Heritage Looks at Town Common History, Forest Vandalism

The Londonderry Heritage Commission will take a proactive approach to the town’s historic Town Common, in order to preserve the spirit of its forbears while making the area accessible for 21st-century users.

Martin Srugis, chair of the commission, brought his ideas to the July 28 meeting, and the Commission agreed to research the Common and similar facilities in New England with at least one Councilor’s blessing.

Srugis said he was inspired by the most recent updates to the Master Plan. “Normally the Town Council comes up with a recommendation,” he said. “But since we’re in the business of keeping tradition, we need to make sure that what they come up with fits in Londonderry.”

He has also talked to members of the Londonderry Historical Society, Srugis said, and they discussed having a plan for the Common similar to the Londonderry Look Book, which gives visual clues to developers of what fits Londonderry’s aesthetic.

“We can develop guidelines of what we want to see and not see,” Srugis said, “without going too much into detail.”

Councilor Jim Butler, the Council’s representative to Heritage, urged the committee to take the lead on this project. “I would push this back to this board and the Historical Society,” he said. “It should come from you.”

Srugis said he has already begun looking at the history and current use of town commons, and noted that some have been “developed more sharply,” with sidewalks, parking areas and lighting, while others remain similar to their 18th-century forms.

Member Roger Fillio noted, “We need to keep in mind that all Commons have evolved over the years. I’m not in favor of tearing it down and building it up all at once.”

The bandstand is in need of repair, Fillio said, and its foundation is not stable.

John Vogl, the staff person assigned to Heritage, said masonry work is scheduled for this year.

There are also drainage issues, Butler said. “Last night the Concert on the Common was awesome,” he said, referring to the free summer concerts. “But if it had been inclement weather, the water would have pooled at the stage.”

Member Janet Cichocki observed, “We talked about removing the burning bush plants years ago, and it hasn’t happened yet.”

That, Fillio said, is because “We have to have something ready to go in its place.”

Member David Colglazier said there’s also the matter of the war monument, cannon and flagpole. But Fillio said that isn’t really an issue, because he’s researched the deed for the common and it states that the area was originally designed for monuments.

In regard to drainage Fillio said, “It’s not a level site. It would involve a complex plan.”

The commission agreed to have Srugis continue his research, and Butler said he would go to the Council to discuss funding when they had a plan.

Hedge Clipper Vandals

The Commission also heard from Kent Allen, the volunteer who has adopted the Town Forest as his project. Allen said about 40 piles of brush have been taken away by the Highway Department, and four new benches have been installed. He said he would be speaking with Town Manager Kevin Smith about poison ivy control in the area.

Allen also said he was aware of a “mystery individual” going through the forest with clippers and altering some of the trees. “We have a pine tree 6 feet tall,” Allen said. “They came in and took 2 feet off the top and some of the branches.” This has happened more than once, he said.

From his investigations, Allen has observed that the vandal often goes for a sapling as much as 10 feet tall, pulls it down, takes off 2 feet and lets it snap back up again.

“The cutting irks me,” Allen said. “I don’t understand it.” He said he has asked people who walk their dogs in the forest, but no one has seen the clipper.

“But they won’t cut the bittersweet,” Colglazier quipped, referring to one of the invasive plants in the forest.

Also, Allen said, the forest has become an overnight stop for at least one couple, who are sleeping near the Overlook sign. They have been identified as a man and a woman with a small blue car, he said.

But, he said, “The forest will look good for Old Home Day.”

The Commission also discussed putting down crushed material on the paths, specifically the Loop, so those in wheelchairs or who have difficulty walking can access more of the forest. Butler said he had discussed the upgrade with Allen, and they had two options: RAP or stone dust. Stone dust does not stay in place, Butler observed, while RAP or Recycled Asphalt does.

The approximate cost is under $3,000 for just the loop, Allen said, adding, “If we want to be accessible, RAP is the way to go.”

The group agreed to contact Beautify Londonderry to see if that group would want to share in the cost.

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