Creative Thinking Informs Bike-Path Clearing

The June 2 meeting of the Marion Open Space Acquisition Commission was broadcast in a hybrid format and uploaded to the ORCTV’s Vimeo page. On the agenda was the ongoing construction of a bike path between Creek Road and Jenna Drive on Point Road.

            The path passes through the Marion town layout, as well as private property and conservation land. The path requires a number of trees to be cleared, which in turn requires police supervision along populated streets in order to ensure no falling debris results in injuries or property damage. Or as MOSAC Chairperson John Rockwell more concisely put it, to avoid anyone “getting whacked.”

            It was brought up that falling limbs or other mishaps could result in outages along streets that have power lines, so any crews working in those areas should take extra care. The commissioners discussed various options for tree-removal companies, as well as the delays and increases in cost that have come about as a result of the pandemic. Gas prices in particular were cited as problematic, especially regarding the transportation and disposal of the felled trees.

            Rockwell suggested looking into selling the lumber to offset the cost of removal and suggested a mill might have use for the trees. Again, the cost of transportation was brought up as a factor, as well as how large the trees were, as some equipment was deemed unable to handle logs of a certain girth.

            In addition to police details and cutting costs, the commissioners discussed patterns and nesting behaviors of local birds in order to ensure clearing the trees won’t disrupt their activities.

            A question was raised by MOSAC member Debbie Ewing on behalf of Karen Gregory of the Marion Council on Aging, seeking information on work programs. Rockwell told the group that the Senior Work Group has previously assisted in the maintenance of trails and other natural areas by facilitating the removal of fallen branches, debris or litter. He had high praise for the program, stating it is a great way to get exercise while helping the community. The program requires support from both the Council on Aging and MOSAC. A member of MOSAC is present during outings.

            Discussion then moved on to grant updates. Rockwell informed the commission that they were successfully funded at the May 9 Town Meeting through the forestry grant for their survey work. As the grant money initially had a spend-by date of June 15 and the commission wouldn’t have authorization until at least July, the request was resubmitted, and Rockwell was assured that MOSAC is in the front of the line.

            Next on the agenda was the Open Space plan, specifically the criteria used to determine and declare “open space.” The current criteria was set by a local survey taken in 1994, as applying for certain grants required set parameters. The commission suggested it is time for an updated set of criteria, and seeing as it’s been nearly three decades since the last survey to create such things, a new survey was suggested.

            The sticking point discussed was distribution, as nowadays paper surveys are not likely to generate much of a response, and digital surveys still require a method of distribution in order to get the word out to citizens. Still, a survey was landed upon as the best way forward. That way, the matter of why a particular area is declared open space is left up to the people it impacts the most.

            “It’s not our board saying this is important, it’s the citizens of the town of Marion saying this is important,” Rockwell voiced, supporting the survey wholeheartedly.

            The next meeting of the Marion Open Space Acquisition Commission was not set at adjournment.

Marion Open Space Acquisition Commission

By Jack MC Staier

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