Open space plan endorsed by Athol Selectboard

  • Athol Open Space and Recreation Committee Chair Brian Hall presented the latest Open Space and Recreation Plan to the Selectboard at its meeting last Tuesday. The board voted unanimously to endorse the plan. Greg Vine

For The Athol Daily News
Published: 10/20/2019 9:50:10 PM
Modified: 10/20/2019 9:50:08 PM

ATHOL – Brian Hall, Chair of the town’s Open Space and Recreation Committee, last week presented the Selectboard with the latest Open Space and Recreation Plan (OSRP) developed by his panel following nearly three years of work. Hall was seeking a letter of support for the plan, as required by the state.

“Basically, we have four goals,” Hall told the board. “A lot of people in our survey said they want to see us maintain better what we already have. So, basically our first goal is to restore and maintain existing facilities.”

“Our second goal,” he continued, “is to promote Athol’s parks and recreation opportunities. Many people don’t know they exist.”

Other goals include expanding parks and open spaces “to improve or protect them and create new recreation opportunities,” and to remain flexible in responding to new recreational needs and potential sources of funding.

“I think some of the things are probably most relevant to the Selectboard,” said Hall, “are in Goal 1, Objective A (of the plan), to basically work to increase DPW’s (Dept. of Public Works) capacity; the DPW Cemetery, Parks, and Tree Division. Years ago, they had seven employees, now they’re down to three or four. So, their capacity has been severely limited.”

Improvements enumerated in the OSRP include the repair of damaged park infrastructure, more consistent removal of trash, and the removal of waste from dogs and geese. In addition to working with the Town Manager and DPW Director, the plan calls for cooperation with the Board of Health in addressing sanitary concerns.

“We also need to improve public safety at the parks,” he said. “So, we’ll be meeting with the Chief of Police at some point to work on that, especially in regard to Silver Lake Park.”

Hall said the board might also be interested in seeking long-term, sustainable funding for parks.

“That could be many different things,” he explained. “It could be grants, working with Eric (Planning and Development Director Eric Smith) on a couple of grants. It could be through the Community Preservation Act, which we’re going to start investigating in January or February, to drive more money. And, either creating a Parks Advisory Council or something analogous to the Friends of the Athol Public Library; a sort of ‘friends’ group for parks. It wouldn’t be a town organization, but it would allow us to do different things, like fundraising.”

The plan specifically singles out Lake Ellis as an area of concern, saying it was “once one of the nicer public beaches in the North Quabbin Region. Improvements called for in the plan include cleanup of the beach, control of invasive plant species in the lake itself, and an upgrade to the “playscape.” It is suggested that playground equipment from the former Pleasant Street School could be moved to Lake Ellis to accomplish the last goal mentioned.

“I really appreciate your committee’s input into such a thoughtful plan,” said board Chair Rebecce Bialecki, “to not only look at what we want but what’s feasible and how do we sustain it.”

The Selectboard vote to endorse the new Open Space and Recreation Plan was unanimous.

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