By Max Bowenemail@example.com
A new Open Space Plan will look to improve the town’s playing fields, protect historical sites, and identify land for preservation.
Last revised in 2013, a new Open Space Committee will be created to work on the plan, with the new one to be on deck by Feb. 1. Town Manager Michael Borg said that in the last plan, a $500,000 cost to replace the turf field was never mentioned.
“There’s so much at stake in this plan,” said Borg at the Oct. 26 Town Council meeting. “We will create a plan that can be executed, can be funded, and take the fields to the next level.”
The 2013 plan—developed in partnership with the Southeastern Regional Planning & Economic Development District—had six goals. These were:
- Protect the town’s ground and surface water resources.
- Prevent loss of natural resources and habitats.
- Prevent loss of cultural elements.
- Create a town-wide trail system.
- Promote coordinated land use and planning.
- Expand and improve recreational opportunities, increased trails and fields.
Conservation Administrator Shannon Palmer said some of these goals have been achieved. For example, the Department of Public Works will soon begin a dredging the 10-Mile River. She added that new trails have been created along with fields at the Lestage property and the community gardens. A town-wide archeology survey was recently finished, and new signage indicating historical sites have been placed.
One area that Palmer said the town has missed a step on was preventing loss of natural resources, due to a lack of funding for land acquisition. She said a Community Preservation Act (CPA) would help with this. A CPA is state law that enables cities and towns to create a dedicated fund for local open space, historic preservation, community housing and outdoor recreation projects. Funds for this are generated through a surcharge between 1-3 percent on property tax bills.
“We’ve kind of missed out on quite a few significant parcels,” said Palmer.
CPAs have proven a challenge to receive approval from voters. Town Councilor Michael Lennox said that residents don’t often appreciate the tax increase, though he was interested in the steps needed to bring it before them.
Councilor John Simmons said that maintaining and creating fields is a priority for him. A former youth sports coach, he said more space is needed, that some teams can’t practice because fields aren’t available. He suggested partnerships be formed with businesses to sponsor the fields and defray costs. Council Vice-President Justin Pare said his daughters are sometimes unable to play due to the fields always being used.
“I’d like to see how we can maintain the current fields and not overburden them,” said Simmons.