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By Nathan Lamb

GROTON — There is no legal access to the 17-plus acres of town-owned hayfield between the Wharton Road subdivision and Nashua River, but the Conservation Commission is looking to change that by securing an easement through the neighboring Town Forest.

The commission enlisted support from the Board of Selectmen toward that end in early December, and negotiations will reportedly begin with the Town Forest committee shortly.

According to Conservation Commission Chairman Bruce Easom, the goal is to negotiate an easement that could be used to establish a service road, which would be used to maintain the field and prevent it from reverting to forest.

“I think what the Conservation Commission has expressed is they would like to have it passable for farm vehicles to mow that field,” he said. “The Conservation Commission would be happy to see, if that road were created, that there would be a fence with a padlock on it, so that only the people who were doing maintenance on the property could drive there.”

Known as the Old Pumpkin Patch, the town-owned hayfield was once the southeastern corner of a large farm off Route 225. It was acquired by the town in 1998, and Easom surmised that had much to do with rest of the farmland being developed as Wharton Road subdivision at that time. While the property does not have access to any public roads, he said the ConsCom has been able get its mowers there recently through the good graces of a neighbor, but he added that situation isn’t ideal and something they’d like to rectify.

Even so, the ConsCom may have some difficulty winning over the Town Forest Committee, which has already told the board their members were not on board with the idea earlier this year, according to Steve Babin, the group’s chairman.

“We’re not really in favor of another trail through that piece of land,” he said. “They’re trying to get it started up again by having the selectmen involved, but I’m not sure what they’re trying to do.”

Babin said the issue was raised early in 2009, when the ConsCom was in contact with a group that wanted to use the hayfield for an organic garden. By his account, the ConsCom was told an existing cart path could be used for access, provided they seek written permission beforehand from the Forest Committee.

Babin added he thought the easement discussion was “dead issue” from that point, saying the discussion at the Board of Selectmen’s meeting was the first he’d heard of this issue being resurrected.

The selectmen’s discussion in early December ended with members Josh Degen and Anna Eliot being asked to take part in the upcoming negotiations. Asked afterwards why the board was getting involved, Town Manager Mark Haddad said selectmen’s support was sought to help coordinate negotiations, with the belief it would help things happen more quickly.

As for Easom, he confirmed that a group of organic gardeners had wanted to use the field, but added that idea folded in the face of opposition from residents of the neighboring subdivision. Other than that, he said there weren’t any definite plans on how (of if) the town wants to use the field for anything aside from conservation.

“We really haven’t had a real formal discussion about how we want to keep it,” said Easom. “All we know at this point is if we don’t formalize the access we have only one option — to let it go back to forest.”

In any event, Babin said he’s yet to hear anything directly from the ConsCom or selectmen, but added he’s interested to see how this issue will unfold, saying that discussion is expected to take place in posted meetings shortly.

“I’m looking to find out what they want and why they want it,” he said.

Any meetings about this will be posted.