The Carlisle Mosquito Online

Friday, May 28, 2004


New Open Space Plan ranks large unprotected parcels

The Open Space and Recreation (OS&R) Committee, a quiet and diligent group of citizens chaired by Steve Spang, is close to concluding an effort to revise and update Carlisle's Open Space and Recreation Plan. The committee has identified 58 unprotected parcels of land in Carlisle, consisting of ten or more acres, and has ranked them according to their desirability for purchase, if and when they become available.

At their May 18 meeting, the Open Space and Recreation (OS&R) Committee, consisting of Spang, Mary Zoll, Roy Watson, Jr., Sylvia Willard, David Freedman and Diane Troppoli, grappled with the task of compiling the data and, with the help of spreadsheets created by Susan Emmons, grouping the parcels into four ranks of priority.

Open Space and Recreation Plan

The Open Space and Recreation Plan is a planning document that must be revised every five years to be considered current by the state Department of Environmental Management. Being current allows the town to be eligible for state self-help grants. The most recent report was accepted at the May 2, 2000 Town Meeting to replace the previous plan that expired in September 1999.

The 2005 report being generated by the OS&R Committee will contain an inventory of currently protected land and a new inventory of unprotected parcels of ten acres or more. It typically also includes recommendations from other town boards and committees, and specific actions and initiatives that need to be taken by all town boards and committees to carry out the goals set forth in the report.

The general goal of the report is to save open space and rural vistas in Carlisle by actively planning the acquisition and protection of some of the remaining undeveloped parcels. The plan also assesses future recreational needs for town-owned land and possible new land acquisitions and intensifies town-wide land planning to better manage recreation, conservation and municipal needs.

Conservation Commissioner Diane Troppoli helps rank parcels at an April land planning workshop organized by the OS&R Committee. (Photo by Midge Eliassen)
As part of the process of updating the Open Space and Recreation Plan, the OS&R Committee recently hosted a series of land-planning workshops. The workshops looked at undeveloped, private parcels of ten acres or more in size, and evaluated each property's conservation resources and potential for recreation use. The meetings, held on April 26, 27 and 29, were each attended by a small but productive turnout of 10-12 people.

Desirability criteria

The process of evaluating unprotected parcels requires that they be ranked according to their desirability for purchase, if and when they become available. Parcels are desirable if they add to the rural character of the town, preserve wildlife habitat for flora or fauna, or provide ready access to active or passive recreation for people. The highest rank is 1 decreasing to the lowest rank of 4.

To rank the parcels, OS&R selected the 12 values listed below and scored them on the basis of 4 (highest) to 1 (lowest).

A. Size: Large parcels of land are more valuable than small parcels both for wildlife habitat and for open and passive recreation.

a. Greater than or equal to 75 acres are scored 4
b. Greater than or equal to 30 acres but less than 75 acres are scored 3
c. Greater than or equal to 20 acres but less than 30 acres are scored 2
d. Greater than or equal to 10 acres but less than 20 acres are scored 1
B. Linking Location: The land abuts a parcel of land that is already protected (existing link) or a significant parcel of undeveloped land that is not yet protected but is desirable (potential link). Both existing and potential links increase the usefulness of the entire tract (consisting of the linking parcel and the abutted parcel) both for wildlife habitat and for open and passive recreation

C. Balancing Location: The land is located in a section of town that does not have other open space nearby and, therefore, would help balance the distribution of open space around town. The 1985 Citizen's Survey showed that people used those open spaces near their homes most heavily.

D. Woodlands: The land contains exceptional forest, a historically managed forest, or a forest that is outstanding in some other way.

E. Trails: The land contains cart paths, trails, or potential links to existing trails, which are or may be useful for passive recreation.

F. Water Feature: The land contains surface water, wetlands, streams, ponds, or a possible site for a town well.

G. Special Feature: The land contains an uncommon feature, such as a special habitat, a scenic spot, or a site with archaeological, geological, or historical interest

H. Rural Vista: The land provides a view of open fields or woodlands visible from any road, although visibility from a major road is more important than visibility from a neighborhood road.

I. Core Habitat: The land provides habitat for an endangered, rare, or protected species. Relevant information was taken from the Natural Heritage maps and database.

J. Ecological Diversity: The land contains a variety of terrains and so provides a variety of habitats, which, in turn, may support a variety of wildlife, either flora or fauna.

K. Land Use: The land possesses fertile or arable soil suitable for agriculture whether or not it is currently farmed.

L. Active Recreation: The land provides space for existing or potential playing fields or garden plots.

Ranking land parcels

The OS&R Committee has succeeded in identifying 58 unprotected parcels of land in Carlisle consisting of 10 acres or more and has ranked 56 of them using the values described above. Susan Emmons created a set of spreadsheets containing all the data and sorted it by map location and score totals, both non-weighted and weighted. Double weight was given to Size, Rural Vista, Linking Location and Core habitat. The highest weighted total was 62 and the lowest was 12. The final ranking turned out to be:

Rank 1: 62-41 13 parcels
Rank 2: 40-30 17 parcels
Rank 3: 29-23 16 parcels
Rank 4: 22-12 10 parcels

The owner of each parcel will be identified in the final report. Identification of the owners of these parcels does not mean that the town should aggressively seek to change their status. The town is indeed fortunate that many of the large landowners continue to maintain ownership of their property and refrain from developing it.

For those interested, the current edition of the Open Space and Recreation Plan, published in 2000, is available at the Gleason Public Library or can be viewed in the office of the Carlisle Conservation Commission in the Town Hall. The next scheduled meeting of the OS&R Committee is July 6.

2004 The Carlisle Mosquito