Members of the Master Plan Implementation Committee toured the Town Forest to get a sense of the size and scope of the area, in an effort to help with consideration of various proposals for it. The tour was led by Comprehensive Planner John Vogl, a member of the committee, and took place Wednesday, July 23, just before the committee’s regular meeting.
“What I wanted to get out of this is to walk through the areas of interest, to take a look at what we have in mind for the skating pond and see if that’s still valid, take a look at the frog pond and potential parking,” Vogl said.
The first stop on the tour was a flat area adjacent to the Town Common but separated from it by a stone wall.
“We had talked about a winter skating rink in the Town Common,” Vogl said. “That would be at this location. What we wanted to get a sense of is how visible it is from the street, how it interacts with and converses with the rest of the Common.”
Vogl said that if more visibility were needed, brush and some trees could be cleared between the flat area and Mammoth Road.
Committee member Mike Speltz noted that in the winter, there would be “all the visibility you want” because the trees would lose their leaves.
Committee member Mary Wing Soares asked if there was a place near the bandstand to put something where a skater could warm up. She also suggested a snack bar for hot chocolate.
Vogl said there was a possibility of a small outbuilding that could be used for that purpose. “It could be a little warming hut,” he said.
Vogl noted the skating rink would be a temporary structure, possibly only four to six inches tall, and would be flooded in winter for skating and dismantled at the end of the season. He suggested lighting as well.
Vogl said the Heritage Commission suggested putting the rink on the recreation department’s LAFA fields, another flat area in town. Committee member Deb Paul, who is publisher of the Londonderry Times, agreed and said, “everything is right there.”
“Here (the Common) would be a quaint area where you could bring people. That was the idea, to bring people to the Common,” committee member Mary Tetreault said.
The group also stopped at a trail marker just inside the Town Forest. Vogl noted that even though the trail was near the beginning of the forest, Pillsbury Road was almost out of view.
“You can see the trail area is nice and wide and thins out towards the end,” he said. “The plan to make this more accessible would include smoothing it out so it would be more senior- and stroller-friendly. With this one trail there’s a lot of potential, and there’s 10 acres in the back that is inaccessible today that could be made accessible with a couple of trails.”
Vogl noted a signpost installed by Londonderry Trailways that gives the location of the trail within the forest, the GPS (Global Positioning System) coordinates and a brief description of the trails within the forest.
“We can put these (sign posts) anywhere we want, and these are based on a template from the National Parks Service,” Vogl said.
Paul noted that there is a lot of bittersweet, an invasive plant, within the forest and showed the committee members what it looked like.
Another stop on the tour was an overlook of the neighboring orchard, as the trail wound around to the perimeter of the forest. Several benches have been installed and a foot swing swayed in the breeze.
“We call this the Orchard Overlook,” Vogl said. “This is about the best view over the orchard. In the springtime you can see right through to Adams Pond.”
Committee member Tim Siekmann suggested installing exercise stations for people to do cardio workouts as they use the trails. “They have a walking trail in Andover, Mass., and they have an exercise post every so many feet where stretching exercises could be done and other exercises for a healthy walk,” Siekmann said.
Vogl noted the town property line ended at the first row of apple trees in the orchard.
Committee member Ann Chiampa suggested the overlook would be a good spot for a wooden observation deck.
The group also stopped at Glenwood Cemetery.
“This is the furthest extent of the forest on the other side of the rock wall of the Town Forest,” Vogl said. “There are no trails in this part of the forest, and a trail proposed by Ann (Chiampa) would open the area up.”
When the group stopped at a small frog pond, it was noted that it would be a good location for a natural skating rink instead of the manmade one, with room for parking available.
The last stop was a wooded area about half-way back to the Common along Pillsbury Road, where Vogl said a proposed 17 parking spaces could be added. He said sight lines would be more favorable than at the current parking area.
When the group held its meeting at Town Hall after the tour, Chairman Chris Davies suggested a plan to get ideas from residents for the Town Forest and Town Common.
Speltz said the Master Plan called for a road to bisect the forest from the Common to more clearly identify the Common and create it as a destination.
“The Master Plan overarching goal is to not just have it a green patch but to make the Common a social center for the town,” he said. “The suggestion that was in the Master Plan was to define it physically. Right now it just blends in with the Town Forest, and that’s why in the Master Plan there’s a road cutting through the back to create a very defined space. They added a strip of shops that would be a way of attracting people to the Town Common.”
Speltz said there could be a coffee shop or small bookstore, and as it is town-owned land, there could be controls on use and appearance.
The committee agreed to conduct a survey during Old Home Day in August to glean input from residents on what to do with the Town Common and Town Forest.