New OS&R Plan focuses on Carlisle’s future

by Karina Coombs

“I thought we’d never get here,” said Open Space and Recreation Committee (OS&R) Chair Louise Hara as she presented the draft version of the 2013 plan for public comment on June 26.

Hara explained that the 2013 OS&R Plan had four main goals: to maintain the rural character of the town, protect the environment, support recreational needs and proactively manage land use.

Plan features

In front of committee members Elizabeth Carpenter, Lynn Knight, Mary Zoll, Rick Amodei, David Freedman, Conservation Administrator Sylvia Willard and a number of other residents of the community, Hara explained the 2013 OS&R plan was a “significant update” from the 2005 plan and outlined the changes and goals.

Among the key features of the new plan are the new Graphical Information System (GIS) maps instead of the previously used non-GIS Assessors maps, a conversion task by committee member Kevin C. Smith that Hara described as the biggest part of the project. Along with other pertinent details, the new maps contain important information such as noting common driveways and common driveway easements, which Hara explained would provide “a big change in what is [currently] available to make an easement plan.” Willard congratulated the committee’s work on the maps, particularly noting the effort that both Hara and Freedman put in working on the maps.

The OS&R Plan also provides a detailed inventory of all public and private land in conservation using original property deeds and other sources for verification. A priority-ranked list of private lands without conservation protections is also included, identifying parcels that may be of particular interest to the town. One of the most informative sections is a 36-page appendix that provides an exhaustive list of Carlisle’s flora and fauna collected by wildlife specialists along with local nature enthusiasts.

A focus on Carlisle’s future

While the creation of the document allows the town to receive future state funding, Hara explained it also proved immediately beneficial by giving Carlisle a focus on its future development and identifying areas that need more “concentrated efforts.” Hara suggested it might be a good time to consider creating a Master Plan for the town now that the information has been collected and centralized.

The committee worked with 14 boards and various other interested parties within Carlisle to have each create a five-year action plan. Conservation Commission Chair Kelly Guarino noted that she found it helpful to review the commission’s goals—to see what had been said in the previous update and what was still relevant. “That part of the exercise was valuable,” said Conservation Commission Chair Kelly Guarino. “I also liked the maps.”

From these plans, the OS&R Committee identified a number of initiatives to focus on immediately: creating or expanding recreational facilities, exploring a site for a possible community center, the expansion and connection of trails, preserving rural vistas, working to make locations throughout town more accessible to the disabled as part of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and resolving some land issues.

Hara noted the increased involvement with the Recreation Commission (RecCom) was an important change from the 2005 plan. RecCom Chair Richard Amodei served on the OS&R Committee to explain the initiatives RecCom would like to make over time, including the Banta-Davis Phase II recreation facility expansion plans, which are reproduced in the 2013 OS&R plan.

Questions about children

In attendance and representing the local parenting group, the Carlisle Parents Connection, Vanessa Moroney commented on the lack of facilities for preschool-aged children and younger, and wanted to make sure that the OS&R Committee was aware of its “youngest Carlisle citizens.” Specifically, Moroney asked about the lack of pathways connecting key areas within town and about maintenance issues in Diment Park and the playground equipment at Banta-Davis.

Amodei told Moroney that playground maintenance fell under RecCom and explained that some improvements were coming to Diment once the new budget came into effect on July 1. He also said there were some ADA issues in regards to Diment that needed to be addressed. The Banta-Davis play equipment is a volunteer project and is being installed by the Boy Scouts with Amodei’s help. He noted that RecCom would also oversee it when complete. Amodei volunteered to meet with Moroney after the meeting to discuss her concerns in more detail.

Hara explained that the Pathways Committee disbanded some years ago when the basic work was completed on the paths. Hara also told Moroney there was still some money left over in the budget and they are in discussion with the Board of Selectmen on how to use the money, either to expand the path system or repair what currently exists. Freedman volunteered to put Moroney in touch with town officials to talk about the issue.

Next steps

Hara noted that the committee will be accepting emails and taking feedback as part of the public comment period before collecting everything into a final document and submitting it to the state for review. Once the document is reviewed by the state and any requested changes are made, it will be formally presented to the Selectmen and get letters of approval from town committees before it is published.

“It’s good that the town can [create this document],” said an attendee. “Most towns have paid professionals.” Hara smiled and laughed. “We are professionals,” she replied. Willard noted the 2013 OS&R plan would not be printed for a number of months and then would be available at Town Hall for a fee.

After thanking the committee members for the work they had done, Hara offered a “special thanks to volunteers and town employees,” acknowledging the large amount of data provided and contained within the 237-page document and appendices. (See “OS&R Committee logs long hours to help plan Carlisle’s future,” February 13.) ∆