Groton park effort seeks to turn back the clock

Groton - Public Works crews last week started clearing a 6-acre tract of land at the Copp Family Park, inspiring someone to post a "Save Copp Park!" flier at the entrance.

Town officials say, however, the 240-acre park does not need saving.

The work is part of an effort to bring the area back to what it looked like when the parcel was purchased by the town in 1988.

"They're not going in and clear-cutting and bulldozing," said Parks and Recreation Director Mark Barry. "This was a field, a meadow that has slowly filled in through the years. They're trying to return it to that open space that it was 30 years ago."

Public Works Director Gary Schneider said his crews will work with parks maintenance to clear brush, down small trees and remove old stumps as part of the effort. It should eventually be in good enough shape to allow for mowing. Mature trees will be left alone, he said.

Barry said he also envisions connections to existing hiking trails and an area for things like picnicking, kite flying or Frisbee tossing.

A flier at the entrance to the park this week asks residents to write letters to the town, highlighting the town notice that indicates all trees within a certain area will be removed and inferring the work is being done to make way for an events area that would host something like Subfest.

What the future may hold is unknown, but Neil Brown, chairman of the Copp Family Park Board of Overseers, said the primary goal at the moment is maintenance and a desire to see that the property is not underutilized.

And while the area being cleared is referred to as an "events space," Brown said the use is in line with the agreement with the town to provide open space, conservation and recreation, perhaps space for nonprofits to hold events from time to time. He said the dog park, Central Bark, which exists at the site, is a good example of a use that fits with the original agreement.

The work is being paid for with the $42,000 left over from work to create the parking lot off Route 184, across from Gungywamp Road. The grant funding was obtained from the state Department of Energy and Environmental Protection.

He said that while events such as Subfest, a Navy festival, have been mentioned in the past, there are not currently any proposals or discussions about anything more than passive recreation.

"The vision of the Copp board is its passive recreation. We're really not doing anything that talks about development. We just don't want to see it become completely reforested." Brown said. "It's really amazed how much the open space has filled in."

Any proposals for use of the land would follow an extensive public input process, Brown said.


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