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FAIR HAVEN: TRAIL FUNDING SOUGHT

fair-haven-fields-072820-1-500x332-9577884The proposed trail would run between the cherry blossom trees lining Fair Haven Road and the eastern edge of Fair Haven Fields. (Photo by John T. Ward. Click to enlarge)

By JOHN T. WARD

Fair Haven officials have dusted off a three-year-old proposal that would add a stone-dust trail to the roadside portions of Fair Haven Fields.

It would also cut the cost of removing excess vegetation from McCarter Pond, they said.

At its next meeting, scheduled for Monday evening, the borough council plans to hold a public hearing on a plan to seek $100,000 in funding from the county’s Open Space grant program, under which municipalities must match awarded sums.

The proposal calls for hydro-raking McCarter Pond and using the collected vegetation as a base for a new stone dust trail on Fair Haven Road and Ridge Road, Engineer Rich Gardella told the council at its July 27 session.

That would create a footpath where none exists, he said. The trail would connect to a planned new stretch of sidewalk on Fair Haven Roads at Brookside Farm Road, where new homes have been approved.

It would run south along Fair Haven Road, beside a row of beloved cherry blossom trees, and west on Ridge  Road, where it would cross the entrance to the natural area and connect with the existing stone dust trail, said Gardella.

Gardella said the eight-foot-wide trail could be laid over the exposed roots of the cherry trees, where there’s been erosion, without harming the trees.

The proposal is one that failed to win Open Spaces approval in 2017, Administrator Theresa Casagrande told the council.

She said it was being revived in part because she “would be hard-pressed” to write a different grant proposal in time for the September 17 submission deadline, given other administrative duties.

Moreover, this one was “dusted off,” she said, because “a lot of work went into it 2017, it won’t take nearly as much work to update it, and it did have a lot of support” in its initial from the environmental commission and others.

“It would not take us a whole lot of effort to resubmit a grant application that we’ve already designed for,” she said.

Councilman Chris Rodriguez, who was on shade tree committee when the idea was first proposed, said last month that he was “pleasantly surprised” to see it was being revived.

“I was in favor then and I’m in favor now,” said Rodriguez. “These trails do a nice job of tying the rest of the community together.”

The proposal also fits in with the borough’s active transportation plan, he said.

“A lot of residents have been asking for this,” said Councilwoman Susan Sorensen.

The plan also has appeal from a financial standpoint, Casagrande said.

Hydr0-raking the pond without using the vegetation would have to be paid for as maintenance from the general fund, but reusing the spoils on the path would qualify the work as a capital expense that can be paid for over time, she said.

Councilwoman Meghan Chrisner-Keefe, though she supported moving ahead with the plan, raised red flags about applying for matching grants simply because the money is available.

“Sometimes to a certain extent, it can also commit us to spending on future projects that may or may not be top priority,” she said. “I just think it’s an important consideration.”

“Free money is never free,” Casagrande agreed.

According to the minutes of an environmental commission meeting last September, the shallow pond was tested and found to contain no heavy metals or toxic algae.

The council meeting is scheduled for 7 p.m. and will be conducted via Zoom, but an off-camera executive session will be held at the start of the session and is expected to last about an hour, according to a borough notice Friday. The full agenda and access information is here: Fair Haven Council Agenda 081720

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