Friday, May 30, 2003
ConsCom explores repair of Old Morse Road Trail stone culvert
Plans for work on the Old Morse Road Trail are imbedded in a multiplicity of issues important to several groups in the community, and have elicited unusually large attendance at the past two meetings of the Conservation Commission. At a prior meeting the ConsCom was alerted to the problem with an old stone culvert and a possible preliminary course of action. On May 22, the abutters, represented by Piper Lind and George and Brigitte Senkler; the Trails Committee, represented by Louise Hara and George Fardy; and the Historic District Commission, represented by Mary Ann Kitrosser, had serious concerns to share with ConsCom.
The problem that needs to be addressed depends a little on which one of the interested parties you talk to. The trail goes across the Senkler and Lind properties, and the trouble spot is located on Lind's property. The land involved is under a conservation restriction, which makes repairs a ConsCom responsibility. The structure involved has been described as an old stone culvert which has drained upstream water successfully for most of its 300 years, but recently has had more water than it can handle, due to siltation and closing of the drain channel, beaver action, and increased flow, especially since the Hart Farm development was built. The result has been inadequate drainage and spring flooding. The increased flow has shifted some of the stones and raised the ambient water table and the culvert structure has settled. Resultant pot holes make the crossing unsafe for people and horses using the trail. This is the immediate presenting problem.
As George Senkler said, "The crossing has become more and more of an issue...Everyone wants to make it drain." This is true. It is also true that everyone would like to see it "historically correct," a difficult task since no plans exist for the original. ConsCom is focused on safety and liability, as is the Trails Committee. The abutters want the same look retained; both the Senklers and Lind agree that they do not want a large bridge to replace a charming and rustic spot that has been part of their pleasure in the property.
None of this would be a great problem if the projected price tag were not so high. An initial estimate would be $4,000 for initial design, which Smith calls "a great deal." Another estimate for design is $13,975, which doesn't include the work. A 2001 estimate for work, with help from DPW, is $4,500 and does not include design. ConsCom is presently taxed with Greenough Dam repairs and doesn't have the money and doesn't know how it can raise money for the Old Morse Road Trail repair. Both Senkler and Lind indicated a willingness to help out on the funding if, in Senkler's words, "the end result would look like the original."
Hydrology and wetland consider-ations which would be the basis for any solution, involve engineering work, including accurate topographical work, drainage calculations, and backwater analysis that would account for water expected from the upstream environment and potential impact on the downstream area. The design, the cost of the work and the price stem from this information, which will itself require funding. Commission chair Chris Kavalauskas said that there were several options open to ConsCom: to repair the surface, to repair the surface and the culvert and to put a bridge over it. In the end all parties agreed that historical accuracy related only to the deck or surface of the trail, and that whatever engineering was required would be acceptable if the crossing looked the same. The hearing was continued until the next meeting, with agreement to get engineering data that would take into account upstream and downstream hydrology, and subsequently put the project out for "a new improved bid."
A habitat issue
Jim White of Daniels Lane came to the commission "in a spirit of compromise" to discuss difficulty in meeting a condition they placed on his application, dated January 2002. He had put in a swimming pool in an area which is also a rare species habitat. The condition was to put a small fence or curb around the perimeter of the pool enclosure to prevent wildlife, salamanders in particular, from coming in through the fence and into the pool. White claimed he "had made due diligent efforts to get this done" but none of the four contractors he contacted felt the required construction "was a reasonable thing to do." He wondered if his pool cover would be adequate but was told "you need to convince the commission that the cover is the equivalent of curbing." It was agreed that a hardware cloth barrier attached to the bottom of the pool fence and sunk into the ground, would make an adequate barrier.
Laurel Hollow discussion
The part of the proposed Laurel Hollow development on Lowell Street that falls under ConsCom jurisdiction is a detention basin and installation of two manholes. At their last meeting Smith agreed to draft a memo to be submitted to other town bodies concerned with the development and to the peer review board. The memo will state ConsCom concerns, which are primarily about storm water management. It was suggested that in addition to the memo, addressed to the Board of Appeals and the Selectmen, it would be desirable to invite the peer review team to come in and listen to ConsCom concerns. Discussion of the Laurel Hollow project was continued pending the peer review group's report.
Jeffrey and Carolyn Kiel of 19 Davis Road were granted their request to remove 12 pines and maples to make a new lawn possible. The area is not in the buffer zone, but is adjacent to one. ConsCom recommended a siltation barrier inside of the trees be removed, to serve as a barrier to construction work in the resource area.
Eileen Nardone of 259 South Street had a planting plan to bring before the commission. She has removed trees next to a tennis court and wants to plant lilacs in the cleared space. Her plans were approved.
A request for determination was made by Raggs, Inc. in conjunction with repair of a Brook Street sewage disposal system and construction of a retaining wall within the 100-foot buffer zone of a bordering vegetated wetland and within the 200-foot riverfront area of a perennial stream. The project was approved.
ConsCom elects new chair
Tricia Smith was elected the new chairman of the Conservation Commission and Roy Watson the chairman-elect at ConsCom's regular meeting May 22. Smith, who has worked professionally as an environmental engineer with an interest in hydrology and storm water management, joined ConsCom in 2002 and prior to that had served on the commission for five years. Watson came to the commission in January 2001.
Smith replaces Chris Kavalauskas, a wildlife ecologist who is familiar to residents as the enthusiastic guide for the popular spring vernal pool walks. Kavalauskas will be moving out of town in the very near future.
ConsCom will meet next on June 12. The regular conservation coffee will be 7:45 a.m. on June 10 at Town Hall.
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