Better access to Mill Pond Recreation Area, a West Newbury Planning Board objective | Local News

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WEST NEWBURY — The planning board hopes to meet next month with the landscape architect who is working out options for expanding accessibility to the Mill Pond recreation area in the future.

Since March, consultant Trent Lloyd has been working with various stakeholders to gather information on what type of project they might favor when it comes to a more accessible trail near the pond. Trent reviewed the existing site conditions – including the delineation of wetlands – and explored possible ways for vehicles to descend past the pond and around the Mill Pond building, to an expanded parking lot and exit. She developed two design options that could eventually be turned into one, city planner Leah Zambernardi told planners on Tuesday.

Lloyd wants a pre-bid conference with the board and a public hearing before finalizing his concept. His charge also includes a 50% construction plan and construction cost estimates.

Board member Ray Cook said looking at options now makes sense.

“It’s easier to make adjustments now (rather) than when the plan gets tougher,” he said.

“I’d be very interested to hear the outcome of any meetings she’s had,” said Deb Hamilton, the city’s newest planning board member. Hamilton was elected to council in the May 2 municipal election.

When discussing the project last month, planners seemed mixed in their support for the idea.

“I can only imagine the cost of this – and we already have many expensive projects in the city,” commented board member Brian Murphey at the time.

According to City Manager Angus Jennings, Brad Buschur, acting on behalf of the Open Spaces Committee, has initiated a request for $30,000 in matching funds from the Community Preservation Act account for a pending Mass Trails grant. The CPA app describes the trail as “meeting or exceeding ADA compliance” by creating a universally accessible trail for wildlife viewing and fishing, a picnic area, a dog wading area, and the Mill Building Pond.

But during a viewing session in March, Lloyd clarified that providing access does not mean the pathway will be Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) compliant. Instead, she envisions a 6- to 8-foot-wide crushed granite trail with manageable grades for people pushing strollers, in wheelchairs, as well as the elderly and those with limited mobility.

Once funding was approved, the project moved to Jennings’ office. Under the Mill Pond Management Plan, entities with status in relation to Mill Pond include the Mill Pond Committee, the Conservation Commission, the Parks and Recreation Commission and the Select Board. The Open Spaces Committee and the West Newbury Riding and Driving Club are also actively engaged in the area, Jennings noted.

“Mill Pond Committee approval is required for use of the area by outside organizations, other than for sports fields, for which Parks and Rec oversees programming,” Jennings said, “Ultimately , the land is in the care and custody of the Select Board, and subject to a conservation restriction held by the Essex County Greenbelt, so their approval would be required for any work there, whatever whether.

Buschur praised the Mill Pond Committee, which he said has worked with the Open Space Committee since the project began. The proposed trail would provide accessible recreational opportunities close to the water’s edge.

“I believe most residents would be proud to invest in Mill Pond. The space is a gem,” Buschur said.

He wants visitors to leave with the impression that the city appreciates this unique natural resource and invests in its upkeep. The space should be clean, well-drained and regularly maintained, he said. A trail that can lead to Butterfly Field or the hay meadow would be nice. Allowing more fishing on the pond—perhaps even putting up a fish ladder to help with migration—was cited as a long-term goal. Buschur argues that some locals mistakenly believe the pond is polluted. He would like to see a day when people feel comfortable paddling on the water.

Health worker Paul Sevigny observed that the pond is prone to algae blooms and potential levels of bacteria, especially in the warmer months. If the pond was open for swimming, a testing program would have to be started, he said.

When voters approved the expenditure of PCA funds last year, the purpose stated in the terms of reference was “costs and expenses associated with the design of a full access trail and associated features at Mill Pond “. The finance committee noted in its credits book that the funding was for the design of an “ADA-compliant trail in the Mill Pond Recreation Area.”

Jennings pointed out that the trail project has always been viewed as a long-term initiative. “At this point, it’s just a resource area delineation and viewing process facilitated by a landscape architect,” he said.

In other matters, a special permit application for a lot with reduced frontage at 0 Middle Street by Gorman Homes, LLC. was withdrawn without prejudice and its public hearing was closed. The applicant can resubmit in the future if they wish.

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