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Comments Come in on Conservation Regs…March 16, 2016

By Ann Needle
The Stow Conservation Commission heard comments March 8 on its proposed revisions to its land regulations, and began wrapping up a situation surrounding the tenant of a particular parcel of leased farming land.

In the Commission’s public hearing regarding the proposed regulations, Conservation Coordinator Kathy Sferra explained that the new rules would be designed to simplify the current 16 pages of regulations; make them consistent across the town’s conservation land; and address issues that have come up lately, such as off-hours parking.

Highlights of the proposed changes include keeping dogs on leashes in conservation land parking lots and restrained when encountering people on the trails (dogs are already allowed off-leash in all properties except Flagg Hill and Heath Hen Meadow); requiring cyclists to stay on marked trails; and requiring permits for horseback riders.

Commission Vice Chair Serena Furman suggested the changes also specify that off-leash dogs must remain within the sight and the control of their handlers.

Stow resident Dorothy Flood, who said she has been using the conservation trails for horseback riding for about 13 years, questioned why the Commission was not calling for mountain bikers to also carry permits.

“If this [new regulation] is truly for trail preservation, why just the horses? Collectively, mountain bikers cause damage.” Flood reported she has seen a number of unplanned paths in the woods that appeared to have been carved out by mountain bikers.

Commission members replied that there were too many cyclists on conservation land to keep track of, while the permitting process would allow the Commission to contact horseback riders when the trails are closed due to weather conditions. Flood maintained that, if there are too many cyclists to make permitting them possible, then horses are being singled out.

Commission Associate Bruce Trefry noted that mountain bikers technically are not allowed, given conservation land can be used only for “passive” recreation. He added that part of the new regulations will require cyclists to stay on marked trails. Serena Furman commented that, for consistency, the new regulations also should specify that horses must be kept to marked trails as well.

The hearing was left open until the Commission’s next meeting, slated for March 22. Any comments on the proposed regulations can be sent to conservation@stow-ma.gov until March 15. The latest draft of the proposal is online at the Conservation Commission’s page, which is linked to http://www.stow-ma.gov/pages/StowMA_Conservation/index.

Tenant to Leave Captain Sargent Land
After some difficulties over the last year in dealing with a farmer on Captain Sargent land, the Commission received confirmation that the tenant will vacate the space this spring.

Lenny Rodriquez, who has been leasing space off of Tuttle Lane from the Commission for several years, confirmed he would be off of the land as of May 10. The Commission voted in January to terminate Rodriquez’s agricultural license after weathering a string of issues surrounding the property, including ongoing reports that Rodriquez was not taking proper care of the animals he had on the property, and a lack of compliance by Rodriquez after repeated requests to address the situation, according to the Commission. There was also an incident involving Rodriquez in early January at Town Building that required calling in the Stow Police.

“I felt my sweat and blood was in there,” Rodriquez said of the land he had farmed. Referring to his stormy encounters with the town, he added, “I’m a person who gets mad; three days later, it’s done.” Rodriquez also remarked that he was not present when the Commission voted to pull his license, though the Commission reiterated that it tried to communicate in writing with Rodriquez at every step of the process leading up to ending his lease.

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