By Meredith McCulloch
On September 3, Walter St. Onge presented to the Selectmen a list of 44 proposed property easements recommended by the Land Acquisition Committee. The easements would link existing trails and sidewalks in town, many of which include informal paths that are frequently used by the public, but which in fact are private property. The recommendations were developed as a joint effort of the Trails, Bicycle Advisory, and Land Acquisitions Committees
The hope is that the project would have little financial impact on the Town budget. Members of the committee would approach owners of the properties to ask if they are willing to grant an easement as a gift to the town, which would be totally voluntary with no land taking, meaning no funds would have to be appropriated to purchase the easements.
Forty-four possible easements have been identified, with a subset of 33, ranked according to desirability. In the rankings, access to the town center, the schools and shopping centers were given the highest priority. Easements would be completed over time, as they are made available by the owners, and not necessarily in the ranking order.
Benefits to the property owners would be protection from liability claims from injury on the paths, and, depending upon an owner’s specific situation, a possible tax advantage. Beyond that the whole town would gain safer routes for walkers and bicyclists, with reduced foot and bike traffic on already congested roads.
There would be some cost to the Town for surveys plus ongoing maintenance costs over the years once an easement is acquired. To avoid additional expense the Committee is making full use of the Town’s GIS (geographic information system) map system and will use a standardized legal form for the acquisitions.
St. Onge thanked committee member Terry Gleason, who did much of the work on the project but was unable to be at the meeting. “It is a very impressive effort,” Selectmen Mike Rosenberg commented. Selectman Caroline Fedele said she is happy to see the committees working well together on the project.