By Bonnie Adams, Government Editor
Westborough – There are many reasons why a community should have an official Open Space and Recreation Plan (OSRP), a state consultant told the Westborough Open Space Preservation Committee at a public hearing held Feb. 27. Melissa Cryan, a representative from the Mass. Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs, said that not only would the plan serve as documentation and a blueprint for the community's open space and recreation needs, it also can be used to help obtain state grants.
Cryan met with the Open Space committee at the start of the public hearing to review what types of information a plan should contain and what kinds of grants are available. She commended the committee for the work they have put into the plan, which will be presented to the voters for approval at the March 17 Annual Town Meeting (ATM).
Cryan noted that in order for a town to get grants, the open space plan must first be approved by her office. Once that is done, the town would then be eligible to apply for different types of grants including acquisitions of conservation land; land for public park purposes such as ball fields or bicycle paths; land and water conservation; and large parcels of land that are 500 acres or more.
Selectman Tim Dodd, who is also the chair of the Open Space Committee, said that the committee has been working in conjunction with other town groups to create the plan. The last time the plan was updated was 2008, he said. The new plan, once approved, will be valid for seven years.
Dodd said the major goals of the group include: develop and maintaining active open space acquisition, preservation and stewardship; improve access to passive and active recreation opportunities; and increase protection of water resources.
To achieve these goals, the committee has identified seven action items: acquire development rights or ownership of additional land for open space preservation, active and passive recreation; establish ongoing funding for the pro-active purchase of open space; increase the level of protection for open space; develop management plans for town-owned open space; increase recreation opportunities in Westborough; develop strong relationships with other town boards, state entities and non- profit organizations which own land in Westborough; raise public awareness of open space, recreation and natural resource needs; and conduct annual reviews of action items.
The committee has asked that interested citizens comment on the plan by Monday, March 5. To do so they may go to http://www.town.westborough.ma.us/Public_Documents/WestboroughMA_BComm/openspace. Once the public comments period is complete, the committee will review the comments and make final changes to the report before they present it at the ATM.