2006-01-19 / News

Conservation panel reviews projects, trail maintenance

By Michaela Kennedy

At its Jan. 10 meeting, the Conservation Commission discussed the status of the Conanicut Island Trails Guide, maintenance of town trails and properties, and approaches to the Hull Cove walkway as a waterfront project.

Commission Chairman Chris Powell said that the trails guide was in the final stages of production and would include a color map. Powell noted that the maps of the trails were generated from points calculated from a global positioning system and plotted with global information system software. He also noted that the maps of trails on state properties, Ft. Wetherill and Beavertail state parks were sent to the state Department of Environmental Management “to make sure the markings are correct.”

Powell said that a materialsonly grant could be applied for through the DEM to fund the printing of the guide. He told board members that the cost of the project, not including the final printing, was kept under $5,000 and funded by a state grant.

In a discussion of properties managed by the commission, the panel reviewed a checklist for trails maintenance and assigned volunteers to do the work needed. Powell noted that two damaged signs on the Kit Wright Trail at the town-owned Ft. Getty campground needed to be repainted or replaced. He also noted that some signs at the Conanicut Island Sanctuary were found pulled out of the ground and part of a stone wall had been knocked over.

Commissioner Jennifer Talancy, who agreed to do the repairs at the sanctuary trail, said she would check into material that could be put over marsh areas to prevent phragmites from growing up through the observation platforms.

Powell thanked Commissioner Patrick Bolger for completing the protective fencing around the dunes at Mackerel Cove, in time for the Penguin Plunge. In previous years, the commission had noticed damage done by people walking over the unprotected dunes.

The commission agreed to set a date in early spring for an island cleanup day. Some board members voiced concern about the tick problem and how to provide protection for cleanup day volunteers. Talancy noted that ticks became active when the outside temperature hits 40 degrees.

The commission also talked about new procedures required by the Town Council for items discussed in meetings. Powell told the commission that if a development plan review was put on the agenda, “the council wants to take it one step further and send a notice to the applicant.”

According to Powell, Town Solicitor William Harsh advised the board to “use your own discretion” in how and when to proceed in notifying an applicant. Powell offered to prescreen plans that are sent to the commission for review, since a number of them would not require comment from the commission. Bolger suggested that if the commission filed an objection to a plan, the applicant could at that point be notified. “It would save the applicant from a lot of running around,” he added. The commission agreed that prescreening was a good idea, and only plans that appeared to have problems would be put on the agenda. “The ones we get from the town where there’s a problem, then applicants can be contacted,” Powell said.

In a discussion about eelgrass preservation, Commissioner Tom Johnson suggested looking into mooring systems using chains and how long they would last.

Powell agreed, adding that the council should look seriously at installing embedded systems in eelgrass areas. “Most people would prefer an embedded system because they are stronger,” he said, noting that the commission “certainly would recommend them.”

In other maintenance business, the commission discussed Hull Cove walkway, which is located off Beavertail Road and is 300 feet from beginning to end. “It could be a good Eagle Scout project,” Powell said, suggesting points where the scouts could build platforms.

Bolger said that since the Harbor Management Commission took the responsibility to survey the rights-of-way, “I think it’s certainly within the infrastructure” to fund a walkway construction project at Hull Cove. “It primarily falls under waterfront projects,” the former chairman of the harbor commission said. Bolger offered to get an estimate to find out how much money would be needed for the project.

The commission expressed its deepest thanks to Bolger for his service to the board, and good luck to him in the future. Bolger is stepping down after three years as a commissioner.

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