The Carlisle Mosquito Online

Friday, October 23, 2009

Protected land disturbed near Captain Wilson Lane, rock removed

Trails Committee chair Kevin Smith contacted police on October 18 to issue a formal complaint about the unauthorized excavation of schist rock from town land. This town land abuts a property in the Greystone conservation cluster under development at 105 Captain Wilson Lane.

Officer Rich Tornquist responded to the Sunday call at 10:13 a.m. He joined Trails Committee members Smith, Steve Tobin, George Fardy, Marc Lamere and Henry Cox in examining apparent evidence that heavy equipment had driven on the land and damaged trees in pursuit of removing large rocks. A stone wall and survey stakes clearly delineated the property lines. The committee members put orange tape across the area where they believed machines had entered the restricted area.

A police sergeant visited the site the next morning, and communicated to the workers on the adjacent lot, owned and under development by CNC Builders, that they should stay off the town property. According to the police report, the officer at the site on Monday, October 19, recorded the following: “Spoke to the workers on site and left my card for the contractor to call me. The worker believes everything done was according to the property line.”

Kurt Farnsworth, owner of the lot and CNC Builders confirmed that the boulders being used at the house project came from his lot. “There are more rocks here than we could ever use,” Farnsworth stressed, adding “No way would we go into the woods to take more rocks.” He offered the town to take any rocks needed from the site to replenish those removed.

He noted that a survey done at the start of the project clearly delineated the house and septic areas where CNC had removed trees and said, “We’ve been working within the property line.” However, he said that he had never visited the town land area prior to a walkthrough on Monday at mid-day with Sylvia Willard, Carlisle Conservation Administrator.

Willard reported a 50 x 70-foot area on the town land as having experienced clear disruption with “trampled shrubs and bent-over trees.” She observed a large rock outcropping on the site, and said that she found that “one rock was plucked from the base of the outcropping.” The rock face at the site was bare, contrasting strongly with the mildew- and lichen-growths that covered the undisturbed stone surfaces. “People need to know that all land is owned by somebody,” said Willard. “If you don’t know who owns it, you shouldn’t touch it.”

Discovering the infraction

Tobin identified the disturbed area on Saturday, October 17. He had visited the site with several boy scouts who were planning to clear a town trail and connect it with the remains of an old dirt road on adjoining land under conservation restriction. Tobin had marked out the area with pink flags about three weeks before, and found the rock removal nearly in the center of the proposed trail.

“I would have noticed this,” said Tobin. He contacted other Trails Committee members, as well as the Carlisle Mosquito, and the group gathered in Sunday morning’s rain to survey the area. Cox pointedly noted the uprooting of a tree near the rock outcropping.

The committee discovered additional excavation on property owned by abutter George Stalker of 486 Concord Street – land that he had put under conservation restriction and under the protection of the Carlisle Conservation Foundation. After a call to Stalker, he joined the group where alleged rock removal had taken place on his property. He observed the stripping of a rock face and nearby fresh damage to trees at the site. He said he was “shocked” by the damage, and confessed that he had not been on this part of the land for about a month so he could not identify when or who might have removed rocks.

“I think it’s outrageous that someone would go on private property and do this,” said local developer Bill Costello. He previously owned the Captain Wilson Lane lot that abutted the town land, but sold it to CNC Builders last spring. Costello called large rock outcroppings “extremely valuable” to landscapers. He said that he had learned recently that large pieces of just the “right shade of green” can go for as much as $3,000.

Town takes next steps

Willard had contacted Costello to ask him about the rock mining on town land, and reported that he denied any wrong-doing. She said that Costello had also called CNC Builders “good guys” and said they would have known better than to cross over property lines.

On Tuesday, Building Inspector John Luther visited the entire area, including town land, the land under conservation restriction and the building site. After viewing old tracks and fallen trees, as well as the trucks at the abutting development site, he said that he felt certain that CNC did not do the damage. When asked about the damaged rock face and a recently sheared tree nearby on the Stalker land, he could not identify what could have happened.

“I have no idea,” confessed Luther. “An excavator-type machine or heavy construction would have caused a lot more damage coming through. There would be a lot more ‘scoring’ marks. You’d see a lot more mess out here.” Luther said the same about the town land piece, and when asked about the knocked over trees, he surmised that possibly hunters passing through could have caused the damage or “someone messing around on a four-wheeler just playing in the woods. It’s a great place to play – it’s a great open space. I just don’t see a lot of machine damage.” He pointed out that fallen tree limbs in the old trail path would have been crushed by construction equipment, not just lightly scored.

Police close investigation

Chief John Sullivan spoke to Luther, and after ascertaining that the construction crew at the site were not responsible, he said he considers the police report “closed.”

Meanwhile, Willard scheduled the matter for discussion at the Conservation Commission meeting last night (Thursday, October 22). She believes the next step the group might take would be to “petition for action from the Board of Selectman.” ∆

© 2009 The Carlisle Mosquito