The Carlisle Mosquito Online

Friday, June 2, 2000


Katrina Proctor shares thoughts on Carlisle's future

The resignation of a valued Carlisle employee, a sad event in most respects, does have a bright side from the viewpoint of a political reporter. It presents a unique opportunity to pose some difficult questions without placing the interviewee in an awkward position.

Departing conservation commission administrator Katrina Proctor is quick to tell an interviewer she had fallen in love with the town and its people. She would like to leave those people with a few thoughts for the future.

Stronger wetlands' protection

Knowing that there has been a long-running current of concern among conservation commission members that the town's Wetland Protection Bylaw is inadequate for the job of preserving its water resources, a logical first question probed her outlook on that issue. Proctor was quick to respond, "When I came here five years ago, I was shocked to see construction being allowed right up to the edge of the wetlands. Based on the many phone calls I have received from citizens worried about what they saw happening in their neighborhoods and asking why the commission was doing nothing, I think there is definite support out there for stronger protection."

Proctor believes Carlisle should establish a 30- to 50-foot "no disturbance "zone, owing to its dependence on private wells for its water supply. Her home town of Lunenburg has a 30-foot mandate; Sudbury prohibits construction within 45 feet of a wetland and numerous towns across the Commonwealth have set similar limits. The former administrator notes that citizens in general are under the impression that resource areas are protected from damage by the 100-foot state-mandated "buffer zone." On the contrary, she says that under the Massachusetts Wetland Protection Act, local commissions may only condition work within that boundary, but under most circumstances cannot prohibit it. Only town bylaws can correct what she sees as a serious gap in the protection afforded major wetland systems, as well as vernal pools and "isolated wetlands subject to flooding." For those concerned about litigation, she points out that stricter local measures for safeguarding those resources have been upheld consistently in state courts.

Demands on time

Without any prompting, Proctor turned next to what had obviously been a source of frustration during her tenure here, namely, the unrelenting time pressures that make it difficult for the administrator to get out in the field and devote sufficient time to inspection activities. Properly carried out, she said these should include a visit prior to the public hearing on a project, a check before ground is broken, monitoring during construction and an okay at completion. "With so much building going on, and with the accompanying load of paperwork, it is almost impossible to give proper oversight without increased secretarial help," she explained.

Proctor sees the same burgeoning administrative requirements preventing both the commissioners and the administrator from spending sufficient time on land management issues. She believes the administrator needs to be able to walk conservation lands on a regular basis and make recommendations for upkeep and improvement, thus increasing the board's ability to develop long-range management plans and keep them updated.

While on the subject of maintenance, Proctor took the opportunity to thank the trails committee, the Carlisle Conservation Foundation, the department of public works and the many citizens who have provided critical assistance in keeping the parcels accessible to the public. She said she had been "tremendously impressed" by the amount of volunteer time and effort given to support town employees. "This is unique to Carlisle, particularly in the numbers of persons involved," she said.

Her plans for the future

Proctor is still working two days a week to help the newly-appointed administrator Sylvia Willard take over the reins, but she has ambitious plans for her own future. When Proctor announced her resignation, she told the Mosquito that she and her husband Matthew plan to open a combination cozy corner and curiosity shop. It will feature a specialty greenhouse, an antique shop and a woodcraft niche displaying Matthew's own work. However, Proctor admits that her reading on the subject of starting a business has convinced her that she needs more time "to get my dream in focus," agree on what the final product should be and finally draw up a realistic business plan. Proctor recommended a book given to her by fellow employees entitled, The Seed by Lynne Frank, which, she said, encourages "a meditative approach" that persuaded her to proceed step by step.

In the meantime, reluctant to give up her environmental activities completely, she is planning to do some independent consulting. In preparation, she will work part-time this summer with Michael Marcus of New England Environmental.

Proving further that she can't escape her wildlife dedication, Proctor talked excitedly about her family's recent adventure with a baby barred owl. Discovered out of the nest by sons Matthew and Jacob, the tiny creature was featherless, eyes still shut, but with a good appetite. After seeking the advice of a wildlife veterinarian in Lunenburg, D'Ann Brownrigg of Massachusetts Audubon and the wildlife clinic at Tufts, Matthew senior went on the prowl for field mice. The hunter returned triumphant and chopped up his prey to supply the baby with an appropriate diet until arrangements could be made to put it back in the nest. This task was successfully accomplished the first week in May, and the whole family, including great-grandmother in her wheelchair, paid a Mother's Day visit to the barred owl household.

2000 The Carlisle Mosquito