Chestnut Hill Farm’s trails will reopen on Friday

Above: Over the past month, Chestnut Hill Farm closed off parking for its trails. On Friday, that will change. (image cropped from Facebook)

I’m thinking of it as an Earth Day gift. The Town issued an announcement today that the public trails at Chestnut Hill Farm will reopen on Friday, April 24th.

(The bad news is that the forecast for that day is lousy. I’m hoping that will change. At least Saturday’s outlook is good.)

The reopening will mark a month since The Trustees of Reservations closed most public access to the trails. According to today’s announcement, Board of Selectmen Chair Brian Shea announced the changing status last night. Today’s message credits collaboration between TTOR and Town officials. Selectmen thanked Conservation Agent Melissa Danza for her efforts in facilitating the agreement.

On March 24th, TTOR announced that based on the Governor’s Stay-at-Home advisory, they would close their public facilities including the Southborough trails. To that end, they closed the parking area near the Chestnut Hill Farm trailhead. (The notice did insinuate that they wouldn’t stop neighbors within walking distance, instead asking them to be considerate.)

Days later, the Conservation Commission (co-holders of the Town’s Conservation Restriction on the land) charged Danza with asking TTOR to reopen parking. Members referred to the fact that other state kept open its trails and encouraged the public to use them. They also referenced the amount of money Southborough voters spent on the CR to protect access to open space at the farm. Back on March 30th, the answer they heard back was no. 

Today’s announcement does caution that the trails will only be open to those who can park in the lot or get there by foot. To avoid overcrowding, there will be no overflow street parking allowed. The prohibition will be “strictly enforced”. The announcement also encourages visitors to maintain physical distancing from other trail users.

The delay between the announcement and Friday’s opening appears to be to allow TTOR staff and volunteers to prepare:

The Board urges all to be aware of signage that will be in place, and to be respectful of our Town citizen volunteers that will be on site to offer guidance. . .

The Trustees will be adding additional roping and signage to keep residents out of active farming areas and away from workers and animals. . . Also, residents are asked to adhere to any
new and existing regulations regarding trail usage

Reminder – no dogs are allowed.

Here is the full announcement: 

At the Board of Selectmen meeting on Tuesday, April 21, 2020, Chairman Brian Shea announced that Chestnut Hill Farm will be reopening the trails to the public for passive recreational use on Friday, April 24, 2020. This comes after the Trustees of the Reservation closed Chestnut Hill Farm trails as part of a larger closure of properties around the Commonwealth that they manage, in response to the COVID-19 pandemic and Governor Baker’s order on stay-at-home for non-essential services and social distancing.

“The Covid-19 situation presented a unique challenge to the Chestnut Hill property”, said Mr. Shea, “and the Board is thrilled that we have been able to work cooperatively with the Trustees to develop a plan that considers safety and protection of health to the farm operations, but also allows for passive recreation consistent with the conservation restriction, and also with guidelines in the Governor’s Executive Order. The Board urges all to be aware of signage that will be in place, and to be respectful of our Town citizen volunteers that will be on site to offer guidance. We’re confident that all who will be using the trails will do so with adherence to physical distancing protocols that have become our new norm.”

D.A. Hayden, Director of the Charles River Portfolio for the Trustees of the Reservation, was similarly pleased with the outcome. “Collaboration and a shared love of this precious open space are the drivers in re-opening the trails at Chestnut Hill Farm for passive recreation”, said Ms. Hayden. “We are so appreciative of our partnership with the Town’s leadership — the Board of Selectman, Conservation Commission, Police Department, Town Administrator and dedicated volunteers — it truly takes a village, particularly in these uncertain and challenging times. We encourage visitors to observe posted signage and safe distancing protocols as they enjoy the trails and gorgeous views of the farm. We can’t wait to welcome our friends in Southborough at our many farm events and programs when we open fully later in the season.”

Both the Town and the Trustees have agreed to a plan to allow residents to use the trails for passive recreation, while maintaining the required social distancing. The Trustees will be adding additional roping and signage to keep residents out of active farming areas and away from workers and animals. The parking lot will be open, and the Town is asking that parking be limited to the lot only. No street parking will be allowed, and the street will be posted with “No Parking” signage, which will be strictly enforced. If the parking lot is full, the Board asks residents to come back to use the trails at another time. Also, residents are asked to adhere to any new and existing regulations regarding trail usage and note that there are no dogs allowed on the property.

The Board would especially like to acknowledge Conservation Agent Melissa Danza, for her efforts in facilitating the reopening this property for passive recreational purposes.

Additionally, please be aware that Chestnut Hill Farm is offering farm-fresh food for purchase and contact-less pick up via their online store. To place an order visit thetrustees.org/shares.

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