Town Common Improvement Proposals Go to Planning Board

The Master Plan Implementation Committee intends to propose that the Planning Board consider conceptual plans for improvements to the Town Common that would enhance the space, making it more attractive, safe, and accessible.

The committee voted 6-0 to recommend the Planning Board approve the following: funding in the Fiscal Year 2016 budget to install crosswalks at the Town Common, to address invasive species in the area, and to complete the schematic design for the project.

“The goal is to make the Town Common something that is usable, something people appreciate and that is more accessible. Something that adds social capital to our town,” member Mike Speltz said.

In the conceptual plans the committee expects to share with the Planning Board at its Nov. 12 meeting, which landscape artist Bill Flynn presented at the committee’s Oct. 22 meeting, other proposed improvements to the Common include landscape enhancements, such as installing elm trees around the perimeter of the site; installing a sidewalk a-round the common and paths radiating from the center of the site to crosswalks on Pillsbury and Mammoth roads; installing a gravel road behind the pavilion for unloading and loading vehicles; installing benches and period lamps; and realigning the Civil War Memorial to face the main entrance to the Common, as well as reorganizing the other war memorials around the Civil War Memorial.

“The Civil War Memorial would become a central point,” Flynn said, noting moving monuments is often an issue that generates emotion.

Members expressed concern with some of the details of the proposal, such as the gravel drive on the Common, which Flynn reminded them was simply an illustration of what is possible for the space.

If the Town decides to fund a schematic design for the project, which Flynn estimates will cost somewhere between $15,000 and $20,000, the committee and members of the public would have the opportunity to weigh in on all the details of the improvements at workshops with the designer, Flynn said.

Also proposed for consideration as part of the overall project to make the Town Common a more utilized, historically symbolic site are enhancements to the Town Forest, such as developing a more extensive trail system; exploring opportunities to create a more accessible pond area, as well as the possibility of improving the pond to accommodate winter ice skating; and exploring the potential for developing a small parking area within the Town Forest to serve the skating pond and the Adams Pond Conservation Area.

Speltz expressed concern with proposed improvements to the pond in the Town Forest and with the proposed parking lot.

“What you see as debris and cleaning up could be home sweet home to a lot of critters,” Speltz said.

Speltz also noted there is a parking lot right across the street from the Town Forest near the Adams Pond Conservation Area.

“Do we really need another one?” Speltz asked, noting the Town has been having a problem with vandalism and other activities at the existing parking area. “A secluded parking lot in the woods will become a hangout.”

As Flynn noted, those details would be addressed while working with a designer completing a schematic design for the Town.

The “magnitude of costs,” what Flynn estimates each portion of the project could cost, are as follows: crosswalks, up to $50,000; Town Common Enhancements, $500,000 to $750,000; Expanded Trail System, up to $10,000 for existing trail and paths; and between $20,000 and $50,000 for an accessible trail system. The proposed pond improvements are expected to cost between $50,000 and $75,000.

Comprehensive Planner John Vogl said moving forward, an important goal for the committee will be to start treating the Town Common and the Town Forest as one entity, and to integrate the planning of the two.

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