With the town’s right-of-way survey along Hayden Rowe Street completed, members of the Upper Charles Trail Committee (UCTC) on Wednesday discussed how that could affect a proposed segment of the Upper Charles Trail.
“Months and months ago we tried to identify what the right of way was and couldn’t identify it easily,” Town Engineer Dave Daltorio told the committee. “We did our own research and still couldn’t find it, so we hired VHB [engineering firm] to do a full survey. They identified where the right of way is.”
The right of way in question, Daltorio explained, sits between Granite Street and College Street. It’s part of what the UCTC refers to as Segment 7. He added that some of the discussions were based on a typical cross-section of what the trail/bike path might look like.
Daltorio said the width of the right of way — land the town legally has the right to access, even if it’s part of a homeowner’s front yard — varies, from about 60 feet to about 46 feet. He explained that a typical trail on a road like Route 85 is between 49 1/2 and 55 feet. “That’s with the bike path,” Daltorio added. “You have a buffer, a sidewalk on the other side, you have a buffer on that side as well, 2-to-4-foot shoulders and 11-foot travel lanes.”
Expressing concern over the narrowest points of the right of way, UCTC member Ken Parker asked if additional action would need to be taken, or whether a bikeway could squeeze into the smallest space.
“Actually 49 1/2 to 55 [feet] was the typical cross-section,” Daltorio answered. “The roadway in that area is sometimes in the center of the right of way. Sometimes it’s almost all the way to the west, sometimes it’s almost all the way east. It’s kind of random,” said Daltorio. “As I mentioned way back before, if anything were to ever happen as part of a town project, it would be a realignment of Hayden Rowe because you’d have to center it within the right of way — not necessarily, but you would have to do some sort of large project.”
Peter LaGoy, chair of the Trails Coordination and Management Committee, asked if it would make sense for the committee to re-vote about using a MassTrails grant to study Segment 6, which was proposed to go around Marathon School before connecting back to Hayden Rowe Street and Segment 7. He based his request on the fact that Segment 7 “may not be usable as a result of needing takings [of land] and as a result of needing to realign the road, that doing this Segment 6 doesn’t seem to make a whole lot of sense. It seems to be taking money and spending it needlessly.” LaGoy previously proposed the UCTC look into using land west of Hayden Rowe Street to avoid having the trail run along busy Route 85.
Chair Jane Moran said she had no interest in taking a new vote.
“The contracts have been signed and we’re moving forward on it,” she stated.
Once the UCTC has spent the money from its MassTrails grant, it can apply for additional state funds if needed. It also is looking into funding from the Community Preservation Committee (CPC). An initial request for CPC funds was withdrawn prior to May’s Annual Town Meeting following negative feedback from residents about the proposed trail location along Route 85.
UCTC Vice Chair Eric Sonnett, who is the UCTC’s liaison with the CPC, said that at the CPC’s meeting on Sept. 22, he planned to explain the UCTC’s goals and methodology and note that there will be a request forthcoming.
“They’re very supportive of us, so I would expect cooperation,” he said.
Committee seeks to engage residents
UCTC Treasurer Scott Knous discussed the fiscal year 2023 goal No. 10, to engage the community.
“Our level set goal is to elevate town community engagement by four times,” he said. “How do we do that? We meet them where they are. That really means engaging residents by meeting them where they are versus us telling them where and how to be.”
Knous noted that the process would involve understanding the values, style, needs and perspectives of Hopkinton residents, and connecting with them in the manner most convenient for them, not necessarily the easiest contact method for the UCTC.
“We would target and connect with residents who would be trail users and tailor the meeting times and venues by audience,” he said “Resident groups, running clubs, PTAs, businesses, Facebook groups — proactively reaching out to them to get their feedback and comments.”
Residents might be members of more than one demographic; for example, said Knous, a mother could be in a mom’s club and also a resident of the Charlesview neighborhood off Hayden Rowe Street.
“We want both of those perspectives,” he said.
“There is a group of over 400, Moms Running. It’s Hopkinton heavy,” said new UCTC alternate Jamie Wronka. “I’m the membership chair of the PTO, and I’m in the Mom’s Group.”
Parks & Recreation Commission UCTC designee Cynthia Esthimer was concerned about sticking to the UCTC’s purpose in communicating with a widely varied set of groups.
“With groups that have different or overlapping interests, how do we as a group stay on message?” she asked.
Per Knous, one key to encouraging resident participation is to focus on positive aspects that will benefit everyone.
“If we go in front of groups and act like salespeople, then we’re shooting ourselves in the food,” he said. “This is what we’re looking to do: Let them know it’s going to be amazing for the town, to connect the towns to each other, and we want their feedback. We’re asking for their feedback. We’re not telling them anything.”
In addition to his presentation on engaging the community, Knous also discussed his plans to simplify the routes.
“I’m hoping we can transition from segments to talking about routes,” he said. “It’s Goal No. 6. You separate the segments into two hypothetical buckets, with one bucket being for critical segments — those part of making the connection from Ashland to Milford — and the other for segments that serve as spokes or branches.
“I’m really talking about a contiguous route,” Knous said. “My goal is to simplify it.”
UCTC member Eli Post said that he and Sonnett were on a group to review the western alternative (around Charlesview) with the Hopkinton Trails Club.
“We met with Peter [LaGoy],” Post said. “He very graciously went over the entire plan and highlighted the areas where they require easements or land transfers, and we discussed the status of the bridge [proposed to cross over Route 85 to connect to the Milford trail].”
Post and LaGoy planned to meet the next day, so Post chose to defer his recommendations until after that meeting.
Treasurer provides update
Knous reported that the UCTC’s available budget is $54,000, with an encumbrance of $28,000.
“The encumbrance is carried over from last year, which obviously could be released at some point,” he said.
Due to varying availabilities and the Yom Kippur holiday, several dates were considered for the next meeting before the committee members eventually decided on Thursday, Sept. 29. They plan to talk more about CPC funding at that meeting.