With efforts continuing to bring the Upper Charles Trail extension to fruition, members of the Upper Charles Trail Committee are turning their attention to a different section of the trail as well as public outreach efforts.
Meeting one week after Chair Jane Moran provided the Select Board with an update on the project, which has generated controversy because of a proposed segment along Hayden Rowe Street, committee members on Tuesday night discussed ways to reach out to the public and get residents involved in the project. They also expressed excitement over the possibility of receiving a MassTrails grant, which would fund an engineering study for a segment of the Upper Charles Trail from Hopkinton State Park to the future site of the International Marathon Museum. The committee also discussed a survey of Hayden Rowe and the submission to the state of an Environmental Notification Form, something that had come up in the meeting with the Select Board.
There were a number of ideas on public outreach, including reaching out to the Senior Center, library and groups such as the Charles River Bike Club, to which UCTC member Eli Post belongs.
“One thing that came through loud and clear from the Select Board is our committee needs to continue to do public outreach,” Moran said. “What are some of the ways we can reach out to the community and communicate what we’ve been doing?”
Committee members agreed it was important to reach out to as many people as possible to get their ideas on how they would use the trail.
Member Cynthia Esthimer, who serves as a liaison for the Parks & Recreation Committee, of which she is also a member, suggested parent/teacher organizations, bike clubs such as the Charles River Bike Club, and other organizations as potential groups whose members might have a keen interest in the trail.
“Just to find different potential users of the trail,” she said. “Talk to seniors. I think all of this would be helpful, from bicyclists to toddlers to older folks. I think it’s worth it. I think it’s work, too.”
Post agreed it was a good idea to talk with the Charles River Bike Club and also suggested monthly emails keeping residents informed about developments with the trail.
Member Ken Parker, who also belongs to the town’s Trails Coordination and Management Committee (TCMC), suggested approaching the library and coordinating outreach.
Committee awaits word on grant
Moran said the committee could learn the fate of its application for a 2023 MassTrails Grant by the end of the month or early July.
The UCTC filed a joint application for the $500,000 grant with the TCMC, working with Town Manager Norman Khumalo. The two groups essentially applied for about $250,000 each. The UCTC would use its portion for an engineering study of a stretch of the Upper Charles Trail from the entrance to Hopkinton State Park to the site of the future International Marathon Center. According to Moran, it would stretch through state forest land, Legacy Farms North and town-owned open space. The TCMC would use its funds for a multi-use path starting behind Hopkinton High School and exiting through Berry Acres, which is across from the Golden Pond assisted living facility and extends toward Lumber Street.
“The theory is [the trails] would all connect,” Moran said by phone after Tuesday’s meeting. “[You’d have] connectivity between our perception of the Upper Charles Trail and what the TCMC has already done with Center Trail and this extension. It would tie all of that together.”
Via Berry Acres, she noted, people would be able to walk from the trail to restaurants, medical facilities and other stores, including the Dunkin’ Donuts and Starbucks on West Main Street.
“It provides connectivity to services,” Moran said. “It would be exciting.”
Hayden Rowe survey may take time
One of the main reasons for putting the Hayden Rowe stretch of the Upper Charles Trail on the back burner for now is that a survey of the road is being held to address questions from many residents in that area.
That survey, to be conducted by VHB Engineering, may not start for another six weeks to two months, according to Moran. Before it does, handouts will be distributed to homeowners informing them of when the survey will start.
Moran noted the committee voted to put the Hayden Rowe plan on hold at a previous meeting “because the feedback we got from the community clearly stated they wanted more information throughout the whole process — safety, engineering, costs, everything.”
“We’re going to start with the right of way,” Moran told the Independent. “What does the town actually own on Hayden Rowe?”
The town hired VHB to find that out, but Moran said the company is several weeks out from being able to start.
“Once we get a start date on that, our committee will be handing out informational notices to residents,” she said. “People want to know what we’re doing, when, where. … At this point in time, we feel we need to get more information. Without more information, we can’t make a definitive plan. It’s a fair ask of the citizens to want more information so everyone can make an informed decision.”
ENF update provided
Moran also told the committee about questions from the Select Board regarding an Environmental Notification Form (ENF) to be provided to the state.
“The state needs to know we are doing this massive, 8-plus-mile trail in segments, and that is not done a whole lot,” Moran said. “It’s important to let the state know this is our plan and how it is progressing. It’s not just a flat, abandoned route. It’s using town-owned open space. The whole purpose of the Environmental Notification is that we cannot go over certain environmental thresholds.
“The Environmental Notification Form demonstrates to the state this is what we plan to do, that we’re not trying to circumvent any state laws, and that we will comply with all the environmental notifications. It is very tactical and purposeful to let the state know this is our plan.”
Moran said it’s also being done to get necessary feedback from the state to determine what may or may not be allowed.
“They will study the ENF in depth and then advise us,” she said.
Moran said she did not know when the ENF would be submitted but that she had asked the Select Board to consider approving it when it comes before the members.
Based on this article, it appears that nothing is being done regarding an alternate to Hayden Rowe. This is disappointing. Similarly there is no mention of reconsidering the type of surface. Having recently biked on the Holliston trail’s stone surface using a road bike, I found it better than my recent ride on the Blackstone Millbury-Worcester path as that path has many tree root damages that need to be fixed, i.e., asphalt surface will require expensive maintenance.
While outreach and providing information is a great improvement, the next improvement needs to be listening to input and considering it. The quotes in this article made it seem to me like ‘instead of ramming the trail down your throat, we’re going to first tell you the ramming is coming.’ So please, UCTC, share information, but also listen and reconsider too.