Friday, April 13, 2007
The Trails Committee combines fun with hard work
The Trails Committee changed from an informal group to a formal town advisory committee in 1985 by the efforts of Judy Lane, now living in Groton (not to be confused with Judy Lane of Bingham Road.) Their new web site (carlisletrails.pbwiki.com) states, "At the heart of the committee's work is the belief that a network of open trails benefits both individual residents and the town as a whole."
This committee has a few objectives: public education, maintaining existing trails on public land, working to preserve trails on private land being developed, creating new trails and advising Selectmen on trails issues. Many Sunday mornings are spent clearing specific trails.
Often, a Trails Committee member is also on the Planning Board. As land is being reviewed for development, the Trails Committee member can make recommendations about trails on the parcel of land being developed.
Early on, Trails Committee members worked on mapping existing trails. Louise Hara organized the initial planning to determine what lands the town owned, where there were connections between those parcels and as land became available, what tracts would be desirable to have from a trails and conservation perspective.
The committee also puts out a "Trails in Carlisle" booklet of maps. Copies can be found at Town Hall and Ferns. The booklet continues to be revised over the years. Member Kevin C. Smith (not Kevin T. Smith of Lowell Street,) who has a computer programming background, plans to digitize the maps, and member Marc Lamere (my husband) hopes to have a GPS version and a color version in the future.
In addition to keeping trails clear, Chair Steve Tobin says for the last four to five years they have been engaged in several building projects. In 2004, the committee, with over 75 volunteers, built a 200-foot boardwalk and a 130-foot bridge over a weekend on the River Trail.
In 2005, the committee planned another bridge near the boundary between Great Meadows and the Greenough Land. Materials had been carted out to the site. But before the bridge could be built, the rains came and kept coming. The Concord River swelled over its banks. The building materials were in jeopardy of floating away! Steve Tobin, George Fardy and other committee members went out in canoes and chest-high waders to lash down the supplies to a tree. The bridge was finally built in the fall of 2006, a year later, when the water level had finally retreated.
In addition to the afore-mentioned bridge, a boardwalk was built in 2006 on top of an existing boardwalk in Great Meadows because the original one was submerged, due to the dam-building beavers in the area. The new platform also serves as a great place to observe the beavers' handiwork.
This committee wants more people to use the trails and enjoy them. In an effort to make townspeople more aware of the different trails, committee members lead trail walks several times a year. There's a pre-Super Bowl walk and a post-Thanksgiving Day walk, along with a vernal pool walk and a RiverFest walk. They are always announced in the Mosquito. But this committee doesn't just entice the public with nature's beauty. After the walks, a Trails Committee member pulls a foldable table out of the car and covers it with homemade goodies, perhaps featuring some of George Fardy's walnut brownies or Henry Cox's pumpkin pie with hand-whipped cream. Home-baked goods are often part of their monthly meetings on Friday nights. "It is a committee of sweet tooths," says member Smith. They hold an annual Dessert Party that is a very pleasant and delicious affair.
There is a camaraderie in this group that is rarely seen in a committee. Steve Tobin comments, "I really like the people on the committee; they are low-key and great to be around. I like being outside." Louise Hara says, "I love this committee. They are such wonderful people!" Kevin Smith says, "It's one of the best committees to work on." The committee is like-minded. Bert Willard summed it up: "Members have an appreciation of Carlisle's conservation lands and an enjoyment of hiking the trails. From this grows a desire to help protect and maintain them."
The members bring a variety of skills. Some, like Steve Tobin, Louise Hara and Marc Lamere, bring leadership and organizational skills. The soft-spoken, engineering-minded Bert Willard designed several of the bridges. George Fardy and Kevin Smith bring strong backs and brawn. Henry Cox will tell you, "I bring kids." His children always accompany him on trail walks, trail clearings and boardwalk builds.
In 2004, when his daughter Erin was three, Cox brought her along to help build the long boardwalks. Although most would say a three-year-old could be a hindrance rather than a help, Erin waxed screws and delivered them to the folks with the screw guns who were screwing down the planks. She always delivered them with a smile, and the recipients smiled back. Cox thinks, "We should recruit kids early."
There are many rewards for those on the committee. "Being able to go out on the trails and see people enjoying the trails is very rewarding," says Louise Hara. Bert Willard says, "It's satisfying to work on the town-wide boardwalk building projects and be part of the townspeople working together on a project where we all are contributing various levels of expertise and having a good time in the process." For Steve Tobin, "Seeing the bridges and boardwalks done is an amazing feeling." Marc Lamere says, "We're adding value to Carlisle's lands. We help people to access those lands and make it a more pleasant experience." George Fardy says, "I like walking on the trails after we have worked on them." Cox says with a grin, "The desserts are the most rewarding!" All the members are very appreciative of the volunteers that come out to help with the building projects.
When asked what tough challenges the committee has faced, there was a variety of answers. Several members felt getting the materials out to the bridge and boardwalk sites along the River Trail were strenuous challenges. Louise Hara, the grant writer for the group says, "I hate writing grants! There are a lot of deadlines." But she does it. When a grant is accepted, there is rejoicing. Hara's grant writing earned the committee $4,000 from the Fields Pond Foundation which paid for the materials used for the delayed boardwalk and bridge. Marc Lamere feels that the challenge is "balancing what you would like to do versus what you have time to do, setting realistic goals. He would like to see more Trails Committee-led walks and a better book of trail maps.
First town funding
In 2005, Town Meeting approved $15,000 in Community Preservation Act funds to be spent in the next five years on materials for future boardwalks, bridges and signage. This was the first time there has been direct town funding.
One ironic fact is that the Trails Committee's original charter was to keep Selectmen informed about the Bruce Freeman Rail Trail. It is a proposed rail trail from Lowell to Framingham which has yet to be completed. While informing the Selectmen of the slow progress there, the committee has expanded its role and accomplished many things here in Carlisle.
© 2007 The Carlisle Mosquito