Appalachian Trail Committee's Eileen Quinn talks to the board Tuesday night regarding the new hikers tent site.
CHESHIRE, Mass. — The Board of Selectmen on Tuesday looked to finalize plans for the new Appalachian Trail tent site. Trail Committee Chairwoman Eileen Quinn was in attendance and had some news for the board as well as some questions to be answered before the anticipated early May opening.
The tenting project has been in the works for a while but gained serious traction in early 2019 when a site was agreed upon and some other logistical issues were sorted out.
Quinn and the board covered several topics large and small, including utilities, rubbish, and perhaps most importantly, lavatories.
"It's not too early to start thinking about our transition and setting up our new site that the town approved last year. There are three books out there for hikers and there's an app that people use all the time. We changed all that to remove St. Mary's (the local parish had been an 'unofficial' campsite for trail users) and to put the new site on there and to advertise that it will be open by May 1st," she said. "I've already lined up way ahead of time the porta-potties so we could get the color green, which is better than the brighter colors. I was able to get them for the whole season."
Quinn was looking for an update on the town's responsibilities, which include trash receptacles, power, and water.
Although not set in stone because of possible weather delays, the board indicated that the town has a plan once the spring is here for good to supply hikers with everything they need for a short one or two-night stay.
The property currently has a structure with both power and water present that the town has used for storage but is now empty. The plan is to disconnect the utilities from the building and bring them to a nearby pole for site specific use.
"We talked to George Sweet (town wiring inspector) about it last fall, about moving power from the building over to the pole and putting some plugs in. Then water as soon as the ground is [thawed]," Selectman Ron DeAngelis told Quinn.
The idea of the tent site, located at the intersection of Main Street and the Ashuwillticook Rail Trail, is to give users of the trail a short (one or two-night) respite and a place to charge their phones, get clean water and use the porta-potty. The site is not intended for, nor will it allow, long-term camping. It has been a successful venture between town boards, residents, and the Appalachian Trail community thus far.
All signs point to the site being ready by May 1 and Quinn said the Trail Committee plans to hold a gand opening in June.
The collapsing Beechwood nursing home at Route 8 and West Mountain Road remains a topic for the board. They have received some inquiries from residents lately about the feasibility of razing the decrepit building.
Town Administrator Edmund St. John IV went through the process of the town condemning the building for demolition purposes at a previous meeting. At Tuesday's meeting, he outlined the process of getting state funding for the demolition.
"I had a conversation with somebody in the Attorney General's office regarding demolition funds. In order to qualify there must be a specific redevelopment project to immediately commence once the property is demolished. The grant funds up to 50 percent or $25,000 of the demolition cost," he said.
Whether or not the town can successfully go through the process of officially marking the building for demolition and also get grant funding, Selectwoman Michelle Francesconi thinks it's worth pursuing for this year's budget.
"That building specifically ... has come up numerous times," she said. "It's something I think we should look at in terms of this budget cycle ... it's a hazard."
At the board's request, St. John is currently putting together and prioritizing a list of other potential hazardous properties and indicated he would be open to input from residents.
Selectman Mark Biagini made an announcement about early voting for the March 3 presidential primary on behalf of Town Clerk Christine Emerson. Dates and times in the town clerk's office are as follows:
Tuesday, Feb. 25, 2:30 to 4:30 p.m.
Wednesday, Feb. 26, 9 a.m. to 7 p.m.
Thursday, Feb. 27, 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.
• Health Inspector CJ Garner was appointed to serve as the town's representative for the Northern Berkshire Solid Waste Management District with former Board of Health member Mickey Biagini as the alternate.
• A joint meeting of the Board of Selectmen and the Finance Committee will be held Thursday at 6:30 to discuss financial and budgetary issues. The next regular meeting will be Tuesday, Feb. 25, at 6:30.
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