The Carlisle Mosquito Online

Friday, May 17, 2002


Competition looms for Foss Farm space

The Carlisle Conservation Commission (ConsCom) has been put on notice that competition by recreation groups for the use of the town's Foss Farm property is on the immediate horizon. The 55.2-acre tract purchased in 1971 for purposes of conservation and outdoor recreation has the distinction of receiving the most varied and intensive usage of any of the lands under their management. Most popular are the public garden plots, horseback riding facilities, trails for hiking, skiing and dog sledding, and the cornfields that provide fodder for Mark Duffy's Great Brook Farm herd.

Appearing at the commission's May 9 meeting were representatives from the Carlisle Area Equestrians, a group made up in part of individuals active in the 50-member local branch of the national Pony Clubs. They were requesting permission to improve both the fenced riding ring and the open jumping area. Earlier, ConsCom had received a brief memo from the Carlisle Recreation Commission (RecCom) that it is currently investigating several possibilities for expansion of recreational activities at Foss Farm.

Equestrians propose upgrades

Molly Springer presented the equestrians' proposal backed by Louise Hara, who pointed out that the Foss Farm facility is the only publicly-owned area in town that has both an enclosed ring for schooling safety and a parking lot large enough to accommodate a number of horse trailers. Once young riders become proficient in the ring, they can move out from there to "free-ride" on the trails and open spaces.

Springer said that erosion and wear have caused the ring to become narrower and less stable, posing a risk to horses and riders; hence the request for permission to resurface the ring with more permanent crushed stone or star-pack. She added that the organization is in the process of raising money for the project and indicated that longer-range plans include new fencing and a 10 by 14-foot, three-sided shed for equipment storage. Later the club hopes to help clear and widen the narrowing trails and find a pre-existing wellhead to provide water. Noting that the club had had a 20-person workforce on site on a recent weekend, Springer also raised the possibility of providing manpower for special ConsCom projects beneficial to all who frequent the farm.

RecCom hopes to expand facilities

While listening sympathetically, commissioner Roy Watson felt it was time to inject the unavoidable reality of competing scenarios relative to the future of Foss Farm. ConsCom had received a memo from the recreation commission (RecCom) stating, "Please be advised that the recreation commission is currently investigating active recreation expansion possibilities for Foss Farm that may include replacing or relocating existing activities." The letter went on to "respectfully suggest" that the commission defer commitments to other projects until RecCom completes on-going studies during the summer. Watson pointed out that still other users might have their own ideas, and the commission could not close them out.

Hara responded that the Pony Club has been using Foss Farm for many years and that horseback riding does not conflict with other present or historic uses. Springer suggested that the soccer field could be located where the cornfield now lies.

Commissioner Jonathan Beakley advised the delegates that ConsCom needed to look at the total picture. "We'd like to structure it so everyone wins," he explained. Chair Christine Kavalauskas assured the equestrians that she could not see the use of Foss Farm for their traditional activities disappearing, and so they should be able to continue fund raising. However, the commission would need a formal proposal. Echoing that sentiment Beakley said ConsCom should make sure RecCom is aware other organizations are ready to invest in improvements at the farm. Member Tom Brownrigg added that not only has the Pony Club been an institution at Foss Farm, but they are not seeking any expansion of that activity.

Commissioner Jo Rita Jordan questioned the tone of the RecCom letter, which, she said, seemed to assume that their activities should trump all kinds of other uses that have been welcomed for years. Kavalauskas closed the discussion by calling for a formal proposal from the Carlisle Area Equestrians, and asking that RecCom be invited to appear in the near future to share their present thinking.

2002 The Carlisle Mosquito