November 07, 2018MEREDITH — Due to some fundraising and bidding snags, the organizers of the proposed nature trail at Hawkins Brook are asking the town to put articles on the 2019 town warrant for either $95,000 or $146,000 to complete the project.
The Village Pathways Committee, a town appointed committee, has been working on plans for what will be known as the Laverack Nature Trail at Hawkins Brook since 2012 including obtaining permits, completing the trail design, and fundraising. On Monday members of the committee went before the board of selectmen during their workshop discussion asking for consideration for the remaining funds to be put on the March warrant.
The trail will start at the parking lot of Meredith Village Savings Bank, then turn into a boardwalk along the wetlands with an observation platform, going back to natural surface past the wetlands. The trail will go over a small bridge and come behind the first base dugout at the Prescott Park field, and go to the end of the tennis courts.
Committee member Liz Lapham said the trail will be five feet wide and accessible to people of all abilities and ages, including those in wheelchairs and those with walkers, canes, strollers, and other forms of mobility.
The committee has worked extensively to raise finds, Lapham said they have raised $323,000 on their own so far. Due to some anticipated funds that have not yet come through and an issue with the bidding process, the project has a shortfall of $146,000.
Lapham asked the board to take one of two actions that will end up on the 2019 town warrant: have an article for the $146,000 to cover the remaining costs of the whole trail or have an article for $95,000 to complete the major part of the trail up to the end of the boardwalk with the remaining section not to be completed until more funds are raised.
"We would like to complete the trail to show you your encouragement and support in this project has not been in vain," Lapham said.
Selectman Jeanie Forrester thanked the committee members for their passion and effort in this project. Forrester asked what would happen if the selectmen say no to both options.
"We'd probably return everybody's money," Lapham said.
Lapham said the committee has already done everything it can to fundraise over the years. She said they received some really generous donations, including from organizations like the Rotary and businesses like MVSB, though there are some donations that were promised and are not materializing. The project is working to get a few small grants.
Mark Billings strongly recommended the town take the option for the $146,000. From his personal perspective as a school board member, he wants to see a safe passage for students between the village and the school complex.
"One of my concerns right from the get go is how bad high school hill is and the sidewalk, it is downright dangerous," Billings said. "In winter, I am absolutely petrified what could happen on that road."
He also loves the educational potential of the trail especially as an outdoor classroom and experiential learning, as well as the connectivity to the village and the Page Pond forest. From his perspective on the Conservation Commission he likes that the trail raises awareness of Hawkins Brook and its environmental sensitivity.
Pathways Committee member Rod Wilson said this trail is a way for everyone of all ages and abilities to take the motto of his son, a personal trainer: "Keep moving." He said he and his wife find every trail they can in the area.
"But if mobility is an issue our choices pretty much go to zero," Wilson said. "We got involved because I felt personally this is for the people that got left behind."
Selectman Mike Pelczar asked if the $146,000 would be enough to complete the project. Lapham said that amount is what the bid has come in for to complete the trail.
On when the trail can be constructed, Town Manager Phil Warren said the committee has funds on hand to start the trail leading up to the decision in March. Any contract for work would stipulate that the completion of the project would be subject to adequate funding. If the trail is started and no other funding is available, a smaller portion of the path would be created.