Friday, December 8, 2006
Land Stewards report on Towle Land Assessment
The Conservation Land Stewardship Committee (LSC) has completed the first of a series of Baseline Assessments for each of the town's 27 conservation properties. The first to emerge from the process is a compilation of the geography, legal status, fauna and flora, features, assets, deficiencies and usages of the 112-acre Towle Land off Westford Street.
The team of volunteers who are undertaking the formidable task got under way early in 2006 as a permanent subcommittee of the Conservation Commission (ConsCom). Their stated objectives were not only to assemble a much-needed database for each property, but to use that foundation to formulate a Land Management Plan for each property, and then to recruit a cadre of neighborhood and community "stewards" to help monitor chosen parcels. Acceptance and implementation of the management plans would also enable ConsCom to include realistic maintenance figures in their annual budgets.
In presenting the Towle assessment at ConsCom's November 30 meeting, LSC Chairman Warren Lyman explained that he and the committee members assigned to Towle Land research wanted to know if their effort to date is on target with present commission priorities. If there were any outstanding issues, they would like to hear about them before completing a Land Management Plan. ConsCom Chairman Roy Watson received unanimous nods of assent when he declared, "It is extraordinarily different from what I had perceived, but the work is so great, I don't want to risk messing it up in any way." However, he and other commissioners emphasized their hope to see real stress on community outreach. They were quickly reassured when committee members Liz Carpenter, Debby Geltner, and Tim Foyle joined Lyman in expressing whole-hearted agreement on that goal. Said Carpenter, "That's exactly where we want to go, but the research work has to come first."
Commissioners Kelly Stringham and Diane Troppoli offered some concrete suggestions. The former wanted to see residents alerted to the presence of interesting or unusual features on a given parcel, plus a list of projects that they could volunteer to do. Towle Land abutter Troppoli praised the report and agreed that more frequent mowing of both the field and surrounding pathways should be seriously considered, mainly in order to keep poison ivy under control. A comment from Geltner to the effect that the committee should consider adding a list of things an abutter should not do, led a member of the audience to describe his family's encounter with a burly character with a wheel barrow, hauling large rocks out of Towle. Watson informed him that, "You can call the police on that one."
Assessment to go online
Lyman told the commission he wanted to share the assessment document with other town boards and committees before a final management plan is drafted, and Willard was asked to have the document posted on the town web site. Since the LSC was specifically recommending both increased mowing on Towle and consistent signage on all town properties, the discussion turned inevitably to budgetary matters, and since ConsCom's budget for the coming year leaves exactly $84 for unanticipated contingencies, there appeared to be a serious problem. At least it seemed so until Commissioner Peter Burn pointed out that signs are a legitimate capital item and as such could be included in a modest Warrant Article at the Spring Town Meeting. Lyman felt such an item could gain support because, "Both signs and mowing are important in making it easy for people to enter the land and not misuse it." As for the mowing, Commissioner Tom Schultz, who is ConsCom's budget guru, felt that some juggling might be possible for the coming year and its inclusion could help quantify a permanent item in future budgets.
© 2006 The