By John Anderson
At Monday night’s Selectman’s Meeting, the board voted 4-1 to bond the nearly 50 acres purchased along Southold Rd. for municipal use only. This vote puts to rest any fears of selling part of the property for private development during the ten-year term of the bond and also follows the recommendations of the Open Space Committee (OSC). (Note: The author has served on the OSC since it was formed by the town manager. He is also an elected town meeting member.)
Municipal uses considered by the OSC include walking/hiking trails, biking trails, recreation/athletic fields, expansion of Pakachoag Golf Course, a dog park, a community farm, a cemetery, a town common, undeveloped open space, a hockey rink, a town pool, and a disc golf course. Non-municipal uses included senior housing, horse stables and a solar farm.
The OSC was dormant for about a year after completing the Open Space Plan for Auburn and submitting it to the state in 2014. Since being asked by the Board of Selectmen to give an opinion of the Southold Rd. property, they have met 6 times over the summer including another joint meeting and public hearing on Monday.
The recommendation from the OSC was also for passive recreation use which would limit development of the land, but the ultimate decision rests with the selectmen and town administration. Uses can also be modified as needs and conditions change.
Several factors drove the recommendation, but the largest was access to the property for any use. The terrain from Southold Rd. down to the meadow is very steep, and there is no designated parking. Any active recreation use like athletic fields would require much better access and parking. There is a narrow connection between the Meadows and the Pappas Recreation Complex, but it is distant from any parking at the complex.
The Committee had also put forth the message that the meadow must be maintained and mowed. This was once forestland until the Post family cut it back for agricultural use, and untended land regrows rapidly. The DPW has made their first cut of the property over the last few weeks, and they had to contend with an equipment breakdown and delays due undefined borders.
Municipal use is by no means a restriction to town residents. As with most other municipally owned property, residents will have access as long as they follow the rules and “play nice.” A grant is also being used to plan walking trails on the site that will be constructed by the DPW and possibly volunteers.
The Open Space Committee is still in need of members. If you have an interest, please submit an application through the auburnguide.com.