NORTH ATTLEBORO — For a small town in the middle of the Northeast Corridor, North Attleboro has a wide variety of wide — and not so wide — open spaces.
From the 256 acres of the North Attleboro Fish Hatchery off Bungay Lake (actually owned by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service) to the vest pocket three-10ths of an acre Simmons Park off Commonwealth Avenue in Attleboro Falls, playgrounds, woodlands and conservation areas are scattered across its 19 square miles. Some 600 acres in all are managed by the Conservation Commission alone.
Now, town officials are in the opening stages of an effort to decide just how much, and how, it wants to preserve of what is available.
North Attleboro produced its last open space plan seven years ago and is launching an update that will help guide development and preservation efforts for the next seven, Shannon Palmer, conservation agent says.
Part of that is an online survey that, as of last week, had already drawn 600 responses, she said in email to The Sun Chronicle, “far surpassing the last effort.”
That survey included responses on paper forms, something that new circumstances made unlikely this year.
“We decided not to do paper copies this year due to the pandemic and logistical issues but if someone does not have a computer they can contact me to make an appointment to complete the survey at a computer at town hall,” Palmer wrote.
Public forums – virtual ones—are also planned to measure public opinion and garner input.
The survey’s 14 questions — laid out in a clickable, multiple choice format — cover topics such as whether residents see passive or active recreational space as a priority or whether preserving open space for wildlife should take precedence. It also asks if the person filling out the survey is familiar with the recreational offerings in town and which ones their family visits on a regular basis
The questions, based on 2031’s survey provided by the Southeastern Regional Planning and Economic Development District, a regional planning agency based in Taunton, were updated by the Open Space Committee, a joint effort by Conservation, Parks and Recreation, Planning and the Historical Commission, each of which is providing staff for the effort.
The work is also being coordinated with the town’s update of its Master Plan, currently underway.
Residents are being asked to complete the anonymous online poll by Dec. 22.
Palmer hopes the new survey will carry forward the work of the last open space plan.
“The 2013 Plan was a success in many ways but unfortunately we were not able to accomplish all of the goals,” Palmer wrote.
“Some goals are unable to be accomplished in seven years and will remain on-going and others were not accomplished due to lack of funding or failure of Representative Town Meeting to adopt certain bylaws and protections,” she wrote, referring to the town’s former system of government.
But, she said, many goals were met, including completion of town wide Archaeological Survey and Historic Preservation Plan, expansion of existing trails at Chorney Property, creation of new trails at World War I Park and Zoo, adoption of a Stormwater Bylaw, upgraded recreational facilities in compliance with handicapped access rules, among other advances.
A lack of funding was one problem for completing some of the recommendations in the last report. The new survey asks if residents would support adopting the state’s Community Preservation Act, which would tack a small surcharge on real estate transactions.
“Passing the CPA would help because it would provide a funding source (matched by the state) for land acquisition, creation of parks and fields, etc. that the town does not currently have,” Palmer wrote.
“We hope the Open Space Plan will continue to provide a framework for North Attleboro to accomplish its goals for conservation, recreation and historical preservation. The plan will not only identify a new seven year action plan, it provides information for implementation including possible funding sources, responsible parties, etc.,” Palmer added.
She noted, however, “A plan is just a plan…the town will be looking to establish an implementation committee which will hopefully include residents to work to implement the goals and objectives most important to North Attleboro. Now more than ever, people are staying close to home and exploring the outdoors so we hope the Open Space Plan will help the town work to expand and improve the open space and recreational opportunities available to the residents of North Attleboro.
The 2013 open space plan, including maps, which is available on the town’s website at nattleboro.com.