Between an intersection and a wetland: A conservation land parking conundrum

May 11, 2022

The Stoney Run Conservation Land could soon have new trails, but figuring out where to put the parking lot to access those trails could be a challenge. 

On May 10, the Select Board heard a proposal from Elise Leduc-Fleming, the director of the Wareham Land Trust. She was requesting a signature from the board indicating their approval of the trust’s request to do work on the land, which is under a conservation restriction, as part of a grant application. 

The conservation land in question is located near the busy intersection of Main Street and Tremont Road, near the entrance to the Tremont Rehabilitation and Skilled Care Center. 

That intersection caused safety concerns for officials Tuesday night — especially because the parking lot was located at the corner closest to the intersection on a mock-up of the plan. 

“That is way too fast of an area for it to be there,” said Town Administrator Derek Sullivan. “The closer they are to that intersection, the closer we are to having some serious issues.”

Sullivan said that the parking lot should be as far down Main Street as possible. and noted that Municipal Maintenance Director Dave Menard shared his concerns.

Leduc-Fleming said she’d floated the idea of a crosswalk and sidewalk alongside the conservation area, but she’d received negative feedback from the town about the expense of planning and executing the idea.

“There’s no way to access the property,” Leduc-Fleming said. When the Land Trust acquired the land in 2018, the organization’s leaders intended to add a parking lot and walking trails, she said.

“With respect to the parking lot, it can probably shift a little farther to the west but not all the way to the stream,” Leduc-Fleming said. “At that point, you’re basically putting it in the river and the wetland.”

She said that due to wetland restrictions, the Conservation Commission will want the parking lot to be as far east as possible, while traffic concerns mean other officials will want it as far west as possible.

“I think the best we can do is move it slightly west from where it’s shown on this graphic,” Leduc-Fleming said, adding that just over a parking lot’s width to the west, there’s a copse of mature trees. The Trust hopes to clear as little land as possible to retain the land’s conservation value, she said, later adding that moving the lot much further would likely not be permissible. 

There’s a 200 foot setback from the wetland, per town bylaws. Select Board member Ron Besse pointed out that the Land Trust could apply for a waiver from the wetland setback. Leduc-Fleming said that it’s possible but it’s better to avoid it and said she’d like to create a plan that various town officials approve of before the project gets to the permitting stage.

“All we’re asking for tonight is to apply for a grant to do a conceptual study,” Leduc-Fleming said. The grant would pay for design, engineering and permitting.

The engineering work would include designing an ADA-accessible boardwalk from the parking lot to a view platform, the parking lot itself and a footbridge, Leduc-Fleming said. Her goal is to make the property as accessible as possible, she said.

“I’m happy to shift that parking lot farther to the west, I just can’t tell you how far west without going through part of our study,” she said. “And we can’t do our study without your approval for us to go through this grant, so we’re in a little bit of a catch-22.”

Sullivan said he has confidence in the Land Trust’s ability to work with the town. 

The board voted in favor of signing off on the grant application.