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12 Takeaways from the Tewksbury Open Space & Recreation Plan Committee Meeting

TPD is paying extra attention to open spaces in wake of vandalism

The Tewksbury Open Space & Recreation Plan Committee met last night with members Bruce Shick, Paige Impink, Karyn Sliva, Susan Young, Ray Bowden, Joann Brace and Tom Branchaud. Kate Bugda Gwilt from the Tewksbury Families for Recreation and former member Chris Mullins were guests. 

While the recent Public Safety event was lightly attended, the committee felt it was great to connect with families. The group discussed plans to attend the New Resident Reception at the Senior Center on Oct. 23. They hope to connect with residents there.

The guided trail walk series, held in conjunction with the Library, has wrapped up. There was a good response from the community, and Branchaud considers it a worthwhile program. There were four walks planned over the summer, but one was canceled due to weather. About 30 residents were in attendance at the most recent hike last weekend at the Chandler Well Fields, and the committee plans to repeat the program next year, maybe more informally. 

The Winter Tree Walk email has gone out, and it will be modeled after last year. Impink asked the committee whether they would be interested in opening the program up to businesses and reaching out to the schools. For now, Impink will reach out to the PACs and clubs at the high school and go from there. Brace will connect with Shawsheen Tech’s GSA club. Community members interested in decorating a tree can learn more here.

Impink reported that Fall Town Cleanup resulted in a number of tires being dropped off as well as Helpsy and Community Pantry donations. The TMHS International Club picked up nine truckloads of trash from the Pines Cemetery, with help from the Tewksbury State Hospital staff. 

The monthly mini cleanups have been successful. There will be a cleanup event in November at 2347 Main St., the town-owned lot near Walgreens that was recently submitted by Town Manager Richard Montuori as open space. The exact date is to be determined.

There will be a proposal presented to install small kiosks and post markers at the Foster, Poplar, Bligh St., and Easement and Chandler Well Field locations. The idea is to help residents find the entrances to these open spaces and navigate the trails. 

Branchaud spoke with TMHS Principal Andy Long and other high school staff about marking the entrance to the trail that brings walkers to the back of the ballfield. One aim is to keep the groundskeepers from dumping grass clippings in conservation land.

Boardwalk repair efforts are underway. Shick met with Conservation Agent Joe Fontaine about making improvements to the boardwalk off of Euclid. It’s a fairly long boardwalk that can be treacherous in the winter. 

Shick is also looking into having the Shawsheen River Watershed Association come in and see about removing some trees that have fallen.  

The committee discussed the recent vandalism at the Rogers Park recreation area. A tree, rocks and the interpretive sign and trail map were spray painted. Impink reached out to Chief Ryan Columbus and Montuori, so TPD is aware of the issue. The police went in and investigated. The graffiti has been cleaned up by the town, and the sign was removed. Montuori will work with Wicked Cornhole, which donated the printing, to replace the sign. There has been an uptick in vandalism, according to Impink. TPD will be paying closer attention to the trails. 

“For me it’s about protection of the space and safety of the people,” said Branchaud. 

Chris Mullins, a former chair of the committee, gave an update on MassDOT’s shared use bike paths. These are generally seven to 12 foot paths. Mullins discussed a seven mile stretch along Rt. 110 in Dracut. There was a feasibility study done for Tewksbury for the MassDOT Bicycle Facility Inventory, said Mullins.

“DoT had reached out to Tewksbury several times,” said Mullins. “There are grants and programs coming out.” 

It’s feasible that residents could travel all the way to Somerville on the trail. Mullins said Chelmsford has had success by building up businesses around the rail trail to take advantage of people being out and about. He also suggested working with neighboring communities because MassDOT looks for interconnections among municipalities. 

“This is a remarkable opportunity,” said Mullins. “Having this as a backbone, getting people out, that would be huge.” 

Bugda Gwilt said this would be a project that the Families for Recreation group could get behind, to provide safe areas for families to bike and walk together.

The committee gave a thank you to residents Katia DeStefano and Patrick Taylor of 18 Kent St. who allowed construction materials and personnel to come through their yard to do boardwalk work on the Chandler Well Field trail, saving workers significant time and effort. The committee will ask the town to send a formal letter of appreciation. 

“Without that access it would have been real money to haul materials in and out,” said Branchaud. “Not to mention time.” 

A bid process will start for boardwalks on the Chandler Well Fields. The committee continues to reach out to the consortium that owns the Pine Hill Cemetery, where people who have donated their bodies to science are buried. Shick also reported that the new CEO of the State Hospital is on board with expanding access to trails.

Lorna is a U.S. Army veteran and 25-year resident of Tewksbury who has written for organizations ranging from the DIA to InformationWeek to a free weekly in New London that sent her to interview the pastry chef at Foxwoods.

One Comment

  1. Kyle Parker Kyle Parker October 21, 2023

    Where can we find more information on the shared use path? Is this the same study that was done 8 or so years ago?

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