Friday, January 24, 2003
Town Forest is still 'MIA'
The Town Forest study committee was unable to locate the original 46 acres in the town's approximate 70-acre Town Forest, located on East Street. Committee member Jane Anderson presented the group's report to the Carlisle Board of Selectmen at their January 14 meeting.
The Town Forest was split from Carlisle's poor farm, which had been created in 1852 when the town bought a 158-acre farm for $2,900 from John W. Holland. Anderson explained that by the early 1900s only 2-5 people were living in the poor farm. In 1923 the Town Meeting voted to set aside 46 acres of the land as a Town Forest, and two years later, the town assessors listed an additional 25 acres as part of the "reservation." In 1926 the town sold 90 acres of the farm.
In 2001, the Town Forest was under consideration as a site for an affordable housing project. At that time questions were raised about the legal status of the property. In particular, the original 46-acre Town Forest (and perhaps the entire parcel) may be protected from development according to state law. The selectmen formed the ad hoc study committee to find the accurate size of the forest and to locate the original 46 acres. In addition to Anderson, the committee included Tom Brownrigg, Beverly Humm and Alan Lehotsky.
The committee met about once a month, and studied old records, including deeds, maps, photos, town meeting records, assessors' records and local histories. Anderson thanked Humm and town resident Ed Sonn who provided much of the research materials. Brownrigg downloaded Geographical Information Systems (GIS) data of the area from the internet (www.state.ma.us/mgis), and trails committee member Steve Tobin walked the land and mapped the stone walls using Global Positioning System (GPS) data.
The discrepancy in the records causes the uncertainty in the current size of the Town Forest: 158 bought - 90 acres sold = 68 acres, but 46 + 25 set aside = 71 acres. One way to calculate the acres in the parcel is to measure it from a map. Roger Corbin of BSC Engineeering measured the town's Washburn Map, made in 1937 from an arial photo, and got a size of 78 acres. However, Anderson said Corbin thought the scale of the Washburn Map might be inaccurate. Tobin overlaid the assessors' map on the U.S. Geological Survey topographic map and measured a size of 69 acres. A survey of the land would settle the question, but that was not an option for the study committee, which did not have any budget.
It may prove impossible to find the location of the first 46 acres of the Town Forest. The old deed did not refer to internal landmarks, though the 1925 assessors' records did break down the land into smaller areas. At that time, the "reservation" contained 20 acres of wood and meadow, 26 acres of east pasture, and a 25-acre south woodlot. The poor farm included 7 acres of arable land in the north, 31.5 acres of arable land in the south, a 4.5-acre spring pasture, an 8-acre west pasture and a north woodlot of 40 acres. Those separate areas are not discernable today, and none of the data gathered was sufficient for the committee to determine the location of the original 46-acre Town Forest.
Anderson said that the data gathered by the committee will be given to the town clerk for archiving. Copies of the committee's report will be available at the library and the town hall.
Conservation commissioner Roy Watson spoke from the audience, and asked how townspeople would learn if the selectmen again consider changing the use of the Town Forest land. He said, "It strikes me that the Town Forest... is the original piece of conservation land in Carlisle." Hult replied that there are no "active proposals" for the property, but "there could conceivably be future actions with respect to this parcel."
The selectmen thanked the town forest study committee for their hard work, and the seriousness with which they addressed their task. After accepting the committee's final report, the selectmen formally disbanded the Town Forest study committee.
© 2003 The Carlisle Mosquito