HomeOpinionLetter to the Editor: Why is this a Hostile Debate?

Letter to the Editor: Why is this a Hostile Debate?

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Editor:

The Hopkinton Upper Charles Trail Committee (UCTC) was created ten years ago to provide leadership and oversight in the planning, design and development of a multi-use trail connecting Milford to Ashland. The idea is to connect the towns via an off-road 6-mile trail using old railroad beds. Milford and Holliston have completed a trail and it has attracted lots of users. Area towns have been developing this rail trail since 1993. It has taken twenty-five years to complete 13 miles of the trail and work continues.

The Hopkinton challenge: our town doesn’t own the old rail bed. The old train tracks were purchased by individual landowners. So, to create a connection between the towns, negotiations are required with several property owners. Some have been cooperative and some have not.

The UCTC, working closely with our town engineer and an engineering company, have evaluated multiple sections of possible routes. 

The Town of Hopkinton Master Plan was created in 2017. In part it reads: “The Hopkinton Master Plan is a blueprint for our future that will help to guide our choices and decisions as a Town. The Plan discusses current and projected needs, establishes goals, and identifies some of the ways we can achieve these goals together. The Board feels that the Plan is realistic and optimistic – we can achieve these goals if there is a collective will to do so, and if we do, Hopkinton will continue to be the place we are proud to call home.”

Twenty-five town leaders contributed to this document, which is available on the town website.  The plan includes the mandate to “Provide alternatives to automobile transportation, including bicycle and pedestrian facilities and networks.

Hopkinton has many trails. Didn’t we find these wonderful escapes from our pandemic isolation? Management of these trails became the task of the Trail Coordination and Management Committee.

Differences of opinion about the trail route, surface and users developed as possibilities were explored and data collected.  Divisions developed between people and groups. But instead of hammering out those differences a power play commenced.

A citizen petition was submitted to the recent town meeting asking that the UCTC be disbanded.  Town counsel determined that the article was not valid prior to the town meeting. The vote for this article was taken at midnight after most citizens had gone home. 158 voted yes and 61 voted no. I was embarrassed that night at the Town Meeting for the shameful way these town volunteers were treated.

The Select Board decided to create a survey to determine what type of trail citizens preferred. I knew of this survey because I have been following the discussions. When it was released, I was anxious to complete it. I’m not sure how others knew about the survey which was only open until July 2. 

Two survey questions had responses that I could not agree with. So I left the answers blank. Therefore, I was unable to submit the survey online. I obtained a paper copy from the Senior Center but noticed that it was not an exact copy of the online version. The Select Board provided a corrected version and I completed the survey.

The survey response was small. I wonder how many citizens knew of this survey and had the background information to make decisions. I found the survey questions biased. Questions and response options found fault with the UCTC and dealt with management issues that we expect our town officials and employees to handle.

Consequently, Select Board decisions regarding the future of the UCTC may reflect the wishes of a very small number of Hopkinton citizens.

The UCTC has always conducted their business according to regulations and conventions used by other Hopkinton volunteer committees. They have posted information on the Hopkinton town website for all interested citizens to read.

The Select Board suspended the UCTC which prevented them from answering criticism. Thus they have been prevented from providing correct information and from identifying lies.

In my opinion, the Select Board allowed this situation to fester and explode by shirking their management responsibilities. Our Town Manager is qualified to manage the conflict. Why has he been prevented from doing so?

Why do I care? Because I want a multi-use trail in Hopkinton. I want a safe route for bikers and others that connects us with the existing Upper Charles Trail in Milford/Holliston and the developing trail in Ashland. It could also connect us to the growing East Coast Greenway.

If you care too, please let the Select Board know.

Sally Snyder

Sunnyside Gardens

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10 COMMENTS

  1. Thank you Sally for your thoughtful explanation. I too have worried from afar about the disagreements seemingly dividing our town. As you mentioned, I’ve been waiting many long years for the bike trails to be completed and have long respected the work of the trails volunteers in our town.

  2. After years of trying to work within the system for change, and in particular over the last two years, numerous residents were upset that the UCTC was not truly listening to safety issues and other public concerns. As a result, a group of citizens brought a petition to town meeting requesting change. Town meeting voted overwhelmingly for the town to move in a different direction than that proposed by the UCTC. Such changes in direction are not uncommon in business. They’re not personal. They’re simply different individuals (often new management but in this case a majority of voters) looking at a process and thinking a different approach may make more sense.

  3. Peter, the UCTC has not proposed anything! They have been evaluating options in order to determine the optimal safe route.

  4. Is it that the majority of the towns folks following this issue simply do not want the trail to go down Hayden Rowe Street? So let’s take that option off the table and rework others. Folks wonder why we’d throw good money at a section that’s so unsafe and unwanted. We lived on Hayden Rowe 27 years ago and it was busy then. Can we just work on squashing that one section?

  5. Something that I would like to see addressed is what if anything can be done to improve the design of the existing trail crossings on Route 85 to alert drivers to slow down as they pass through it.

  6. The survey that went out was horrible! Whoever put it together was biased and didn’t ask the correct questions.

    AND, very few residents were even aware of it! So, once again for Hopkinton, time and energy wasted!

  7. How does the TCMC propose to cross Route 85 from the Milford town line? Is it a ‘no-cost’ pedestrian bridge? Will the town buy or get an easement on and through private property on the westerly side of Route 85 needed to build a bridge and connect Route 85 to the Echo Trail? Does the TCMC have any intention of ever connecting the Echo Trail to Milford?

    In the likely event that the TCMC reaffirm that their “western alternative” around or through the Charlesview neighborhood is not viable, what alternative(s) does TCMC propose to to connect the Hughes property to Berry Acres?

    The UCTC has already completed substantial work on evaluating alternative segments over the entire conceptual UCT routes. The TCMC would be duplicating the UCTC’s work to get to the same result. How can that possibly be efficient, cost-effective and sensible?

    Perhaps, the TCMC has no intention of evaluating or building an UCT through Hopkinton. If true, then say so. Ultimately, the SB and town meeting voters would have to vote against developing an UCT through Hopkinton.

    The TCMC has had the luxury of developing trails only on town-owned properties. Because town-owned property is not available for the entirety of any conceptual UCT route, the UCTC had to identify and evaluate the viability of trail segments through many private properties. The UCTC has discussed acquisition of properties or easements with all private property owners along the conceptual routes.

  8. Great question. The answer is the first salvo was launched for personal not professional reasons. The battle started and propagated by ‘anonymous’ and his (oops) followers are using the option of a Hayden Rowe Street segment as a veil to cover their personal reasons for their assault on the UCTC. The UCTC had to explore the HR option because it is in their charge to identify and evaluate all options for an Upper Charles Trail. The UCTC has not yet selected or recommended any potential trail segments. The UCTC evaluated the option of going around Charlesview and due to private property access issues it was not a viable option. The residents of Charlesview are also overwhelmingly opposed to any trail through their neighborhood. Should Charlesview residents rise and demand that the TCMC be shamed and disbanded because the TCMC and anonymous aren’t hearing their opposition? I think it’s time. Nothing has prevented Anonymous and the TCMC from evaluating their “western alternative”. Certainly the UCTC has not stood in their way. ~ Jim Cirillo, Not Anonymous

  9. The survey was a farce. It should have been sent to all potential abutters and at minimum been more readily available. As for ALT C1, I have a question. Are you taking land for this? There is no access to the railroad bed off Meserve Street without taking private land. The current map shows it cutting across a large portion of a resident’s yard. It is shaded as if to appear it is all one continued piece of land from Main Street to then end of Meserve. It is not.

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