The Carlisle Mosquito Online

Friday, November 29, 2002


Still no clues to Town Forest boundaries or intended uses

"There's somewhere between sixty-eight and seventy-one acres" in the town forest, said Town Forest study committee chair Jane Anderson. The committee has the charter to delve into the history of the Town Forest land purchase and try to determine the amount of land the town owns. On November 19 they met in the Town Hall with a large plastic box full of documents, including handwritten land deeds of an abutter's land. East Street, Brook Street, East Riding Drive, and Maple Street border the Town Forest land.

Affordable housing proposal

In 2001 the Carlisle Housing Authority (CHA) proposed to use a portion of the Town Forest for affordable housing. The motion was withdrawn because questions arose immediately as to how much land was in the Town Forest and what portion of it could be legally used for housing development. While the land is not set aside as conservation land, the Massachusetts Legislature passed a law (Amendment Article 97 of the Constitution of the Commonwealth) in the 1970s, which prohibits forestry land from being converted to other uses without prior approval of the state legislature.

Boundaries not defined

When the land was officially designated as Town Forest in 1923, the borders were noted with graphic descriptions such as "the north woodlot" and "the old pasture." Though the abutting land around the Town Forest can be measured by reviewing the land deeds, the Town Forest land has not been surveyed. In July of 2002 the committee requested $1,300 to produce an accurate map of the land. The selectmen asked the Carlisle Conservation Commission (ConsCom) to allocate $1,300 from the conservation fund to develop a map.

In October 2002 the conservation commission, unsure if the funds could legally be allocated, asked the town counsel, "Is it appropriate to use fund money to 'study' open space land with the long term goal (if the study is successful) of actually reducing the area of such open space land and removing a portion of said property from open space use?" This question describes the exact situation vis-à-vis a request from the Town Forest study committee, supported by the board of selectmen, that the commission use fund monies to pay for a study that would help determine the availability of a portion of the existing Town Forest for affordable housing or other municipal purposes." Town counsel recommended the funds not be supplied.

Members of the Town Forest study committee are (left to right) Alan Lehotsky, Beverly Humm, Tom Brownrigg and Jane Anderson. Town clerk Sarah Andreassen is at far right. (Photo by Midge Eliassen)

History of use

Carlisle Town Clerk Sarah Andreassen provided the Town Forest study committee with extracts from town reports from 1929 to 1948. There were many references to the Town Forest in the reports, such as: "Twenty dollars received from sale of wood and thirty-five from sale of moss have been turned into the town treasury." (1929), and "In the latter part of April, 6,000 small pine trees were set out [planted]. About forty cords of birch and hard pine have been cut and most of the wood sold." (1934). Chair Anderson was able to create a time line from 1929 to present, with details of the use and sale of the Poor Farm and Town Forest land.

Not enough information

Anderson presented work by Darla Stefanik, of Title Abstraction Services of Westford. Stefanik was impressed by the committee's organization, and generously provided her services at no charge. Stefanik searched the land deeds, gathering information about the original 158 acres and sale of a portion of the land to the Philbricks, who bought land on both sides of East Street.

Committee member Beverly Humm reported she had walked the land, and found stonewalls with old broken barbed wire on some of the walls. Anderson presented a report and map by Steve Tobin, who walked the land with a GPS receiver, searching for internal stonewalls to mark as boundaries. He found three segments of stonewall internal to the property, but not used as boundaries. He noted the acreage listed on the 2000 Assessor's map 23, lot 23 of 78 appears to be wrong, and he concluded the land is approximately 68.95 acres. He warned, however, that there is some error built in using the GPS system in heavy, dense woods. "We couldn't find the forest for the trees," quipped committee member Alan Lehotsky.

"We haven't found the 48 acres," Anderson agreed, referring to the original portion of the land now known as the Town Forest, "We don't have enough information." They have no way of figuring out any historical delineation of the properties, because no existing topographical features tie in with historical descriptions. .

The committee voted to request time at the December 17 selectmen's meeting to give a progress report. The next meeting for the Town Forest committee will be December 10.

2002 The Carlisle Mosquito