Chairman John Rockwell reported Tuesday night that the Marion Pathway Committee has submitted its “100% plan” to the state on the Marion Shared Use Path that is intended to connect pieces of the South Coast Bikeway emanating from the Mattapoisett line and continuing to Point Road.
Rockwell said detail work will be required during a vetting process that the state is required to respond with over a 60-day period. Those details include checking on easements for changes from two years ago and the refreshing of title searches.
The last plan, he said, showed that some easements had been eliminated by the sloping of sidewalk areas and will need haybales and adequate room for them to be installed. The committee may need an easement just to install erosion-control devices.
“But we can’t do anything in regard to acquiring easements until we have an approval layout plan,” said Rockwell. “If the appraisal is done too soon, it gets stale and needs to be done again.” A four or five-year easement costs more, said Rockwell. “All those things have to be balanced out.” Rockwell recommended waiting on the state’s response which he anticipates in January.
The last schedule sent to the state was dated January 20, 2023, and the state will require submission of a new schedule.
Former Pathway Committee Chairman Jeff Oakes attended the Zoom meeting and thanked the committee and other stakeholders for their work in getting through what he called Phase 1. Oakes said he will work on the Wareham end (Phase 2) to come up with a plan and seeks help from the committee or as individuals in completing the Marion portion of the South Coast Bikeway project end to end.
Marion Town Administrator Geoff Gorman asked about the ramifications of the required Mandatory Environmental Impact statement. Rockwell said the state has hired a firm to conduct the MEPA process, which he described as a coordinated effort of state agencies to ensure projects needing permitting or funding that applicable state agencies are on the same page.
“There’s triggers for that: wetlands impacts, traffic, water withdrawals, endangered species impacts,” said Rockwell. “Surpass any of the thresholds, you have to file an environmental notification form. … In this case, there’s nothing to worry about. The project is actually an enhancement for the quality of life.”
Gorman asked where people can view the full plans. Rockwell said the file is too heavy to email but will send him a link.
Shaun Walsh asked if the document is too technical to upload for public consumption. Gorman suggested the document can and soon will be uploaded to the Pathway Committee’s webpage at marionma.gov.
Walsh’s candidacy for a seat on the Pathway Committee was not recommended to the Select Board in June by Rockwell, who reiterated his proposal to fill the committee’s vacancies with a former member and Dan Eling, who was also in attendance.
It wasn’t clear if any official action took place in regards to the Pathway Committee’s vacancies, but the committee voted to recommend the reappointment of Lorraine Heffernan for one year to the Stewards of Community Open Space. The Select Board will hear and vote on that recommendation.
It was noted that the Friends of the Marion Bike Path group will need to form and act to support its day-to-day operations, once it is constructed. Committee member John Menzel said that Pathway Committee member Sandria Parsons is looking to start up the friends group.
Walsh then threw Rockwell’s way what he called “the five-and-a-half-million-dollar question,” asking for an idea on a timeline to begin construction. “Everybody wants to know,” said Walsh, citing that the 100% plan has been submitted and the state has 60 days to respond. Noting that Oakes’ original plan was to start construction a year ago, Walsh asked, “Do you anticipate a shovel in the ground a year from now?”
Rockwell remained noncommittal.
“I’ve learned one thing is don’t make any predictions with timing,” said Rockwell, noting that a previous timeline, which is more than a year old, predicted a 100% submittal in March. “We’re lined up for (FY)2025 money, which starts June of next year. That assignment was made by the state. They have some internal idea themselves how long things take. … When the state gets a new schedule, I’ll distribute it. Until then, I have no clue.”
Even after state approval, said Rockwell, the committee still has to tackle permitting matters and right-of-way acquisition. He noted that a Notice of Intent with the Conservation Commission will address less than 500 square feet of wetland alteration with a plan to replicate it.
“That’s the only permit,” he said, noting that there is also the MEPA process with uncertain timing.
The 40-minute Zoom meeting cut off as Rockwell was trying to wrap up his timeline discussion. He said the Pathway Committee will set another public meeting in two weeks, presumably to complete the unfinished business of the November 14 agenda.
Marion Pathway Committee
By Mick Colageo