Friday, November 16, 2007
CCF agreement frees ConsCom to act on pathways
A legal glitch that had previously prevented the Carlisle Conservation Commission (ConsCom) from opening a scheduled public hearing on wetland issues posed by the town footpath project appears to have been resolved. Sally Swift, president of the private Carlisle Conservation Foundation (CCF) and its property arm, the Carlisle Land Trust (CLT), attended the Commission's November 8 meeting to announce that CCF has agreed not to oppose an amendment to a conservation restriction (CR) it holds on land along Bedford Road.
The restricted parcel includes a CLT easement that originally allowed the town to run a portion of its gravel-topped pathway across a piece of the property near the road. However, three years of experience with the gravel surfaces had made it clear that this type of topping cannot be maintained effectively, and that the Bedford Road segment, along with additional walkways soon to be installed along East, Concord and Lowell Streets, should have asphalt toppings. The inconvenient truth in this situation was that asphalt was not allowed under the original CR.
Responding to a request from the town to permit the existing five-foot wide pathway to be paved within the easement, CLT agreed to the amendment, pending approval by the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. CLT further authorized the Pedestrian and Bike Safety Advisory Committee (commonly called the "Pathways Committee") to represent their organization in filing the Notice of Intent (NOI) to secure ConsCom approval of the pathway network. The Pathway Committee is filing a single NOI for all four paths.
With the commission finally free to act on the wetland issues involved, Pathways Committee member John Bakewell presented nearly complete plans for each of the four pathways. Fortunately, the commission was not starting from scratch, since Conservation Administrator Sylvia Willard had worked with the Pathways Committee almost from the start, and commissioners had already reviewed and okayed the delineation and flagging of the ubiquitous wetland resource areas.
Drainage issues considered
Bakewell began with plans for those sections of the Bedford Road path that had already shown some erosion or otherwise required ConsCom action. The primary concern was that standard haybales might not fit in the space available in some locations or might not prove sufficient to stop siltation into the wetlands in others, especially if heavy rain were to occur between the time that excavation took place and asphalt was laid. Bakewell presented some possible approaches, but after close study, Commissioner Tricia Smith supported a conservative approach, relying on the state roadway crowns and existing drainage to handle it. She recommended use of siltation fence rather than haybales in some tricky areas and suggested that Bakewell and company keep a close eye during a rain event to see where the water goes. In a section where the existing Bedford Road path leaves the town's right of way and merges temporarily with Seawright Gardens property, there was a vulnerable area where silt fence installment activities will need to be worked out in consultation with Willard.
Concord Street path
Although the Concord Street path is presenting difficult choices for the Historical Commission and Traffic Safety Committee, and although this leg requires primary excavation along Bordering Vegetated Wetlands, it presented fewer potential problems for ConsCom. All work can take place within the town's right-of-way, and there is enough room for protective haybales and/or silt fencing to be installed. Again the commission considered the existing roadway crown and drainage provisions to be sufficient to handle water management requirements.
East Street path presents challenges
East Street presented more serious wetland challenges. At one point near the start, a stone wall is located within the proposed pathway route. It will need to be dismantled and rebuilt further into the lot, causing some wetland reduction. Smith asked for a clear "limit of work" with a full siltation barrier and a requirement that the work be closely supervised by Willard.
On property at 43 East Street, a retaining wall is called for in the specifications and will necessitate work within the wetland itself. The commission required that the structure be built from the roadway side only, in order to prevent as much wetland disturbance as possible, but recognizing that some upstream damage is inevitable. Commissioner Roy Watson emphasized the need for a stringent limit on activity and size for any mechanical equipment.
Further along at 129 East Street, Bakewell indicated a second stone wall that will need to be "firmed up to act as a retaining wall." The operation will require trimming of brush to uncover existing pipes. Again the commissioners specified no heavy equipment be used and work be done only within a clearly delineated area.
Lowell Street path
Only one item on the Lowell Street stretch merited extended discussion and that was a four-foot-high, ten-foot-long bridge over a ditch at 225 Lowell Street. Bakewell was unable to estimate the total area of wetland disturbance as yet, but noted that an existing berm would need to be "shaved down." He was advised that the commission will require plans for both the bridge itself and for post-construction stabilization of the site.
Footpath project veteran Deb Belanger concluded the presentation by emphasizing that the plans offered that night did not yet constitute "a controlling document," indicating that more specific engineering plans would be forthcoming. In fact, the committee planned to have a separate page per abutter to provide clear instruction to the contractor. She announced the following estimated schedule: 1) this fall - start stone and tree work; 2) April 2008 - finish preparatory work; 3) May and June - lay all asphalt in approximately six weeks. The hearing was continued to 8:45 p.m. on November 29 to await receipt of a file number and commentary from the state Department of Environmental Protection.
© 2007 The