The Upper Charles Trail Committee discussed future goals at Wednesday’s meeting and debated whether or not to push forward with a preliminary design of a segment of the trail in the area of Marathon School.
The School Committee did not support a proposal to design a trail around Marathon School, and some residents have expressed opposition, in part because it would connect with the UCTC’s controversial proposed segment along Hayden Rowe Street.
However, the Upper Charles Trail Committee applied for and received a grant from MassTrails (a state agency) for design work on Segment 6, which encompasses the Marathon School land as well as the adjoining Irvine-Todaro property, where the town has expressed an interest in constructing a new facility to replace Elmwood School.
“I think there’s a lot of risk both to our political position in town to proceed with that preliminary design for Segment 6, and also for getting future money from the MassTrails system if we botch it in such a way that it kind of puts a black mark on what we’re trying to do,” UCTC member Ken Parker said.
Town Engineer Dave Daltorio noted that giving back money also could be perceived negatively. “In my experiences, they don’t appreciate us wasting their time,” he said.
Daltorio also noted that Town Meeting expressed an interest in having trails on the Irvine-Todaro property, and any trails there could be separate from the main Upper Charles Trail — a “spur” rather then a segment that continues to another portion of the trail.
Chair Jane Moran added that it could be appealing to have trails that connect all the schools.
“It’s an opportunity I don’t think we can ignore,” she said of using the grant money.
Parker countered that working on a design on land where a school might be constructed doesn’t make sense, as the designers would not know where on the property the building would be located.
Parker also pushed for the committee to make it clear that any design work would be focused on connecting neighborhoods rather than taking a step toward continuing the trail down Hayden Rowe Street — a proposal that has faced substantial public opposition.
“I am faced with a position of all my friends are going to be on my ass for having accepted this,” he said. “If I can at least make the case that the purpose of this is partially to connect to the neighborhoods, they’ll let me a little bit off the hook because a lot of people are in favor of that, independent of the Upper Charles Trail. So I’d say that that’s allowing us a way out of this dilemma. But if we don’t do that, I think we’re stupid.”
On a related note, Daltorio shared results from the group’s public survey about each proposed segment of the trail. A total of 51 people replied to the survey either at the UCTC’s public forum this past spring or online, although not every respondent weighed in on each segment. The segment drawing the most interest was Segment 7 — the proposal to have the trail run along Hayden Rowe Street toward Milford and cross the road multiple times. Of the 38 individuals who offered an opinion on that segment, 31 indicated they disliked the proposal, with four opining that they liked it and three neutral.
UCTC member Eli Post suggested the survey did not get enough responses to draw substantial conclusions.
Moran concurred, saying, “I think we just take it for what it is at this point in time and know that we’re seriously in the beginning stages of all of this and there’s a lot of work to do.”
Members discussed ways to make the survey easier to understand, including eliminating some of the segments and/or making it more clear where each segment runs.
“Part of our problem is … we should have spent a lot more time figuring out how to reach out to the public using this kind of approach,” Parker said. “I still think it’s a good idea to do it. I think we’ve got to do it better, though. We’ve got to make it so that when people are filling out the survey, when they’re looking at the table, they can actually tell which segment is which.”
Moran reelected chair
At the start of the meeting the committee held its annual reorganization, and Moran was reelected to serve as chair.
Post nominated Moran to remain in the position “because nobody else is crazy enough to do it.”
Eric Sonnett was reelected vice chair, while Scott Knous, who is new to the committee, was tabbed to be treasurer.