Friday, December 4, 2009
Will school tree cutting alter center?
As a substantial part of the Carlisle school’s castle playground lies within the Historic District, the School Building Committee (SBC) needed to come before the Historical Commission to examine three pertinent issues regarding the plans for the school’s building project.
The November 24 meeting opened with SBC Chair Lee Storrs taking out a drawing of the plans for the school building project. After describing the current plans for the new design, Storrs explained that there is a need for a fire access road through the current playground. The access road would connect the lower parking lot on Church Street with the redesigned plaza by the school buildings; trees will need to be cut down and the slope graded for the new road. The commission worried that the grade might be too steep, and requested the Building Committee work further with a landscape architect to tweak the plans for the road.
The SBC also asked about using the playground as a contractor staging area for building materials during the approximately 18 months that it will take to build the school. Some trees would need to be cut down in preparation. Commission member Geoffrey Freeman stated that the playground would not be a good place to serve as a staging area because the ground would become too compacted. He recommended looking at the old Corey building plans to see where the staging area was for that project.
Then a more controversial topic surfaced. Two youngsters approached the commission with a plea for more play space. Their proposal (and the School Building Committee’s) is to clear the trees in the castle playground in order to make a grassy playing field, but leaving a buffer of trees between the two roads of School and Church, and the field. Fourth grader Teddy Storrs said, “The plaza is very crowded with kids during recess. Kids get hit with balls, and kids run into each other when they are playing tag. We’d be able to do so much more and people wouldn’t get hurt as much if we had a field.” Fifth grader Reid Wiggins added, “ We want some open space, and some grass that we can play on without getting hurt.” School Superintendent Marie Doyle added that the older kids play in the bus parking lot to relieve the population density on the plaza during recess. Freeman responded, “Sounds like a chaotic experience.”
Freeman asked if it would help if only a few trees were taken down, and the remaining woodland used for passive recreating, such as a rope course, in order to leave the area in its natural environment. Doyle replied that it would not be feasible, as the insurance required for that would skyrocket.
The commission members were concerned that by clearing out the trees in the playground, the town common would be dramatically changed and the town center adversely affected. It would bring the school into the center of town and destroy its integrity. Commission member Peggy Hilton thought it would be useful to find some “before photographs” to see how the town center looked when the school hill was farmland and did not have any trees.
Storrs thanked the commission for their advice and promised that the Building Committee would return with alternatives drawn up by their landscape architect that addresses the issues brought up that evening.
In other business, the commission is still concerned about the siltation barriers that are still in evidence along the pathways in the community. Town Center resident Jack O’Connor volunteered to walk the paths to see if any siltation barriers are still visible in the Historic District. If so, the commission will write to the Selectmen to address the issue.
There have been more complaints about temporary signs in the Historic District. Chair Mark Lamere will look further into the sign bylaw and speak to Planning Board Chair David Freedman and Selectman Bill Tice about the steps needed to regulate and enforce. ∆
© 2009 The