Town document looks to balance future conservation, development

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DRACUT — According to Robert Nicoloro, who chairs the Dracut Community Preservation Committee, smart growth is a balancing act that attempts to protect the town’s rural character with new development.

Dracut grew in numbers by more than 20 percent in the 1980s. That number climbed by an additional 12 percent in the 1990s, but growth has slowed significantly since 2000. And while neighborhoods in town are densely populated near the outskirts of Lowell and Tyngsboro, much of east Dracut remains pristine, with a number of farms that continue to operate.

A recently released, 84-page open space and recreation plan provides a glimpse into the future of Dracut’s landscape, while looking back on its accomplishments. The plan also presents a blueprint for the next five years as officials and residents try to strike that balance.

Job one, according to Nicoloro, is the continuation of the work that has been done in recent years by the Open Space and Community Preservation committees.

“Clearly, the folks in town have registered their feeling that they would like to see less development, more recreation and more open space,” said Nicoloro, referring to responses garnered from a townwide survey and from public vision sessions that were held throughout the year. “So that is the mission of our group, the Open Space Committee and other entities in town.”

Dracut has been successful in balancing development with open space and recreation. Since 2002, Agricultural Preservation Restrictions have been placed on three important parcels — the 31-acre Dumaresq Farm on Parker Road, a 59-acre parcel on New Boston Road owned by Shaw Farm and another 15-acre parcel on Marsh Hill Road, also owned by Shaw Farm.

In terms of recreational open space, Veterans Memorial Park, a tot lot at Carrick Field, a skateboard park and public walking trails throughout the town have been created.

The document was prepared by the CPC with the assistance of the Northern Middlesex Council of Governments.