Friday, September 16, 2005
ConsCom refines land stewardship
"The best way to manage public land is to get people involved in taking care of it." As of September 8, this Brian Donahue precept will be put to the test here in Carlisle. Following a two-week review of the report developed over the past nine months by its ad hoc Land Stewardship Planning Committee, the Conservation Commission voted to accept the recommendations, create a permanent Land Stewardship Committee (LSC) and initiate a search for charter members.
The Planning Committee had begun its assignment by researching land management practices in other Massachusetts towns, concentrating on those in neighboring communities. They found that where a stewardship program exists, there is typically a core committee that takes responsibility for management and maintenance of conservation land under the direction of the Conservation Commission. The committee develops parameters for the oversight activities, then recruits and trains a corps of "stewards" to help monitor the status of single parcels. In Carlisle there are 29 such properties, some as large as 242 acres and others as small as three.
To a question from newly appointed member Kelly Stringham as to whether there are enough people in town motivated to fill all those slots, Planning Committee chair Warren Lyman replied, "In other towns that we surveyed the answer is 'Yes,' but did they always do their jobs? Unfortunately, 'no.'" In Carlisle, he felt that people will be there, but added that one of the LSC's main jobs will be to keep them motivated.
Commissioner Roy Watson assented, "Getting people involved and encouraging them is an underlying goal and should be emphasized in your committee's report." Planning Committee member and former commissioner Steve Hinton concurred, appearing sanguine that the desired enthusiasm can be built over time. Commission Chair Tom Schultz recalled that he had originally pushed for the project because he had identified a real need for outreach, not only to tap needed management assistance, but also to make more townspeople aware of the natural resources that are here to be enjoyed. Lyman agreed to include outreach more prominently in the statement of goals.
Also under the heading of outreach, Stringham suggested that Scout groups or school classes might take over stewardship of a parcel as a learning experience and/or a community service activity. Commissioner Tricia Smith recalled the enthusiasm engendered by a previous Scout undertaking to make bluebird houses for town-owned lands and felt that a stewardship commitment might be an excellent "continuing project" for a youth group.
Watson recommended that the Planning Committee's document make note of Carlisle's good fortune in having a Trails Committee that "does such a great job" of maintaining the town's network of paths, while recognizing that ConsCom cannot shed its statutory responsibility for their upkeep.
Following numerous kudos from individual commissioners for the "thoughtful and thorough" report, the board voted to adopt an official statement of commendation for the superb job done by the Planning Committee. Credit belongs not only to Lyman and Hinton but also to Paul Kress, Lynn Knight, Greg Peterson, and Mark Lamere.
© 2005 The