by | Feb 24, 2023 | Featured: News, News

A citizens’ petition proposed as a private citizen by Trails Coordination and Management Committee chair Peter LaGoy became the main item of debate at the TCMC’s meeting Thursday night, sharply contrasting the perspectives of the chairs of the TCMC and the Upper Charles Trail Committee.

LaGoy filed two citizens’ petitions for consideration at the May 1 Annual Town Meeting, one that would disband the current UCTC and reconfigure it as a TCMC subcommittee. He told the Hopkinton Independent last month that he believed that the UCTC needed “a clearer focus on providing route options to the Select Board.”

During the public comment period Thursday, UCTC chair Jane Moran took issue with the citizens’ petition, a position she expressed at recent UCTC meetings.

“My reason for being here tonight is to offer a perspective on the recent suggestion from your chair that the UCTC be disbanded,” she explained.

LaGoy interjected to note that the citizens’ petitions he filed were as a private citizen and not on the TCMC’s behalf.

“We have worked very diligently to make sure that this committee has not made any comments with regard to the Upper Charles Trail Committee,” he said. “I as an individual have a different perspective.”

Said Moran: “I think it is important for all of us to take a step back and look at the bigger picture of what both of our committees are trying to do. We all want to create trails for everyone in our community to use.”

But the UCTC’s purpose, she explained, is “fundamentally different from that of other trails groups in Hopkinton.” It was created more than a decade ago by the Select Board to build, design, engineer and construct a multi-use trail from the Milford line to Ashland. This trail is challenging because it must be contiguous and accessible to all people and must eventually connect to four other towns. Two or three variations must be submitted to the Select Board for its review and final approval.

“Simply put, this is a complex task that will take time, patience, attention to detail, fiscal management and collaboration, and we are just not there yet,” Moran continued. The UCTC has taken recent strides to improve its community outreach and recruit new members who have added additional skills to the UCTC.

Moran compared the UCTC’s progress to that of Milford and Holliston. Those two communities took 25 years to complete their portion of the Upper Charles Trail, and they had the advantage of using existing railroad beds. By contrast, Hopkinton has seen unprecedented development in recent years and is faced with the potential development of a new elementary school building on Hayden Rowe Street. That heavily traveled road has been the source of community contention with a proposal for Segment 7 of the trail, which was proposed to cross it multiple times. The TCMC proposed an alternative route, which it referred to as the western alignment.

“Hopkinton has more complexity and requires more time, more input and more collaboration in order to develop the best possible options,” Moran explained. “I’m asking for patience so that this committee may continue its evolving work.”

The UCTC recently has shifted its focus toward the first segment, which would connect Hopkinton State Park to the downtown area. This would allow for time to consider the impact that the school and the resulting traffic would have on Segments 6 and 7.

Moran noted that the UCTC unanimously supported the TCMC’s request from the Community Preservation Committee for nearly $50,000 to do an engineering study for the proposed western alignment. Once that study is complete, she said, there will be more data to support whether a segment should be located along Hayden Rowe or not.

She asked that the TCMC “take a reasonable approach” so that the two groups can support one another.

Later in the meeting, LaGoy, in his role as TCMC chair, described the rationale behind the petition, which would call for the UCTC to become a TCMC subcommittee. He compared the restructuring to how the School Committee creates a building subcommittee to work on a proposal that it can then vote on before submitting it to the Select Board.

“I don’t see the mission changing that much,” he added. “I do think that there could be considerably better communication done, which I think has been a longterm sticking point with that committee.”

Since December 2021, LaGoy said, the UCTC hasn’t appeared to be receptive to hearing public concerns.

Said LaGoy: “The town should have one trails committee — not two. Our charge is to be the umbrella trail organization.”

The members would, like a school building committee, include TCMC members, he explained, as well as other community members with interests and skill sets that would be helpful in developing the Upper Charles Trail.

Member Charles Dauchy said the TCMC would be providing “some degree of oversight.”

Moran disagreed with that assessment, calling the UCTC “vastly different from the TCMC.” The UCTC answers to the Select Board, not the TCMC. She also said the school situation analogy was “not appropriate.”

Said Moran: “If we were to become part of the TCMC, are you not taking away the Select Board’s authority?”

LaGoy countered that “the Select Board or the town would still make the final decision on the trail.”

He compared the UCTC to the building committee that previously proposed a school on Fruit Street that was voted down at Town Meeting. A new committee was formed, which resulted in Marathon School being built on Hayden Rowe Street.

Moran noted that the UCTC voted to seek a legal opinion on the article. TCMC member Fran DeYoung asked if either town counsel or the Select Board have weighed in on the matter. Moran said neither one has yet.

She added that the Upper Charles Trail is more substantial, with a “one-time shot” to get it right.

Town website update discussed

In other TCMC news, member Linda Chuss described the updates to the town website. She proposed adding some information to what is there, adding a more detailed information section and potential links to Facebook and Instagram.

She also pointed out that on the website’s “Services and EGov” tab, there is a section called “Hopkinton Trail Guide/Land and Trail Maps.” Chuss suggested removing the subheadings for the state park land as well as Lake Maspenock.

“The dream” she described would be a more interactive map that would include all of the trail maps in town, which would incorporate elements of the pages for the Hopkinton Area Land Trust and the Hopkinton Trails Club. There would be links with pictures and some details. She also said there should be an alphabetical list of the trails and links to information about the groups.

Kids on Trails event takes shape

One change Chuss hopes to make to the website before the Kids on Trails event on April 26 (4-6:30 p.m.at the Hopkinton Public Library event room) is a “Trails for Kids” link. The link would instruct parents on which trails are stroller accessible or have different amenities that children would enjoy. Another suggestion Chuss offered was to include information about trail safety.

Chuss explained that the Kids on Trails event is taking the place of the TCMC’s annual meeting. Member Krisanne Campos has been working in coordination with the library on activities. Participating organizations so far include the TCMC, the library, HALT, the UCTC, the New England Mountain Bike Association, Audubon and the Wildwood Learning Center.

Campos described items that can be included in giveaways, such as foraging bags, sketch pads, orange vests or bandanas, and stickers. There could be a drawing for a larger gift basket, she suggested.

Complete hiking kits for kids will be donated to the library’s library of things, she added. They will include binoculars and magnifying glasses.

She added that a guided children’s walk will take place in May with a bingo theme. Children will be given cards with themes including plants, fungus, birds and tree types. They can punch holes into the bingo cards for items they discover on their walk to potentially win a prize, such as a restaurant gift card.

A potential logo for the TCMC was discussed and will be addressed at an upcoming meeting.