Possible Town Forest and Common Improvements Discussed

Bill Flynn of the Arnett Development Group has been working on a conceptual plan of improvements to the Town Forest and Town Common. He presented his ideas to the Master Plan Implementation Committee at its Wednesday, Sept. 24 meeting.

Flynn’s plan includes a walkway behind the bandstand. The Master Plan had suggested a road with shops at that location.

“I looked at that road and buildings and didn’t like it,” Flynn told the committee. “This gives a staging area to be able to bring cars and trucks in behind the Common to set up for events like Old Home Day, and separates the Common from the Town Forest without actually putting in a road back there.”

Flynn said that within a five minute walk are 940 parking spots, although he noted they are shared with the Lions Club, churches and schools.

Flynn’s proposal also suggests turning the statue at the Common on its base so that it faces the corner of Mammoth and Pillsbury roads.

Flynn’s concept would add three walkways in a peace sign design that encourages people to walk the Common. He suggested planting trees, possibly elms, for shade and aesthetics.

“There are three things that surfaced as I looked at this,” he said. “One was that it was historical and the historical integrity needed to be preserved, second was the environmental aspect of the forest itself, and then there’s that sense of being the community center.”

For the Town Forest, Flynn suggested parking in a clearing near the frog pond, which he said would open up the forest to visitors and turn the forest into more of a “forest park.”

He suggested felling trees under a certain thickness, perhaps three to four inches in diameter, to open up the area.

“I think if we cut trees that are small diameter, we do our grandchildren a disservice because the smaller trees are needed to fill in and there’ll be no forest in the future,” committee member Mike Speltz responded.

Flynn said the Town Forest has some invasive species that should be removed. Kent Allen, who cares for the town’s cemeteries, suggested starting at the west side of the forest and working east, as the more numerous invasive plants were on the eastern side.

“That way you are getting rid of a larger area before the site where bittersweet and other invasives are more prevalent,” Allen said.

Other ideas include a sidewalk on the Common side of Pillsbury Road.

“We went out there and walked it and we walked back on the Common side, and there’s a sidewalk on the churches’ side of Pillsbury but not on the Common side,” committee member Tim Siekmann said. “There’s a ditch and steep embankments that make it hard to walk from across the Morrison House along Pillsbury.”

Committee member Mary Wing Soares suggested park benches on the Common. Flynn said benches were a popular addition to parks and he would look at including some.

The committee took a favorable view of the design.

Comprehensive Planner John Vogl noted the he had contacted Flynn after the committee’s August meeting and asked him to take a look at the Town Forest and Town Common and see what he could come up with. “It was a rather short contract, only about two weeks, and what he came up with, I think is really good,” said Vogl.

He said the $3,000 contract with Arnett was paid for by leftover funds from the Master Plan Steering Committee.

“The Planning Board let us use the leftover funds for the contract so there is no additional cost to the taxpayer, and we got a really good conceptual plan to look at and consider,” Vogl said.

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