The Carlisle Mosquito Online

Friday, November 2, 2007


Safe pathways in the center

Pathways radiating out from the center are nearing reality and a walkable Carlisle is within reach as the Pathways Committee seeks final approval for its plans (see October 26, 2007, Mosquito, page 5). Amid the flurry of finalizing the plans, fraught with not-unusual delays and setbacks, safety keeps emerging as a predominant concern of town boards, committees and center residents.

In a joint meeting in Town Hall on October 30, the Pathways Committee met with the Historical Commission, the Planning Board, the tree warden, the Selectmen and residents to present detailed plans for Concord and Lowell Streets. (A report on the meeting will appear in next week's Mosquito.)

"Safety" is included in the full name of the Pathways Committee — the Pedestrian and Bike Safety Advisory Committee. The goal of the committee is to provide safe pathways for residents — for children walking to school, for seniors who will enjoy healthful walks without driving to another location, for families out for a stroll or hike. Building pathways is the focus, but safety concerns will continue to dominate the discussion even after the pathways are in.

It is no secret that traffic flowing through town has increased significantly in the past few years. While Concord Street and Bedford Road are not the Autobahn, speed is an issue. Signs limiting speed to 25 mph are placed too close to the center. Since most drivers don't observe the posted speed limit, increased enforcement would encourage compliance with the law. The Selectmen are exploring the possibility of lowering the speed limit and placing additional signage on the roadways; both measures require state approval and will take time to implement.

The Traffic Safety Advisory Committee, consisting of Police Chief John Sullivan, Fire Chief David Flannery, DPW Manager Gary Davis and Town Administrator Madonna McKenzie, has been working closely with the Pathways Committee, other town boards and residents to ensure the safety of all who use the new pathways. We will hear more from them as details are worked out.

Center residents will benefit the most from the pathways but will bear the burdens. Sylvia Sillers, who lives at the corner of Church and Concord Streets in a beautiful historic house, shoulders many of those burdens. She worries about the impact of the pathway just outside her front door, she anticipates drainage problems and is concerned about a venerable crabapple tree whose major limb must be removed to accommodate the pathway. As the proposed pathways zig-zag across lawns behind utility poles and through stone walls, other center residents have similar concerns.

Now the final details of the center-changing project are being hammered out and the willingness of Carlisleans to come together and compromise will be tested. The historical integrity of the center must be preserved and residents' concerns that have been raised for years must be resolved.

And the safety of walkers, bikers and drivers must achieve higher visibility in the months to come.

Parenting 102: another page in the syllabus

When the owner's away, the cat sitter plays. That's the essence of a new twist local police are seeing in underage drinking parties. Some young hosts are having parties in homes where they are house- or pet-sitting. Or, sometimes, a hapless sitter lets friends know he or she has access to an empty house, and the friends invite themselves. Either way, some travelers have lost that happy glow of relaxation upon returning to a trashed home and a shamefaced neighbor.

If you are a homeowner planning to use the services of a young house-sitter, you can make it clear that he or she is the only one allowed in your house, and ask another neighbor (or the police) to keep an eye out. It's for your peace of mind as well as the teen's safety.

If you are a parent of teens, it's one more thing you have to think about. Keeping them safe requires constant rethinking. Hard and fast rules get you only so far. For every parent, no matter how "good" the child has always been, each new kind of social outing presents a new set of challenges — for you both. You need to undertake an assessment, not just of the possibilities for trouble, but of your teen's ability to handle it.

You hope your kids know your values and wishes, but each and every child has a different emotional make-up, a different set of skills, and a different propensity. I don't mean to suggest that all of teen-rearing is dire, or that all of our teens are sneaky, opportunistic, or driven to party. I don't even mean to suggest that underage partyers are bad kids. Rather, I think they are of an age when risk-taking is attractive, they're eager to do things they perceive as "adult," and they are overconfident in their ability to pull it off. The following advice stems in small part from my experience with two teens and in greater part from my involvement in the Restorative Justice program for young offenders, their parents and counselors.

It's our job as adults to be imaginative about the trouble they can get into and to talk with them at each new turn. (Yes, they've heard it all before and already know more than you possibly could, but ask their indulgence.) If your son says he's going to a party, ask where, what the phone number is, and whether the parents will be there (your child may not know). Then call (while he rolls his eyes). This doesn't mean you distrust your child; it's simple caution. The other parents will likely be delighted you called if they are planning to supervise, and especially if they're not. If you get the sense that supervision will be lax, express your concern.

Let your child know that if she finds herself at a party where she's not comfortable, she can call a family member or friend for a ride home. Arrange ahead of time a cover story that helps her save face. If she thinks it will be mortifying to have you show up, ask her to imagine how mortifying it would be when the police or the homeowners appear.

When you leave your own home and your child is having a friend or two over to keep her company, be explicit about the number of people she may invite and tell her it's okay to call you if something's going wrong. Trust your gut; if you think there's a party in the works, change plans and stay home.

Independence is a beautiful thing, but it doesn't come at one particular age, nor does it emerge all at once.


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2007 The Carlisle Mosquito