Photo courtesy of Lamoureux and Dickinson
Wetlands may impede recreational uses on the 137-acre Bove Property, even in the “panhandle” area, shown above.

The engineers tasked with analyzing what recreational uses are appropriate
for the Bove Property presented their final report at the Selectboard’s Feb. 7 meeting, most of them relating to hiking and walking but leaving open the possibility for a connector for motorized vehicles.

Consultants from Lamoureux and Dickinson explained that because the Bove Property, land purchased by the town to access the Town Forest, is one-third wetlands, recreational use is somewhat inhibited.

However, some wetlands can be impacted with a proper permit, soil specialist
Brian Tremback said.

“If you can show a need to do it, you can get a permit for it,” he said, “but it has to be justified.”

Gail Henderson-King, former planner for Milton and now an architect with Lamoureux and Dickinson, showed a map that marked the proposed uses, which included walking, hiking and mixed use trails; birdwatching blinds and boardwalks and a primitive camping area.

Recommended uses

The is plan isn’t substantially different than one presented at a public meeting back in November, except there are more trails and some were shifted away from adjacent landowners’ properties, planning director Regina Mahony said.

The plan is split into implementation phases, with Phase I being a trail connection to the Old Town Road, a Class 4 road that was disowned by the town, which runs through the Town Forest. This trail was sited for possible future ATV travel.

Phases II and III include expanding trails, and Phase IV is making the Development Review Board-approved parking lot larger.

The permit says the lot can’t be constructed until the property’s management plan is finalized. The consultant’s report is the first step in this process.

The parking lot was originally proposed larger to make room for school buses or vehicles with trailers but was downsized after abutting neighbors and the DRB raised concerns, Mahony said.

Board chairman Lou Mossey was in favor of a connecting trail for motorized vehicles to pass through the property.

If this passes, the board would have to amend the Town Forest’s management plan, which does not allow motorized uses.

“We need to be as cognizant as possible for use of the public property for as many uses as possible,” Mossey said. “I know there’s going to be conflicts. It will happen.”

Westford resident Dean Benjamin, an adjoining landowner, doesn’t support making the parking lot larger or allowing motorized uses. He said just walking can cause damage, let alone riding ATVs.

“While this seems like a rural area to everybody, you have to bear in mind there are homes there,” he said, later adding, “If [motorized vehicle use] was happening next to any one of your houses, I know that would be a concern for you.”

Judy Kinner, chairwoman of the Conservation Commission, said in a follow-up interview that she was OK with motorized uses on a connecting trail but that it’s up to those parties to find the right path.

She was more disappointed with the constricted room for trails due to wetlands but realizes the property was purchased to adjoin the Town Forest.

“We can accommodate that,” she said. “How mixed use it will be I’m not sure.”

Next steps in commission’s purview

The consultants’ report will now go to the Conservation Commission, which will draft a management plan, detailing exactly which uses are suited for the property,
and submit it for the Selectboard’s approval.

Kinner hopes to have this done by the beginning of summer. She plans to meet with the Westford Conservation Commission, because the majority of the property is in that town, and with ATV clubs.

Kinner is optimistic that the public and Selectboard will like the commission’s draft plan and understand that uses are limited, she said.

“We can just have a primitive hiking trail initially,” she said. “Then we can grow from there, but at least it will open up the Town Forest for people to enjoy. It’s crazy that there’s no access to it.”

Mahony thinks the property’s sensitive wetlands are one of its best assets, she said.

“It’s so unique with some of the wetlands,” she said. “It’s really great for people to be able to see it.”