Residents urged to help plan protection of land for recreation/conservation

Above: An OSPC member points out the priority open space parcels lost to development over last 7 years. (Image cropped from Southborough Access Media video)

About 500 acres of priority land has been lost to development in last 7 years. None has been protected.

Open Space members hope residents will help them buck that trend.

Last Thursday, Southborough residents voiced concern for protecting dwindling parcels of undeveloped land. The discussion was part of a forum on the Town’s Open Space and Recreation Plan.

During the forum, residents learned about goals from the 2009 plan and which had been accomplished. They also learned what wasn’t: protection of prioritized land.

Two members of the Open Space Preservation Commission lamented the Town’s lost opportunities.

Chair Meme Luttrell said that none of the priority conservation parcels in town have been protected since the last OSRP.

Meanwhile, of the ten key parcels identified for potential recreation or wildlife protection, about 500 acres has been “lost to development”. (Note: I believe that includes the parcels purchased for private development that haven’t been built on yet.)

Luttrell said it shows the importance of having a proactive plan. It was a point raised again by member Freddie Gillespie later that night.

Residents, who had been split in working groups, repeatedly identified protecting land for recreation or view as a priority.

Participants also identified views that they valued. Gillespie pointed out that at least one of the views was of protected fields in front of unprotected forest land.

She followed up by showing the 500 lost acres on a map. And she said two more parcels were recently put up for sale. Others, like Capasso’s, have been pulling their land out of chapter 61. (Doing so raises their tax-rate but allows them to sell to developers after a short window.)

Gillespie urged participants interested in conserving land for recreation or open space to get more involved in the plan:

Maybe after this meeting, people want to get together and talk about how you actually make it happen. The Open Space Commission can’t do it alone. . .

We need all the people who want these things to happen.

Other goals requested by residents included increasing: (non-motorized) boating access, bike trails, sidewalks, adult soccer fields, maintenance of athletic field, parking and signage for open spaces.

Gillespie reminded residents seeking more recreational use of limited Town land has led to “non-compatible uses crowding each other out.” Thus, the need for more land.

OSPC was able to report progress on protecting already identified open space.

Protection of open space within developments has been a struggle for the Town. Luttrell said they were “at the conclusion of” their big database project. It allows tracking open space, with links to plans, deeds, decisions, etc. They researched all the deeds and determined the level of open space preservation. And they’ve received recommendations on how to best protect the spaces moving forward.

Other accomplishments since 2009 include:

  • Built a tot lot playground (at South Union Building) and the Triangle Park
  • Increasing use of existing fields by installing more lighting
  • Leasing 9-11 Field is in the works now that legislation passed
  • Increased plots in Community Garden (by relocating to Breakneck Hill Road)
  • Creation of Trails Committee – which is in process of finalizing agreements to control Sudbury Reservoir Trail – and eventually hook up with a Boroughs trail forming a ring through Southborough, Westborough, Northborough and Marlborough.
  • Many nature programs and walks through OSPC, SOLF, etc.

You can learn more about accomplishments and resident’s new goals by watching the forum. Click here for Southborough Access Media’s video of last week’s forum.

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Frank Crowell
8 years ago

9-11 field is considered an accomplishment? If memory serves me well, they had to clear cut a forest to put that field in place. Is this the same group that was complaining about a development that cut a little more grass than was allowed. Maybe if they put down artificial turf (the good stuff – not the kind that wears out in ten years) things would have been different.

Couldn’t this group take a step back and look at all the land that is preserved rather than lament on “missed opportunities.” From where I sit the glass is half full.

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