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.