Forest trails set to open in June

An extensive cleaning of two miles of trails near Plain Street are nearing completion in time for a June 11 opening. Staff Photo/Adam Bass

The Forest Path Project—a year-long endeavor to clean up 2.5 miles of trails for the public—will soon be completed.

Parks and Recreation Director Steven Carvalho said a grand opening and naming event of the trails will take place on Saturday, June 11, at the site on Plain Street. The event coincides with the unveiling of a brand new dog park.

“It’s been a resource the town has had for many years,” Carvalho said of the forest paths. “It’s been there a very long time and it is going to be wonderful that people can walk these trails.”

At the forest entrance on Plain Street, several mounds of woodchips and debris are scattered around the area as workers clear the paths for hiking, walking and other outdoor activities. Fencing has also been placed in the area for the dog park. According to Carvalho, five trails in total will be for pedestrian use.

“We are about 95 percent done with this project,” Carvalho said. “The last thing we need to do is put up

fencing for the dog park adjacent to the forest and put up signage.”

Carvalho said the project began in earnest last summer when he and Fire Chief Christopher Coleman discussed the risk of forest fires fueled by excess undergrowth along natural trails. The trails were already being used by people before but Carvalho said the clearing of the paths would not only prevent wildfires but allow for more accessibility for visitors. In mid-May, two brush fires damaged an acre of property at the World War I Memorial Park.

Assistant Town Manager Antonio Morabito said the town used funds from a special forest management account to pay for forest cleanup, fencing, and cutting down underbrush. According to Morabito, the cost of all expenses totaled $144,118.

“This is an incredible resource for the town forest and for the pople,” Morabito said of the project.

Carvalho said he and the rest of the Parks Department are trying to find ways to increase public use of the park and forest. Some of these ideas include adding picnic tables, signs that identify vegetation and animals in the forest, geocaching tours, and provide cross country skiing in the winter.

Carvalho said these plans are for the future and the goal right now is to preserve the forest and encourage those who don’t do outside activities to enjoy nature more frequently.

“It’s a beautiful and tranquil place to visit,” he said. “Not everything is about playing a sport or on a computer. It is about getting back to nature, meeting people, and making friends.”