EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

April 27, 2013

North Andover Conservation officials, activists work on new Open Space Plan

By Paul Tennant

---- — NORTH ANDOVER — The list of properties in town that have been preserved from development is almost endless.

There is the McEvoy field off Sutton Street, a popular location for soccer and softball. Drummond Field, near the old center, is a very popular venue. Many hikers enjoy the trails of Half Mile and Weir Hills.

And then there are Harold Parker and Boxford state forests, which offer numerous opportunities for active and passive recreation. These are just a fraction of North Andover’s open space parcels.

Conservation Administrator Jennifer Hughes and other officials and activists said at a Wednesday night forum that the town needs to maintain its thousands of acres of open space. That’s why they have started the work of renewing the town’s Open Space and Recreation Plan, which received its last update in 2006.

Hughes noted that to be eligible for money from the state Executive Office of Environmental Affairs, the town must update its Open Space Plan every seven years.

For starters, this involves producing an inventory of all of the town’s conservation and recreation land — no easy task for a town that takes an aggressive approach to open space acquisition.

“We also want to talk about where we want to see improvements,” Town Planner Judy Tymon said.

Terry Holland, a Community Preservation Committee member, said he would like to see more efficient use of the extensive fields at North Andover Middle School. Holland and others also said the Reynolds Playground needs better equipment.

Holland said maintenance of the town’s athletic fields is generally getting better. He also noted parking at the McEvoy field is very limited.

Glen Aspeslagh, an mountain biker, said many local trails need to be marked better. He also said stream crossings should be more adequate.

Conservation Commission member John Mabon noted that Eagle Scouts have built four or five bridges for the town’s collection of trails.

Public Works Director Bruce Thibodeau may have opened the door to a multitude of community service efforts. If anyone wants to clean up a local trail, he said, he would be willing to provide a DPW truck to pick up the debris.

Sue Brown, whose firm, Brown Walker Planners of Newburyport, has been hired to assist the town in updating its Open Space and Recreation Plan, urged those who attended Wednesday night’s forum to write a “prioritized list of projects.”