Other Places to Walk

From the beginning, Woodmont Commons has included the idea of a walkable community, and cited Exeter and Portsmouth as examples.
If Woodmont builds areas that tastefully combine shops and residences, with parking to the rear or off to the side and streets and sidewalks open for walking, it’s likely such a “walkable community” will thrive, attracting people who want the chance to visit friends or just relax in a coffee shop without having to cross a busy highway or get in the car to drive somewhere and park in a sea of asphalt.
But there’s a different kind of walkable community that has been raising concerns lately in Londonderry. Two developments – Nevins and Mill Pond – have each asked the town for permission not to build the walking trails called for in their approved site plans.
In both cases, residents say the trails pass too close to their homes, raising the specter of invasion of privacy, if not the potential for burglaries. And the trails would be open to anyone, residents or not.
There’s a difference between multiple acres of conservation land and the trails that cross it, and small walking trails in private communities. And there’s a difference between those private development trails and the Rail Trail, which follows a clearly delineated railroad bed that’s hard to miss.
If you buy a home next to conservation land entry points or the Rail Trail, you can expect pedestrian traffic. Communities provide recreational opportunities for their residents, and both town conservation land and the burgeoning development of the Rail Trail are perfect examples of those recreational opportunities, open and accessible and inviting to all.
We see walking trails in private developments as another story, especially when they were included in site plans only at the request of town bodies. While they may well provide an amenity to some, they can easily be seen as a detraction to those whose houses border the path. And not limiting their use to residents – how would such a limit be enforced anyway – opens up quiet residential streets to a larger population.
The presence of the unbuilt trails on site plans speaks to the importance of “buyer beware,” of course, but for the overall good of the majority of residents, we favor leaving the trails unbuilt. Most of the residents involved don’t want them.
There’s nothing to prevent quiet strolls along the streets – sidewalks would be nice – but it makes more sense to keep the long walks to conservation land and the Rail Trail, rather than residents’ backyards. For these homeowners, the privacy of their homes has a higher value than a “walkable community.”

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