The following OP-Ed by Keith Ohmart is posted on his behalf.
The first of several public meetings reporting on progress of the Master Planning process for the West Lexington Greenway will be held on January 16, 2008 in the large meeting room of the Cary Memorial Library from 7 to 9 pm. Representatives of Vanasse Hangen Brustlin, Inc., (VHB) the design firm appointed to produce the Master Plan, will present a summary of the work accomplished to date.
The goal of this project, funded by town Community Preservation Act (CPA) funds, is to plan for a network of trails, including universally accessible sections, linking all open space areas on the west side of Route 128. The five mile long study area extends from the City of Cambridge reservoir at the southern end, northward to the Burlington town line, and is largely bounded on the west by the towns of Lincoln and Bedford. The first step in this process has been to document existing conditions and compile an inventory of both natural resources present as well as the impact of human forms on this landscape. VHB has been working with the West Lexington Greenway Task Force, a committee comprised of Town staff and volunteers, to compile this information, which will be presented at the January 16 meeting.
VHB’s representatives have spent the fall compiling data from numerous trips in the field to identify natural features including plant and animal communities as well as physical features including topography and underlying geological features. The impact of human society on the land is also of critical importance to this process. Existing trails, roads, utility corridors, and historical features have been surveyed and mapped. This has resulted in the creation of a sizable database of information, which will be presented in summary fashion using maps and visual images.
Some five miles in length, the West Lexington Greenway represents in the aggregate, the largest semi-contiguous open space in the town of Lexington. Comprised primarily of old-field open space, forest and forest edge and a range of wetland habitats, the Greenway supports a wide variety of flora and fauna communities. The creation of a comprehensive inventory of these features is the critical first step that will then inform the planning process for the proposed trail network.
The purpose of creating this Master Plan is to create a detailed picture of the entire area in order to conduct an informed planning process for trail alignment. Areas of critical environmental importance need to be identified for protection. Opportunities to provide access to areas of environmental interest and beauty need to be considered. Accessible trail connections need to be planned. The desirability of encouraging non-motorized travel for both recreational and commuting activities needs to be considered. These and many other themes will eventually enter into future stages of the planning process.
The January 16 presentation and those to follow in future months are an integral part of the Master Planning process. The purpose of these meetings is to report periodically to the community on the work accomplished and to collect comments and feedback from the public at regular intervals. The West Lexington Greenway is a significant if perhaps under appreciated open space resource, a large portion of which has been set aside for preservation as open space by prior actions on the part of the Town.
January 16 is your opportunity as Lexington citizens to learn more about this resource and to participate in the planning process for its future.