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I am writing to enthusiastically voice my support for the Town of Reading’s acquisition of five forested lots on Grove Street, the gateway to the Town Forest.
I grew up in Reading. When I moved back a few years ago and took a job with the Ipswich River Watershed Association, the Reading Town Forest quickly became my place of solace. For many of us, it has become the closest reminder that nature matters if we want our neighborhoods to thrive.
Ipswich River is a community-based organization. We are supported by 1,500 members living in 29 communities on the North Shore, including Reading. We work with businesses, residents, and municipal and state leaders to identify priority areas in the watershed where both residents and the river would benefit from conservation. The five forested lots on Grove Street are a priority, not just for Reading residents but for the larger region.
As more people learn about the Town Forest’s extensive trail system and beautiful views of the river, public demand for access will increase. With foresight, the Town of Reading could make the entrance at Grove Street an inviting space for both residents and visitors.
Valuing Open Space
I recently participated in the Town’s updating of its Open Space and Recreation Plan. It was wonderful to see all the enthusiasm for preserving trail access and improving trail connectivity throughout town.
If the Town votes to acquire all five lots, Ipswich River Watershed Association would be happy to work with the Town to identify ways to keep the lots conserved, rather than selling some to be developed. While we understand the appeal of generating tax revenue by selling some of the lots, the reality is that over the long term, the greatest value to the Town is in finding ways to protect its limited remaining open space. We recently helped the Town of Lynnfield secure $1.6 million in grant funding from the state’s Municipal Vulnerability Preparedness Program to protect forested open space adjacent to the Town’s drinking water supply. As with Reading, Lynnfield residents were overwhelmingly in support of protecting one of the few remaining forested areas in town. Other state and federal funding sources may be available to improve these lots in a way that preserves the shaded tree cover and protects them as a valuable public resource.
Trusting Local Leaders
I applaud the Select Board for voting this week in favor of acquiring the lots, which are currently protected by the state’s Chapter 61 program. I support the Conservation Commission’s determination that the alternate site for future parking around the pump station would not be a suitable location for a future parking area, given the environmental sensitivity of that access point.
I also second the Conservation Commission Vice-Chair’s observation, in their Memo to the Select Board, about the value of the ridge trail behind the five lots. While few residents know about this path, the ridge trail is the most scenic way to access the Town Forest from a public road. It can be used for trail running, hiking, snow-shoeing, and cross-country skiing. I know this, because I’ve done them all. Developing those lots would impact the aesthetics of that trail.
Avoiding Conflict in the Neighborhood
Finally, in terms of parking, I would caution against thinking that selling off some of the lots on Grove Street would resolve the parking issue. Adding up to four additional single-family homes on such a narrow road might place an additional burden on-street parking, even if a new lot is built. Neighbors already have a hard time finding space to park their own vehicles on the street, particularly during the winter. Each new home would come with their own street frontage, vehicles, and desire for privacy. Perhaps the best use of the lots is simply to let them be, and negotiate a future agreement with Meadowbrook’s owners to meet future parking needs.
Sometimes the smallest corners of the world are our most valuable. A long-term vision can help ensure the Greatness of Grove Street.
Patrick J. Lynch, JD, MPA
RMHS Class of 2001
Director of Policy and Planning
Ipswich River Watershed Association