GROTON -- Even as temperatures hovered in the nineties, the Community Preservation Committee was looking ahead to when snow again covers the ground as winter arrives.
At issue was to what recreational uses land purchased by the Conservation Commission and paid for, in part, with CPC funding should be put. In particular, should the land be open for off-road, motorized vehicles.
The matter was brought to the committee's attention July 22 by member Bruce Easom who also belongs to the town's Conservation Commission.
What Easom wanted to know was what the CPC thinks about the use of such vehicles as snowmobiles on the Cox-Walker property. The land's purchase was made possible with money from CPC funds dedicated to the preservation of open space, which qualified the ConsCom for a substantial state grant.
The property in question is actually a combination of two parcels: The Walker property, which consists of 49 acres, and the Cox property totaling another 59 acres.
Cost for the two parcels together came to $716,000, of which 60 percent was paid by the state.
The land is located along Chicopee Row across from Williams Barn.
Although it was acknowledged by CPC members that snowmobile owners are taxpayers whose money helped buy the land, there was also some reluctance to give carte blanche to motorists for use of the forest's trails.
Those trails would have to be shared by hikers, cross-country skiers and equestrians, all of whom prefer the peace of the forest unbroken by the sounds of internal combustion engines. Concerns were also expressed about the safety of hikers and others when motorized vehicles approach too quickly or do not yield the right-of-way.
When a motion was offered to write a letter to the ConsCom detailing the committee's concerns, it was decided that those concerns were not specific enough to be helpful to commissioners seeking to develop a management plan for the property.
"The more definitive you can make it, the better for the commission," advised Easom.
Instead, member Robert DeGroot was authorized to appear before the ConsCom to explain the committee's concerns while deferring to the Conservation Commission to decide, ultimately, what uses will be permitted.
Also at the same meeting:
* Commissioners were informed that renovation work at the Boutwell House, headquarters of Groton's Historical Society, is nearing completion with Habitat Advisory Group representative Al Collins saying that it is 85 percent done. Over the past months, work has been completed on insulation of the 160-year-old Main Street building as well as its heating system. Also completed, repair of the building's exterior foundation and rear chimney, replacement of gutters, demolition of certain interior portions of the house and plastering. At an earlier briefing, Collins reported the discovery of architectural plans showing design details of the house circa 1894 that have aided in its renovation allowing the finished work to be as close to its original appearance as possible. The CPC awarded the project $176,525 for the work, which was supplemented by a Cultural Council facilities grant of $79,000.
* Member Geanine Haberlin reported that installation of the new Fitch's Bridge is complete and was opened to the public on June 28. Immediately, a tradition begun with the previous span was reestablished when local youths began jumping off the bridge into the cool waters of the Nashua River running beneath it. It was thanks to a vote at special town meeting last February that an appropriation of $385,409 to pay for the removal and replacement of the bridge was approved. The original bridge, first installed in the nineteenth century, had been closed since the 1960s after it was deemed unsafe for general traffic.
The CPC was established in 2004 when residents at town meeting adopted the CPA (Community Preservation Act) and decided to fund it with a 3 percent surcharge on local property taxes, the highest percentage rate allowed under the Act.
Funds raised through the CPA are earmarked solely for the creation of community housing, historic preservation, purchase of open space and recreational purposes. It is the responsibility of the CPC to review submissions and prepare those that meet CPA standards for presentation to voters at town meeting for final approval.
Once projects are approved for funding, the CPC monitors them to make sure the money awarded is spent correctly and the jobs move along at a regular pace.