Friday, April 7, 2000
A Clean Sweep for Carlisle
For over 20 years, Carlisle residents have greeted spring with a tradition that is peculiar to this little townthe Mosquito Trash Party. Sponsored by the newspaper, this town-wide clean-up has coaxed winter-weary denizens out of their doors and onto their streets. Armed with the free trash bags that the paper provides, residents roam the byways of Carlisle like adult trick-or-treaters, only this time they are collecting winter's accumulated roadside garbage, not candy. When the workers are done, the roads are dotted with filled garbage bags, waiting for the volunteer crews to collect them and deposit them at the transfer station.
For a generation now, this town tradition has afforded many people the first opportunity to meet new neighbors, or catch up with old friends. Years ago, the newspaper would print a list of the streets and, as the weeks went by, people would call to sign up for their favorite littered byway. Week by week, the list of streets would dwindle as residents made it a contest: whose street would go first? Whose last? A local bike club would always volunteer to spruce up the road where they held their races. An intrepid group of friends would groom Westford Street every year. They became such a mainstay that the paper finally agreed to deliver the bags directly to their location, as well as bring them coffee and juice during the morning.
And then there are the cleaners who go far afield, cleaning up not only their front yards but also the boat landing, the playgrounds and the cemeteries, including that Mecca of trashthe transfer station. Some of my family's funniest stories sprang from wrestling the trash at the transfer station. My son's favorite job, for many years, was riding the trucks with the volunteer drivers, collecting the bags and then tossing them into the compactor like depth charges.
The town of Concord tried, a few years ago, to institute a similar clean-up event, but it doesn't seem to have caught on the way that the Mosquito Trash Party has here in Carlisle. Working at the parking lot next to Daisy's (dubbed "Trash Central"), I love watching the parents who are new to town, with their babies bundled up in backpacks, arriving to ask for garbage bags and being surprised by the comlimentary coffee and donuts. They always stop to chat about the town and what drew them here. Just as much, I enjoy seeing the "sof's" ("same old faces") who have been doing this for years and frequently have some fish story to tell about the curious object they found on some street.
It's not too late if you want to join in this rite of renewel. Call Bob Orlando at 369-1690, he can tell what streets have no one to love them. Got a pick-up truck and an hour to kill? He'd love to hear from you. Or stop by the center of town tomorrow and check in with him. You'll be joining an admirable tradition.
Carlisle in the Middle
Regional changes affecting Carlisle are taking place on an almost incomprehensible scale and at a breakneck rate. Our town is no longer located at the edge of Boston's westward sprawl; we sit smack in the middle of major transportation spokes that connect the 128 and 495 beltways.
Several characteristics of the development along 495 are worth noting. First, it is happening now. We are not talking about future changes that can be planned for locally and thus controlled. For example, Guilford Industries in Ayer will add 100 truck trips a day to the roadways between its automobile distribution center in Ayer and 495. The Brookside Shopping Plaza proposed for 145 Great Road in Acton (an old farmstand site) would generate an estimated 6,470 trips a day, and would heavily impact Routes 2, 2A and the Concord rotary. More commercial flights are being scheduled at Hanscom. In late fall, 3,700 employees will start to work at the new Cisco headquarters in Boxborough one of six new commercial developments in that town. Tax breaks for developers suggest that the Boxborough projects are only the tip of the development iceberg. The surrounding landscape already looks different and will certainly feel different as residents experience an increasingly congested commute and longer waits in the places where they shop, eat and get gas.
A second characteristic of the 495 beltway development is that existing state and local bylaws and regulations may not protect the interests of individual towns. Competition for land to develop is fierce, and not every competitor is playing by the Queensbury rules. We have already learned that a developer can circumvent local bylaws by applying for a comprehensive permit. But this newest stream of developers is playing for higher stakes than we have yet seen, and has the wherewithal to find and utilize legal loopholes. Town budgets, being what they are, will constrain efforts to regulate the new development. Thus, Guilford Industries has attempted to bypass Ayer's local committees by bringing its dispute with the town into the federal courts. Though there is good reason to believe Ayer and Littleton will be adversely affected if 136 acres of a recharge area over an aquifer are paved, the issue will be decided in the federal courts.
A third and highly significant characteristic of the 495 development boom is the emergence of regional strategies for coping with the development itself as well as with its indirect consequences. Schools, roads, transportation and water resources will be seriously burdened in some areas. The present property tax based system is inadequate to cope with events on this scale, and the Big Dig has already drained state transportation resources. The notice for a meeting called by MAGIC (Minuteman Advisory Group on Interlocal Coordination) to review plans for the proposed Brookside shopping plaza in Acton suggests that a regional planning approach would provide "an opportunity for neighboring towns to identify concerns and potential mitigation options not necessarily addressed at the local or state level."
Carlisle sits in the middle of this burst of development, a little island caught between the old 128 center of development and a vigorously expanding new center around 495. We are not unique and we are not alone, for our neighbors are equally impacted. We need to address these emerging issues on both a regional and local basis.
© 2000 The Carlisle Mosquito