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Trail abutter fails to persuade ConsCom to abandon project


GROTON — One resident’s arguments against a plan to locate a path along his property linking Acorn Avenue to the town’s trail system failed to persuade the Conservation Commission that the project should be abandoned.

“If we had a vote (on this issue), we would vote against it,” said Acorn Avenue resident Chris Colton.

Colton was upset over a plan by the Trails Committee to put an access to the town’s trail system across an easement resting on land that lies within a 10-foot strip between his driveway and that of his neighbor.

The plan would raze existing vegetation along the whole length of the access path and, in the process, eliminate any screening he currently enjoys between his property and others located in the Acorn Avenue cul-de-sac.

“It would just materially change that whole area,” said Colton. “We see it as changing the environment and the whole concept of environment.”

The access path stretches for hundreds of feet along his property line and, at one point, comes to within 30 feet of Colton’s home. He said “clear-cutting” the vegetation would negatively effect property values in the neighborhood and reduce its privacy.

Plans for the access path include clearing some vegetation and constructing a four-foot-wide trail that will connect to the system of hiking trails, said commission Chairman Peter Morrison, some of which cross on land directly behind Colton’s home.

Speaking for the Trails Committee during the June 27 meeting, member Wendy Good said that attempts were always made to preserve larger trees when creating a trail and the direction of the trail could be changed to avoid obstructions.

Good said she has found that, although abutters were usually against the establishment of a trail adjacent to their homes, they soon learn that the people using them were ordinary people no different from themselves.

“Access paths such as these are very common throughout the town,” said Good. “Neighbors like them because they give access to trails without the need for going half way across town (to get to them).”

“I think you’ll find that this trail will be used by your own neighbors,” said commission member Bruce Clements. “The land is owned by the town. That’s why these little strips have been set aside.”

Indeed, the major reason why Colton’s objections to the trail plan fell on rocky ground, said commission members, was that the easement had been granted to the town by the developer nearly a decade before for creating an access to the trail system.

“The land was set aside for that reason when the subdivision was first created,” said commission member Kristen Corwin.

“Your subdivision is not the only one with a trail,” said commissioner Craig Auman. “They’re all over town. Access to open space is very important and the town is just implementing that plan.”

Commission member Marshall Giguere responded to a claim by Colton that he was told the strip of land was only to be used by the Boy Scouts and not as the site of a four-foot-wide formal trail.

It belonged to the town regardless of what the developer told him, said Giguere.

“I have a trail at my house, and it doesn’t bother me in the least,” said Morrison. “Not at all.”

Regardless, Colton insisted that the Trails Committee had no right to come onto his property without first notifying him that they would be milling about in the nearby woods.

As a result of their behavior, Colton said he had “no confidence” in the Trails Committee and wanted the town to delineate the line between his property and its own and to replace any screening vegetation it took down.

Without conceding any rights the town had to create a trail access off Acorn Avenue or making any promises, Morrison concluded Tuesday’s hearing by assuring Colton that he would ask the Trails Committee to be more diligent in their relations to abutters.

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