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Town Meeting Part 4: Land Use and Trails

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This article is part of a continuing series on the Hopkinton Annual Town Meeting scheduled for May 1, 2023 at 7:00 PM. There are 48 articles to discuss at the 2023 Town Meeting; what follows are the most important agenda items for Hopkinton residents to considerEach of these articles requires a Yes or No vote from registered voters in attendance.

>> RELATED: Town Meeting Part 1: Short term rentals, gun clubs and public safety

>> RELATED: Town Meeting Part 2: Zoning Changes

>> RELATED: Town Meeting Part 3: Schools and Green Initiatives

Article 24: Community Preservation Recommendations

There is a lot to unpack here, readers. The article primarily enables the spending of Community Preservation Funds to make land purchases for trail development and to build structures that improve the dog park and Housing Authority. 

Though they are all bundled in a single article, by rule land purchases require a 2/3 vote to pass, so they will be discussed during the meeting as individual agenda items.

It’s also worth noting that a “Yes” vote is merely an authorization, not a mandate. The town can decide not to purchase the land if the seller wants too much, for example.

>> EXPLORE the proposed Land Purchases in this interactive Google Earth project

Land purchases for 2023 Town Meeting

Land Purchases:

  1. The Jenner property (42 acres) between Saddle Hill and Cedar street. A conservation restriction will be placed within 5 years and trails will be designed and constructed.
  2. Connelly Land (18 acres). A conservation restriction will be placed within 5 years and trails will be designed and constructed.
  3. Three NSTAR parcels between Berry Acres and the 110 Grill (17 acres total). A conservation restriction will be placed within 5 years and trails will be designed and constructed.
  4. The McDonough property (35 acres) near Lake Whitehall. A conservation restriction will be placed within 5 years and trails will be designed and constructed.

New Construction:

  1. Trailhead parking on Ash street.
  2. New bridges and boardwalks on various trails
  3. Additional shade structures and benches at the Fruit Street dog park.
  4. Additional shade structures, a covered bus shelter and walkways at the Hopkinton Housing Authority.
  5. Design, bidding, construction and parking for a cricket pitch and Little League baseball field at Pyne Field.
  6. Additional security cameras at Sandy Beach and Fruit Street Athletic Fields.
  7. Preliminary engineering, wetlands assessment, and trail mapping for the town-owned portions of the Western Route Trail.

Why this matters: As evidenced by our extensive network of trails, Hopkinton residents have always placed a high value on conserving land for public use. These land purchases help offset the inevitable deforestation of subdivision development. 

According to the Washington Post, cricket is the fastest growing youth sport in the United States, with an estimated 200,000 players nationwide.  Hopkinton Parks & Rec have fielded calls for years to build a designated cricket pitch (players now compete on the grass soccer fields at Fruit Street).

Articles 47 & 48: Abolish Upper Charles Trail Committee (UCTC) and Establish Subcommittee, and Eliminate UCTC spending

By all accounts, this is a confusing article, since it seeks to disband the current Upper Charles Trail Committee (UCTC) and establish a subcommittee which ostensibly will perform the same functions. So why? 

The current UCTC reports up through the Select Board. This Citizens Petition is put forward by several citizens, with Peter LaGoy, the current chair of the Trails Coordination and Management Committee (TCMC) signing as well. The subcommittee contemplated in this amendment would report to the TCMC.

Why this matters: This seems to be a power play. While LaGoy has publicly stated that he would resign as chair of the TCMC were this to pass, there are clear differences between the plans put forth by the UCTC and TCMC with respect to the proposed route of the trail. Further, Article 48 would suspend funding for the development of the trail along Route 85 (Section 7), effectively stopping development of Section 7 for the time being.

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  1. In the picture below ‘EXPLORE the proposed Land Purchases’ McDonough is noted, correctly, as 35 acres. The descriptive text, item 4, the McDonough property area is noted, incorrectly, as 15 acres.

  2. It is important to note that the School Committee does not support the proposed Hayden Rowe stretch of this trail due to its proximity to the schools, particularly the Elmwood replacement and Marathon schools. The UCTC has spent a substantial amount of tax payer money on this section which is opposed by many residents. We clearly have a budget issue in town and we need to better manage our spending starting with not wasting tax payer money on a section of trail which is highly opposed.

  3. There is extensive public opposition to placing the trail along busy Route 85. The UCTC has not been heeding the words of the citizens nor of the School Committee. There are better alternatives that go through the woods. The UCTC gave up too soon on the other option. Furthermore, the very unpopular Hayden Rowe option requires three crossings of Route 85 when only one is necessary. Extra crossings mean unnecessary safety issues and extra costs. Let’s build the trail through the woods where it belongs. It’s possible.

  4. The Upper Charles Trails Committee has invited public participation for the past ten years as members have explored route options. Opposition to the only current viable route option comes from a small group of people. They have generated the “fact” sheet noted above. A better source of facts about the process the committee has taken is on the Hopkinton town website. It includes public presentations and maps.

    • The UCTC invites comment and then ignores it. This is not how local government should work. The opposition to Segment 7 is significant, as documented in the fact sheet, and it deserves to be taken seriously.

  5. The UCTC’s own report from July 2017 discusses the need to take property for the Hayden Rowe option to work. The UCTC spent thousands of our dollars on a survey of Hayden Rowe to prove that such takings were necessary (or they could reroute for millions). The route is NOT viable. I agree that residents should review the UCTC’s FAQ sheets on the town’s website…and consider if you would ever allow such a product to be released to the public. For example, look at Q&A #1, questions 10 and 11. For Q10, despite having costs for 4 of 11 segments ($2.5M/mi!), no costs are provided, and a snarky response is provided, as they’re building the Upper Charles TRAIL! And Q11? “Incorporated” and “connected” are not synonyms.

  6. What say let’s leave off theorizing about individuals and their motivations and focus instead on what’s best for Hopkinton.

    These articles are short and clear in their intent: to stop the UCTC from attempting to shoehorn a multipurpose recreational trail along Hayden Rowe, and crossing it several times, right in the school zone. Such a trail would be unsafe, expensive, disruptive, intrusive, and demonstrably unpopular.

    Normally a committee seeks to fulfill its charge as set forth by the Select Board. The UCTC has been charged with presenting at least two paths to join the Milford and Ashland trails, and to include community input in its processes. Yet after eleven years, the UCTC (to be fair, not the entire membership but the committee as a whole) continues to insist that Hayden Rowe is Hopkinton’s only option, regardless of community input and the existence of one, or I would argue even two, promising western alternatives.

    This is not how municipal government is supposed to work, but here we are. At this point there seems to be no alternative but to take the matter to Town Meeting and let the democratic process prevail.


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