Less than a week after a resident’s complaint detailed alleged violations in connection with the Beaver Brook trail project, the Conservation Commission placed the matter on their agenda for last week to explore what may have gone wrong.
Commission members also set a date to meet and examine the trail behind Brookside Elementary School earlier this week.
The original project proposal the town submitted to the Conservation Commission called for a walking trail between Dracut High School and Beaver Brook Farm. The trail would connect Beaver Brook to an 11.5-mile network of sidewalks and trails.
That trail was, at first, going to be 6 feet wide, but the commission eventually approved a new order of conditions allowing a width of 12 feet.
“I was quite surprised to hear that there was some clearing much wider than 12 feet,” Conservation Commission Chairman James Jendro said. “It was my personal understanding that the width of the trail was 12 feet. I assumed that, wherever it went, it was 12 feet and it would be at least 25 feet away from top of the bank.”
Dracut resident Alison Genest, in an email sent July 12 to Jendro and Conservation Agent Lori Cahill, alleges violations of the Massachusetts Wetlands Protection Act and Dracut’s wetlands bylaw.
Earlier this week, the leadership consultant told The Valley Dispatch that a vernal pool was ruined and that the wetlands were decimated.
According to the complaint she filed, Genest requested that there be a stop-work order on the project, and that the vegetation that was removed from the wetlands resource areas be restored as soon as possible.
“The way the town has handled this project has resulted in the complete destruction of what was pristine conservation lands and wetlands,” Genest said during the community-input portion of last week’s commission meeting.
Genest and her husband, Brian, own property that abuts the Beaver Brook area. Genest said the project began as a 6-foot path covered in wood chips.
“But it was here at the Conservation Committee that this path was changed to a 12-foot-wide with eight feet full of gravel,” Alison Genest said. “As a result of the revised plan, the woods have now become a road. To put it bluntly, the conservation and wetlands have been raped, and I want to know how the Conservation Commission allowed this to happen.”
Later, under old business, Jendro said there’s an outstanding order of conditions for the project, which he said has a varied history. He added that the commission initially approved the project with the condition that the work would be done properly.
“Where we got into trouble is that apparently during construction, nobody read the order of conditions. It’s my take,” Jendro said, adding that the protection “was not put where we wanted it. We’ve since found that the original biologist that surveyed the area missed the vernal pool.”
Follow Amaris Castillo on Twitter @AmarisCastillo. Her email address is email@example.com.