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Haggetts Pond rail trail revised after feedback goes before commission

Eagle-Tribune - 11/29/2023

Nov. 29—ANDOVER — Town officials have modified plans to pave part of Haggetts Pond Rail Trail after residents raised a ruckus about the project aimed to providing greater accessibility.

Plans for the paved path have been met by opposition from the community and from neighbors of the trail. During a recent Conservation Commission meeting, town officials unveiled a number of changes made based on feedback to both commissioners and community members.

Andover has no town-owned Americans with Disabilities Act accessible trails.

Residents concerns range from environmental, since the trail would be adjacent to Haggetts Pond which serves as a water supply for the town, to parking.

The town reduced the paved width of the trail from 10 to 8 feet and made changes to the parking plan to reduce any impact on neighbors. The project will also now feature a wider gravel shoulder as part of the compromise, said Director of Facilities Janet Nicosia.

Much of the feedback has been regarding the proposed use of asphalt on the path, she said. According to Nicosia, asphalt is being used because it creates a smooth surface and is more resistant to weather than stone dust, which can quickly become non compliant with the ADA.

She added asphalt also creates less vibrations for sensitive individuals in wheelchairs.

Despite the concessions, town officials are still hearing complaints about potential leaching, disruption of nature and concern about water quality. Attendees such as Allan Harris, who has used the trail for more than 30 years, said he is in favor of stone dust, which he sees as more environmentally friendly and causes less impact.

"If we have an ability to minimize wetland impact, minimize impact on the water table, impact on wildlife that is actually there right now and the habitat in general and still meet the ADA compliance via stone dust and gravel," Mouli Romani, another attendee, said. "That is my personal preference."

A number of residents said that if the town is seeking to improve access to nature, its efforts should not be cause damage to the environment.

While the commission mostly listened during the meeting, Chair Donald Cooper said the material used on the trail could "conceivably be a wetland issue" and that the panel will consider the material and report back with an opinion.

He also acknowledged the numerous emails the town has received regarding the project.

The project will require permits from the EPA, Conservation Commission and the National Heritage Endangered Species Program.

The goal of improving accessibly to the trail would also comes with a legal benefit. The Americans with Disabilities Act requires at least some access for people with disabilities to public amenities. The town doesn't comply with this part of the ADA. The project is supported by the Andover Commission on Disability.

"We as a public entity have a much greater responsibility than private organizations," Nicosia said.

The project is also being largely funded by a grant secured from the state and the use of COVID-19 relief funds.

Other aspected to the proposed trail include:

* Parking which now be split between Haggett's Pond Road and High Plain Road;

* A tree replacement plan;

* A pushbutton crosswalk for street crossings.

The project would also include a 6-feet-wide boardwalk with platforms for viewing the pond, systems to improve the water quality in the parking area and a large amount of signs to better control parking.

The commission's hearing on the project will continue at 5 Campanelli Drive, Andover, on Jan. 4., at 7 p.m.

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(c)2023 The Eagle-Tribune (North Andover, Mass.)

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