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Robert Hatton addresses the Select Board on Monday on the need for a committee to oversee the town's public trails.

Williamstown Select Board Asked to Appoint Trails Committee

By Stephen DravisiBerkshires Staff
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WILLIAMSTOWN, Mass. — A member of the town's Conservation Commission on Monday asked the Select Board to create a committee to monitor and tend to hiking trails on town-owned property.
Robert Hatton, who long has volunteered his time to trail maintenance and, in recent years, has recruited and trained other volunteers, told the board that the task needs a dedicated committee.
"A trails committee and volunteers would work year-round," Hatton said. "I think the trails should be maintained year-round in Williamstown. There's more and more activity in the winter and fall and early spring than can be handled in six weeks in the summer."
The "six weeks" was a reference to the efforts of Dan Gura of the Williams Outing Club, who has been working to maintain the trails since mid-June.
Hatton said that Gura has done a great job, but there is only so much that can be done with the resources on hand now.
"He's doing a terrific job," Hatton said. "I've been out with him and seen his work. In the background material [provided to the board], you'll see a list of the status of all the trails on town-owned land. … I have a little star on what needed doing.
"And he's already done three-quarters of it, and he started two or three weeks ago. But it's just a year-round maintenance problem."
In response to a query from the board, Hatton said he has attempted to get the Con Comm to create a trail committee but has been unsuccessful.
Hatton also has hosted information sessions for prospective volunteers before commission meetings the last couple of years with modest success.
"I try twice a year to advertise for volunteers, but it's pretty slim pickings," he said. "I'm getting too old to do it all. Every time we have a good-sized storm, the trails get eroded or trees go down. In the springtime, there's heavy growth that needs clipping.
"A lot of people like to go on the trails a long time before Dan [Gura] gets there. Before Memorial day, they like to go out because there's no bugs before then."
Town Manager Jason Hoch reminded the board that there are two kinds of trails in questions — ones under the care and custody of the Conservation Commission and ones on town-owned land not under the commission's control. The latter is the part of the town manager's portfolio, Hoch said.
"There's this interesting collaborative strategy needed," Hoch said.
Board members encouraged Hoch to find a solution that addresses Hatton's concerns.
"If the guy who's been maintaining your trails says he needs help maintaining them, we should get involved," board member Hugh Daley said. "Once a trail is gone, it's gone forever."
Select Board Chairwoman Anne O'Connor agreed.
"Pine Cobble, Stony Ledge, many of these trails get used year-round," she said. It's one thing that attracts visitors to town."
In other business on Monday, Hoch apprised the board of various activities happening in and out of town government this summer.
On the government side, he told the board that the Board of Health is in the process of reviewing its enforcement options in regard to tobacco sales in light of a recent violation by a vendor in town.
"They asked [Health Agent] Jeff Kennedy to put together draft language for them," Hoch said. "It's something the Board of Health is thinking through — a longer-term policy."
O'Connor said she had heard complaints from residents about teenagers having access to "vape" devices and other nicotine-based products.
Hoch also told the board — and the audience watching Monday's meeting on the town's community access television station, Willinet — that the Council on Aging has a limited number of coupons available for the town's Saturday morning Farmers Market. Recipients must be at least 60 years old, town residents and meet income criteria. Hoch said more information will be available on the town's website and Facebook page.
Work continues on schedule at the site of the town's new police station, where Hoch said one of the first steps was digging for an underground stormwater detention system that will go under the new parking lot.
Speaking of stormwater detention, that was a big part of the college's construction project at the bottom of Spring Street this spring, and the total project, which includes a culvert replacement, is also on schedule, Hoch said. The new municipal parking lot, above the newly installed detention basins, is due for landscaping work either this week or next, he said.
Meanwhile, on Latham Street, local motorists can expect a brief closure of one lane this summer when the time comes to remove to undersized culvert that the college paid to replace in order to alleviate flooding from Christmas Brook.
Finally, Hoch reported that Williamstown Police Department officers recently participated in a series of conversations about "bias and how they can be perceived in everyday life," facilitated by Leticia Haynes, Williams' vice president for institutional diversity and equity.
"I'd like to thank the college for offering this and Leticia, specifically and the police department for attending," Select Board member Andrew Hogeland said.

Tags: hiking,   public parks,   trails,   

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