By Susan Gonsalves, Contributing Writer
SOUTHBOROUGH – Selectmen recently said they feel it would be appropriate to propose changing the Southborough Trails Committee from an ad hoc board to a permanent one at Southborough’s spring Town Meeting.
They are also on board with a proposal to extend the Aqueduct Trail.
However, they did not make a decision on a recent pitch to add two non-voting “associate” members to the Trails Committee, asking to first receive more information.
Committee Chair pitches trail extension
Trails Committee Chair Kathryn McKee spoke about these matters during a Board of Selectmen’s meeting on Sept. 8.
She talked about a plan to construct a 572.1- foot extension from the existing Bay Circuit/Boroughs Loop/Aqueduct Trail to the Weston Aqueduct on Pine Hill Road. The construction would require clearance of the path by removing the existing ground cover, small shrubs, branches, tree limbs and protruding rocks. Tread maintenance would also be needed.
McKee explained that Eagle Scout Nick McEvoy of Southborough Troop 92 would lead scouts and volunteers in the effort. The hope is that the work could be done this fall and be completed by December.
To make that happen, the existing permit must first be amended to include this parcel of land, an MWRA’s easement. The trail’s boundaries must then be defined, she said.
McKee said that she would reach out to neighbors to ensure they are comfortable with the process and that there is no encroaching on the property.
Selectmen discuss promoting Trails Committee from ‘ad-hoc’ status
During this presentation, some selectmen expressed surprise that the Trails Committee remains an ad-hoc committee instead of being a permanent board since it was established in 2013.
Chair Lisa Braccio said that it would be appropriate for the Board of Selectmen to sponsor a Town Meeting article next spring to make the status change.
Pitch to add associate members to Trails Committee prompts discussion
Beyond that discussion, the Sept. 8 Board of Selectmen meeting mostly focused on a pitch by the Trails Committee to add two associate non-voting members.
The addition would not affect the board’s quorum and would be done primarily to take advantage of the talent and interest of individuals in town, McKee said. It would also broaden the experience level of the committee, she continued.
The idea is to include volunteers who may not be able to attend every meeting but who could still help out with activities and maintenance of trails, for example.
McKee said two individuals are ready to serve in this capacity, including a person on the Americans with Disabilities Act Committee who could bring that perspective to the board.
She noted that towns and cities like Westborough and Foxborough have non-voting associate members who serve on committees.
Selectman Andrew Dennington said that he couldn’t see downsides to this arrangement, while Braccio asked if having a “Friends of Trails” active group was a better alternative.
Both Braccio and Selectman Chelsea Malinowski expressed concerns about issues with the open meeting law and setting a precedent.
Selectman Sam Stivers said he couldn’t remember other towns with associates having problems and said that each case could be taken on its own merits if something came up.
McKee added that associate members would make the board more “inclusive.” The designation would give individuals more incentive to continue to attend meetings and participate.
“To belong to a group means something…There’s nothing stronger than the heart of a volunteer,” she said.
Selectmen will re-visit the topic at a later date.
In the meantime, McKee said she would do more research on other communities and their experiences with associate members.