Former conservation chair questions dedication of nature trail
It’s nothing personal, the former head of the Conservation Commission said, but Chris Powell wants to know why the Town Council is dedicating a trail along the western edge of Fort Getty to Valmont “Bucky” Caswell, a member of the Jamestown Fire Department.
Powell, who was chairman of the Conservation Commission for 27 years, said at Tuesday’s council meeting that up to now, only one trail in Jamestown has ever been named after an individual – and that person was Catherine “Kit” Wright. Since then, the Conservation Commission has maintained the Kit Wright Nature Trail on the east side of Fort Getty in honor of the woman who donated the Fox Run Marsh to the Audubon Society. In that case, the connection between the individual and conservation was clear, he said. This time, Powell doesn’t see any connection between Caswell and the trail that will forever bear his name.
“Bucky’s a great guy,” Powell said. “But is this really a good tribute to him?”
Powell went on to say he’s not specifically objecting to the council’s action, but he doesn’t know how Caswell is connected to a walking trail. He saw the item on the agenda and decided to speak up.
“I’ll defer to the council, but it didn’t seem appropriate,” he said.
Powell sent the councilors an email asking them why they chose this way to honor Caswell, whose main contribution to the town involved wiring fire-alarm boxes.
Caswell’s primary job was as a linesman with the telephone company, according to the Town Council’s resolution. He wired about 90 boxes.
Councilor Bill Murphy read the resolution to dedicate the trail at Tuesday’s council meeting. Powell said the western trail at Fort Getty exists, although he was unsure if it’s being mowed properly. It runs along the water and the Fort Getty perimeter.
Powell said the trail was created as part of the second Fort Getty Master Plan, but the town – and not the Conservation Commission – has maintained it.
The councilors voted 4-1 to go ahead with the dedication, despite Powell’s question. Ellen Winsor, however, voted against the resolution.
Winsor said later that Powell had not asked her to object to naming the trail after Caswell. But he had indicated there were many people in Jamestown who had a stronger connection to conservation, or even to the recreation department.
“I think it’s wonderful to acknowledge Mr. Caswell for his commitment to the Fire Department,” Winsor said, but she referenced Powell’s email and noted so many other residents had contributed more to the town’s recreation and conservation resources.
Town Council President Mike Schnack said the council had already approved the naming of the trail, and the vote had been unanimous. He said that residents already had plenty of time to debate the trail name or nominate a different person.
“Everyone had ample opportunity,” said Schnack. “It’s inappropriate to try to stop this process.”
Winsor said the timing was not ideal. “It’s a little inopportune,” she said.
The resolution said Caswell was being honored for all he meant to the town.
Murphy, who has served on the Fire Department, said Caswell volunteered for duty in 1942 when he was 14 years old. He is now the department’s veteran.
“At age 84, he is still a fixture at the Fire Department,” Murphy said.
In other Fort Getty business, the Town Council has sent the new parking plan and site plan for the Fort Getty pavilion to the Planning Commission for a review. Schnack said he wanted to defer the council’s discussion and instead recommended asking the planning commissioners go over the details “before we get into the minutia.”
Winsor cautioned the planning board “may not be the only oversight necessary.”
Schnack said the planning commissioners could ask for additional input from other town boards if they deemed it necessary.
Meanwhile, Councilor Bob Bowen suggested a change to the location of composting toilets, which appeared to be sited “too low in the parking lot” and might cause a problem with the Coastal Resources Management Council. He suggested moving the toilets to a place higher in the parking lot.
Town Planner Lisa Bryer and Town Engineer Mike Gray developed the Fort Getty pavilion plans.
The cost of the project also included a sign, Gray said, and Bryer showed the councilors two prototypes. The councilors said they liked them both. For the pavilion itself, they preferred a sign that simply gave the name of the pavilion. But they also liked the sign with the Fort Getty name for the park entrance.
Gray said the money for two signs was not included, but the councilors said they would find the money for the second sign.
The measure passed 4-1, with Winsor voting against it.