Ashby Open Space & Recreation Plan
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SECTION 6 - Community Goals

Description of Process

The Planning Board, Conservation Commission, and Selectmen agreed that it was a top priority to create this Open Space and Recreation Plan. Consequently, a small group of people met to determine how to proceed. We advertised widely through local press, cable TV, posters, and word of mouth and held a televised informational meeting in order to gather interested people. A group of approximately 20 people began to meet weekly throughout the winter to inventory our resources and formulate goals and an action plan. A community survey was sent to all 1,168 households and enjoyed a ten percent response rate (123 surveys were returned). We tabulated and analyzed the results, taking into consideration the extensive written comments included. We have been fortunate to have a number of knowledgeable and technically skilled people working on the committee. We are proud that our Open Space and Recreation Plan has been created entirely ‘at home.’

Statement of Open Space and Recreation Goals

Ashby is fortunate to have large tracts of lands as yet undeveloped, and a low population density. We have the opportunity to take a proactive position in creating policy decisions in advance of the tidal wave of development coming from the east. Our two overriding priorities are to maintain the rural character of our town and to preserve our natural resources. In addition, we wish to enhance both passive and active recreational possibilities and work with a regional perspective in mind to link protected lands, ensure wildlife corridors, and promote regional collaboration for extensive trails.

Survey results and anecdotal information have strongly shown that townspeople wish to retain the small town character of Ashby and to preserve our natural resources. In order to accomplish this, the town must have some policy-making discussions in the near future. Indications are that a multifaceted approach to preserving open space will have the most chance of success. This strategy would include changes to zoning and land development regulations. It would also provide information about the advantages of various land preservation strategies to landowners; it would support local agriculture and the acquisition of land by the town and by state agencies. And it would coordinate private land trusts, the state, and the town to maximize the open space benefits of each program. This approach will require members of the local government and the residents of Ashby to educate themselves about open space. We expect this Open Space and Recreation Plan to contribute concrete information to the process.

Survey Results

A community survey was mailed to all 1,168 homes in town, and enjoyed a return of 123 surveys, 10%. A copy of the survey and totals is reprinted in the Appendix. Overwhelmingly, 87% of the people who responded said they would vote for the town purchase of land in an effort to preserve open space. A gratifying 50% said they would help fund raise or work in some other voluntary capacity to preserve open space. We look forward to finding all 61 people who checked off this box! Approximately one-third of respondents indicated that they would consider limiting the economic uses of their land through deed restriction and would consider donating money to buy land.

Respondents’ first choice for setting land protection priorities was preserving open space for water conservation needs. Preservation of farmlands and agriculture came in a close second. Not surprisingly, when asked what specific pieces of land were perceived as unique and/or needing protection, 59% rated Mount Watatic as one of their top three choices, 33% chose the Western Middlesex Stock Farm, with an additional 12% rating agricultural fields in general as priorities. Approximately 20% of respondents put protection of the Squannacook River watershed in their top three picks.

The survey also asked people which recreational facilities they wanted to increase. The top three selections, each gathering more than 50% of responses, were hiking and cross-country skiing trails, conservation areas, and public access to lakes for boating and fishing. Bike trails and children’s play areas counted for more than a third, while family picnic areas and public swimming areas counted for just under one third of the responses.

Ashby Open Space & Recreation Plan
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