The Carlisle Mosquito Online

Friday, June 20, 2003


ConsCom, abutters join forces to repair culvert

Consensus appears to have emerged after several months of emotional public and private attention lavished on an ancient stone culvert along the Old Morse Road trail. At the June 12 Carlisle Conservation Commission (ConsCom) meeting, representatives of the Historical Commission, the Trails Committee and Old Morse Road abutters agreed with ConsCom Chair Tricia Smith's summary of where the matter now stands: the repair is necessary; an engineering study is the required first step; the resulting structure should replicate at least the appearance of the original as closely as possible, and the interested parties will join in funding the approximately $14,000 price tag for the total project.

Smith announced further that ConsCom is allocating $2,500 to help pay for engineering specifications that survey the topography and assess the hydrology both upstream and downstream, to ensure that the new structure can handle peak flows in the future. Engineers from Stamski and McNary have offered to do the study for what the commissioners consider a reassuringly modest $4,000.

Speaking for those who own land along the trail, George Senkler renewed their offer to contribute money to the cause and agreed to put $1,500 into the conservation fund to complete the study. In seeking an historically and aesthetically appropriate solution he accepted use of a large, admittedly modern, concrete pipe to channel flow efficiently, but specified replacement of the original stones and completion of a pathway surface resembling the ancient stone bridge.

In response to a comment from Senkler, that the abutters had hoped the town would cover the entire bill for the study and would help with the approximate $10,000 cost of the actual construction, Smith noted that $2,500 was all the commission had at hand for this fiscal year. However, she assured him that, "We'll do everything we can to hold up our end of the bargain." She added that ConsCom has responsibility for three structures with historic value (the Greenough Dam, the Greenough barn and farmhouse and the Old Morse Trail) for the upkeep of which they have never requested money. "Therefore," she said, "I'd like to see these items brought up for some funding under the Community Preservation Act (CPA)."

Commissioner John Lee, the board's representative on the CPA committee, said he thought the projects were "eminently suitable," but warned that, "There appears to be a consensus on the CPA that they are looking for one large project," one with potential impact in all three areas mandated by the Act, namely affordable housing, open space and historic preservation. That said, he recommended the ConsCom make an application for repair of the culvert. Smith suggested they apply for $5, 000, and asked Conservation Administrator Sylvia Willard to draft an application by the end of the month. The commission's request brought a comment from Willard that, "$5,000 is pretty cheap compared to the cost of a lawsuit."

The administrator's observation underlines the sense of urgency on the part of both ConsCom and the Trails Committee to remove a threat to horses, riders and hikers. The 300-year-old crossing had apparently served its purpose well until recently when a combination of silt buildup and beaver activity slowly narrowed the drainage channel just when flow had increased following development of Hart Farm. Destructive spring flooding further undermined the structure, loosened rocks and caused potholes on the surface, an open invitation to legal trouble.

Landowners along the path had been concerned but did not take action, because the land traversed by the trail is under a conservation restriction, making repair of the stone bridge a ConsCom responsibility. The culvert's vintage also had made its fate a concern of the historic commission, which joined the abutters in pressuring the commission to adopt an "historically appropriate," if more expensive, solution.

Combined town and private funding for the work must now await action by the CPA committee. If that body chooses to recommend a grant, their decision must be approved by Town Meeting this fall. If they reject the idea, ConsCom can enter its own request for funding in the Fall Town Warrant. In the meantime, the Department of Public Works is being asked to monitor and clear out further beaver activity over the summer, and a warning sign has been posted on the trail.

2003 The Carlisle Mosquito