Over the next several weeks, feedback from the public, plus a detailed review of the town’s current Open Space and Recreation Plan, will be compiled into a new, up-to-date document.
Earlier this month, the Open Space and Recreation Steering Committee held a visioning session, allowing residents to discuss what they viewed to be the top concerns in Westwood as part of the process to update the 2000 OSRP. Director of Community and Economic Development Nora Loughnane said 60 people attended, and the focus was on additional recreation space in town.
One idea that took up much of the discussion was an indoor recreational facility with a track, basketball courts and other related amenities. Potential sites for this included land that the schools purchased near First Parish Church, or one of the elementary schools, should one be torn down and replaced elsewhere.
"They are showing that this is something that residents are concerned with," said Loughnane. "This all goes into the Open Space and Recreation Master Plan."
Loughnane said the tennis courts at the Sheehan School were another potential site for renovation, as they see little use these days. A pickle ball court or dog park were two concepts suggested at the visioning session.
When it came to the open space in Westwood, Loughnane said discussion on this was limited, and focused mostly on preserving what the town has and potentially setting aside more. The town’s largest conservation area is off Sandy Valley Road. This heavily forested conservation area is made up of several smaller parcels. The Mulvehill family donated the first one in the late 1960s. Over the years, adjacent parcels were acquired from other Westwood families, including the Grimms and the Lowells. Some of the land was donated or purchased with the use of conservation funds.
Many in attendance pointed to this area, now known as Lowell Woods, as an example of a good resource in town. Loughnane said hikers and horseback riders use the trails, but maintenance can be a challenge.
"It’s been terrific and a great resource," said Loughnane.
Other items covered were the potential future of the Westwood Lodge, formerly a hospital that closed its doors months ago due to issues concerning patient safety and quality of care. A five-acre field in front of the building is used for sports practices, but with the future ownership still unknown, the land could one day see a different use.
"They hoped the town would do what it can to preserve it," Loughnane said.
Nearly 20 years after the town first adopted its OSRP, the steering committee has been charged with taking an in-depth look at the town’s outdoor capital. Board of Selectmen prioritized the OSRP update as one of its three commitments in Westwood’s December 2016 Community Compact. The town received a grant of $20,000 for use in obtaining consultant services for assistance in completing the update.
In December, the committee presented a survey to residents, and it’s been reopened for further voting. The committee has future meetings planned for March and April. JM Goldson — a consultant working with the new open space committee — will compile the information gathered into a draft plan which will be discussed and presented to the Planning Board for review. The board will make its own changes before submitting the plan to Town Meeting with a recommendation to approve.
The town’s open space survey can be found at surveymonkey.com/r/C66PHPM. It takes approximately 10 minutes to complete and will remain up until Feb. 28.