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Devens officials seek public input for next Open Space and Recreation Plan



MassDevelopment engineering manager John Marc-Aurele explains recent work on trails throughout the Devens Regional Enterprise Zone at a forum on the next Open Space and Recreation Plan on Thursday.

By Amelia Pak-Harvey

DEVENS — With a significant number of conservation projects completed, Devens officials are looking for input to help craft the area’s next Open Space and Recreation Plan.

John Marc-Aurele, engineering manager for MassDevelopment, welcomed public comments at a public forum Thursday. Two members of the public attended.

The next plan will outline goals for environmental conservation and management from 2014 to 2021, also making Devens eligible for potential state funding.

The 2008-2013 plan, Marc-Aurele said, was the first since 1996 and had five major goals including preserving land and water resources, providing connections between conservation areas, meeting recreational needs and maintaining open-space areas.

“In 2008, we did a full asset (survey) of all parcels of land here at Devens,” he said. “We were able to come to a consensus on all of the specific parcels that needed to be permanently protected.”

More than 1,000 acres of land in Devens are now protected, including land at Mirror Lake and Shepley Hill.

Marc-Aurele said the 2008 plan had a very heavy focus on land conservation and preservation, but planners generally agree that those goals are nearly done.

“One of the things we’re looking to prepare and put in the next plan is an amenities plan,” he said. “A lot of people have no idea what’s here at Devens.”

He also highlighted the trail and road work done during the five-year time period, noting sidewalks along the road and paved off-road trails.

“We have an upcoming road project that we’ll be doing next year, which is Jackson Road at the end,” he said. “That will upgrade the sidewalks all the way out to West Main Street, which will provide the connection to the Ayer sidewalks.”

He said planners are just beginning to look at possible connections into Shirley.

“That’s some pretty tough areas of roadway there,” he said. “But with the construction of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife visitor contact station and the school and the school fields on the other side, that is something that we’re looking at and we want to try and get done.”

An online survey developed by MassDevelopment, the Devens Enterprise Commission and the Devens Open Space and Recreation Advisory Committee will also gauge public input. The survey, open to anyone, highlights recreational activities and asks how much citizens use the various facilities.

Marc-Aurele said they have received 36 completed surveys so far.

Jessica Terwilliger, who recently moved to Devens, noted the convenience of all the sidewalks nearby.

“I had no idea there was so much work just to build the trails and the sidewalks,” she said.

The playground on Antietam Street is one of the best, she added, explaining that her friends travel all the way from Leominster for it.

“Kids love that playground. I think it’s the fact that it isn’t fenced in,” she said.

The public survey is accessible on MassDevelopment’s website.

Marc-Aurele said there will be a second forum probably closer to the fall that will ask for more public feedback.

Follow Amelia on Twitter and Tout @AmeliaPakHarvey.