The Hopkinton Upper Charles Trail Committee was sent a strong message by Town Meeting on Tuesday, with passage of a non-binding article calling for the committee’s abolishment as well as an article to withhold spending on the controversial proposed Segment 7 along Hayden Rowe Street.
Peter LaGoy, chair of the town’s Trails Coordination and Management Committee but speaking as a private citizen, brought forth the citizens’ petition calling for the UCTC to be disbanded. He said he was aware of town counsel’s opinion that Article 47 would not be binding, as it first would require a change in town bylaw, which was not proposed. The vote was considered only advisory.
“We don’t take this motion lightly,” LaGoy said. “These are friends and neighbors. We respect work on committees. However, after 10 years, and particularly after watching the last two years, some change is needed.”
LaGoy said the UCTC has failed to listen to safety concerns, has not been responsive to the public, and has been overly reliant on a commuter-focused engineering firm (VHB) that is not the right for this job.
UCTC chair Jane Moran, speaking in opposition, provided some background on why separate trails committees were created and noted the UCTC has been tasked with providing options for the Upper Charles Trail to the Select Board.
A number of residents spoke out against having a trail go down Hayden Rowe Street and said the UCTC is not listening to residents’ concerns.
Ken Parker, a current and longtime member of the UCTC, said he supported disbanding the committee. He said he had a suggestion that he hoped could solve the issue with Hayden Rowe but did not believe his opinion would be considered by the current committee.
Scott Knous, who joined the UCTC last year, said there are “really, really good people” on the committee, but there’s a “suboptimal process.”
Select Board member Muriel Kramer, speaking as a private citizen, spoke against the article.
“It’s personally divisive and affrontive to pursue this this way,” she said, although she acknowledged the Hayden Rowe option was not preferable to her.
Former Select Board chair John Coutinho said the town should be patient while the committee continues its hard work. He opposed the article, saying, “This isn’t the way to do it.”
A simple majority was needed for passage of the article, and it passed by a count of 158-61.
Steve Frohbieter, a member of the Hopkinton Trails Club but speaking as a private citizen, introduced Article 48, calling for no money to be spent on a segment proposed to run along Hayden Rowe. Town counsel previously indicated passage of the article would not be a permanent decision but would hold until next year’s Annual Town Meeting.
“If the UCTC has not yet come to the conclusion that they’re not going to be build a trail down Hayden Rowe, then this will delay their efforts for a year by denying them the funds to continue their folly,” Frohbieter said. “Hopefully during that time we can find an alternative to this misguided route plan.”
Moran said the committee did not put in a request for spending on Segment 7, so she found the article “very perplexing.” She stressed that it would be the Select Board’s decision whether or not to pursue a specific route, and it was the UCTC’s job to provide options for the Select Board to consider.
Hayden Rowe Street resident Martin Bayes supported the article.
“I acknowledge the difficulty of the task that the committee’s been facing, but I think hiding behind advancing a clearly unacceptable approach as one of the alternatives indicates a lack of functionality of the group,” he said. “And this motion that I will support is a strong signal that just because you’re asked to look for alternatives does not mean advancing poor alternatives.”
The article passed overwhelmingly via a voice vote shortly before midnight, putting a cap on Annual Town Meeting for 2023.
The only reason there is an alternative (the western route) to the UCTC’s Hayden Rowe route is because the Hopkinton Trails Club began developing it after seeing the UCTC’s proposal in August 2021. When it was brought to the UCTC, they had no interest in considering it. The western route was subsequently fleshed out by the TCMC. After meeting for 10 years, the UCTC had just one proposed route, down Hayden Rowe, which – as Steve Frohbieter stated – is folly. Other than including it on their maps, the UCTC has had no part in the development of the western route proposal.
I’m sorry you missed the history of our committee looking into the western alternative back in 2017-18. Committee members reached out to three different property owners, one who was building a solar farm in the area that we were interested in travelling through. He flat out told me, “Jane, I’ve met with the property owners behind Alexander Rd, and they told me that they would not support his efforts for the solar array if he allowed the trail to pass through his property.
So no- he was not interested is talking with us. The second property owner told me ” I have to talk with my neighbor first and if he goes for it, so will I” or words to that effect. Another property owner that owns property that we needed to travel through told my fellow committee member to stay off his property and never call again and hung up.
We had our engineer give us a cursory opinion and we were advised that there are multiple wetland deliniation issues with the area and that this committee has to be mindful of the fact that by law we can’t go over a certain threshold for the entire route of the project, and we know that most of the wetland issues are in the southern parcel that is yet to be engineered.
This is a complex project and we have looked at this route. Please remember it took both Milford and Holliston over 25 years to build their trail and they had an abandonded, flat, rail bed with relatively no wet land issues to start with, Hopkinton does not. That does not mean we can’t get the job done, it just means we have to be smart about it.
Saying that, when we were approached again we agreed to put the Hayden Rowe approach on hold and support the TCMC’s investigation into making this approach work. Our committee would love nothing better than to have the trail go through the woods and we will support that effort.
We look forward to collaborating with the TCMC, Trail’s Club, HALT and all the neighbors in this effort.
Please join us at our next meeting (3-15-23) where Mr. LaGoy will be invited to join us in a conversation to help bring our Town citizens together to build a trail that will be accessible to folks of all ages and abilities.
To clarify your point that it took Holliston and Milford 25 years to complete it’s respective trail is not accurate. I will speak for Holliston only, but I do know that Milford was entirely completed faster than Holliston. Holliston was delayed by the major landowner, CSX, who was unwilling to sell its sections of the railbed for many years. We purchased the first section, not owned by CSX in 2009, and the CSX parcels in 2012, 2015 and 2016. We completed the trail construction by 2018, a total duration of under 9 years. If you wanted to count the start of the Trail from the completion of the feasibility study done by MAPC in 1998, then the duration would be 20 years. I note, however, that the Hopkinton section of the Upper Charles Trail was also included in that study.
What do you all have in store for the section between south barn and blackthorne circle (segment 18)? Is that considered too much of a water hazard with the nearby wetlands or not?
Hi Concerned Citizen & thanks for reaching out,
We have looked at the parcel of land in the area that you speak too. Pre-engineering conversations between the committee, our engineering firm and site walks with and Milford Water Co have occurred. We have been advised that this area would most likely need a board walk and we have obtained initial approval to plan and construct a sidewalk on the south side of Granite St that would connect to Hayden Rowe.
We would have to cross Rt 85 to connect to a trail that has been vetted that would take us to College St, near College Park.
There is still much engineering studies and community public meetings that would need to take place before that could built.
I hope this answers your question and please don’t hesitate to reach out via our web page or using this site.
I stand corrected and recognize that it took you 20 years to complete your rail bed, not 25.
Hopkinton is different in that our Town sold off the abandonded rail bed that travelled through our town with the exception of two small parcels. We were fortunate to buy those and upgrade them to stone dust trails. The rest of our route will have to travel through town owned open space or we will have to purchase easements or other.
Our project will take more time, community support, fiscal management and planning. We have a good plan currently that collaborates with DCR, Tennessee Gas, private property owners and the International Marathon Museum that starts at Hopkinton State Part and travels south to E. Main St.
The Select Board in Hopkinton charged us with planning, engineering, design and construction of building this trail however we must offer them 2-3 options for their consideration. This is what we are in the process of working through on the center section of our trail and we still have a long way to go on this very complex project.