SHIRLEY -- With a new part-time administrator on board, who is working more hours per week than his predecessors, the Conservation Commission is now able to tackle some of the state-mandated projects that were on hold, including the Open Space and Recreation Plan, which according to the administrator, Takashi Tada, lacks only the ADA self-evaluation component.
At their meeting Tuesday night, Tada told Chairman Nancy Askin and the other commissioners that he's working on it.
He also updated them on work at Longley Acres, a town-owned farm they manage, and the status of Forest Management plans for two other conservation areas -- Pumpkin Brook, off Townsend Road, and Rich Tree Farm, which consists of 110 acres off Walker and Hazen roads, most of it across from the Devens Solar Farm.
Tada said he recently met with former commission Administrator Ann Gagne to get "her sense" of the forest-management plans and where they stood, including Rich Tree Farm, which had a plan that was never implemented, he said. When asked why, Gagne surmised that the commission she had worked for tabled it because they couldn't come up with a workable way to funnel revenue back to achieve conservation goals.
She was referring to revenue from timbering, which was a component of the plan they were mulling at the time. Unless Town Meeting were to divert some of the funds, the revenue would go into the town's general fund, which apparently didn't sit well when the matter was discussed, he said.
What the commissioners were apparently looking for then was a revolving fund of some kind, he said, such as the one established via special legislation to maintain the Longley Acres property. But they decided not to push the complex process and let the land alone.
Now, the board wants to continue working on a plan of stewardship already in the works, possibly including timber harvesting based on the advice of a professional forester who has worked for them before and with revenue going to the town.
Commissioner Bob Burkhardt said that approach was fine with him. In his view it would boost future bids to acquire land for open space and conservation if the commission shows the town that money can be made from it, he said.
As for Pumpkin Brook, Tada said Ward Baxter dropped by recently to ask if the commission was interested in tapping local Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts to do trail work there and link the area with adjacent conservation parcels managed by Massachusetts Fish and Wildlife, where Gagne now works.
She told him the agency would be against it, Tada said, citing off-road vehicles that could then easily access the land, which they can't do now. The commissioners agreed not to pursue the option, if it comes up, but as Tada pointed out, the scouts haven't approached them about it anyway.
Both plans would be comprehensive, Tada said, including recreation, protection of water and wildlife and other conservation initiatives.