Committee hopes to create a ‘walkable’ city
Marlborough – As gas prices continue to rise, commuters and vacationers around the country are abandoning their SUVs for traditional transportation methods, like walking and biking, and opting for local entertainment. Members of the Conservation Commission, who have been conducting surveys this summer to determine how much city residents have used local bike and walking paths as well as open spaces, have been encouraged by recent data collected.
Northborough resident Ben Krouse, a recent Algonquin Regional High School graduate, is conducting the surveys. Krouse is working as an intern with Conservation Commissioner Priscilla Ryder. He is studying biology at the University of New England and said he returned to the area this summer to gain some environmental experience.
After spending the day at the Assabet River Rail Trail doing 15-minute head counts, Krouse was pleased with the average.
"That's nearly 50 people per hour during the middle of the week on a hot Tuesday," he said.
"A lot of people use the rail trail and the other paths throughout the day," Ryder said.
The goal of the city, stated in a five-year open space and recreation plan that went into place five years ago, was to start making Marlborough a "walkable" city.
With both short- and longterm projects in the plan coupled with the continued growth of the city's open space, the city and the Conservation Commission are currently re-establishing a new five-year action plan.
"It might take 10 or 15 years to accomplish [the goal]," Ryder said.
Right now, the city owns and maintains seven conservation areas with existing trails that Krouse has been studying.
"The idea is to interconnect these trails between the city's woodlands and sidewalks," Ryder said. "We envisioned that if you walk five or 10 minutes in Marlborough you would get to a trail."
The master plan of connecting the city by wooded and paved walkable areas means that now when roads are reconstructed, the creation of these paths is taken into consideration. Acknowledging that there will be a few areas where this might not work, Ryder was pleased that the city figured in walking
" paths when they recently redesigned Concord Road.
"We made a link between Concord Road and Ghiloni Park, which is the city's largest recreation area," Ryder said.
"You can walk from Ghiloni Park to the Desert Conservation Area, … which is nearly the Hudson town line," Krouse said.
Ryder, who has been working with a 17-member committee, will launch the plans for the next five years in September. She explained that the city has been supportive of the committee's eff orts.
"The city councilors have been conscious of maintaining a balance … They understand if you build, you should save," Ryder said.
As part of the Conservation Commission's eff orts to promote walkable areas, it is hosting a series of summer walks. Krouse, who is leading the walks, explained that the city has several hidden natural sanctuaries. One of his favorite spots that he recommends checking out is the Desert Conservation Area, which is very sandy and supports scrub oaks.
"It is a diff erent type of landscape that you do not typically see in this region of the state," he said. "It is like the Cape."
Armed with fun facts about the wildlife, like fishers, that inhabit the area, both Krouse and Ryder are hopeful that residents will join them on one of the scheduled guided tours.
"Marlborough has a lot to offer … Get outside and explore," Krouse said.
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