Oak Hill Study Committee Hears Advocates for Land Use
Conservation Commission, Boy Scouts, other groups vie for land use.
The Oak Hill Study Committee met last night to discuss the future of Oak Hill—a 66-acre parcel owned by the Town of Chelmsford. Oak Hill is located in North Chelmsford near the current Deep Brook conservation land.
The needs for Chelmsford have run the gamut: from the site of a solar park, to space for a dog park, or even simple conservation land.
During the meeting, the committee read into the record a letter from Chelmsford Housing Authority that said they had no plans for developing Oak Hill into affordable Housing. That letter can be read as a PDF to the right.
The committee saw presentations from several individuals during their meeting in support of various uses for Oak Hill. Ken Dews spoke before the commission to petition for the land to be accessible to the town’s boy scouts for overnight camping trips.
“Chelmsford does have a very large, active Boy Scout presence,” he said. “To have a local, convenient place to camp out to learn skills in the woods would be a big boon.”
Currently, many Boy Scout troops in Chelmsford travel to Carlisle for camping. Dews believes Oak Hill can remedy the time spent traveling.
“Having a local (area) means you (…) don’t have to make a big commitment and travel long distance. From what I’ve seen of the Oak Hill parcel (…) I do think it would be suitable for camping.”
Committee member Phil Stanway was concerned with open fires and any infrastructure the Scouts might need on site. Dews assured the committee that the Scouts had fire safety training and had little to no additional needs other than the land.
“The kids in scouting are trained in the proper creation of fire and how to put it out,” he said. “As long as you have a responsible group of people using the woods or in the woods, you’re less likely to have people who are doing things that shouldn’t be done.”
Also presenting before the commission was David McLachlan, Chairman of the Chelmsford Conservation Commission, advocating for the land to be used as conservation space.
According to McLachlan’s presentation, Chelmsford is among a group of towns in the commonwealth that dedicate the least percentage of total town land to conservation. Chelmsford’s conserved land accounts for 6.2 percent of total land at around 900 acres. McLachlan believes this number should be about 66 acres higher.
“It is my firm belief that everyone in this town needs unencumbered conservation land,” he said. “It provides a change from the rapid pace of everyday life (…) It’s just the kind of thing where you can go out there and get away from the world.”
McLachlan also told the committee that North Chelmsford currently only has 16 acres of conservation land in the area of Oak Hill.
“We did talk about the need for more open space and conservation land for residents of North Chelmsford,” he said. “I would just remind you that the land that we have set aside over the years for conservation is on the low side.”
One key issue with the Oak Hill property is that of accessibility. McLachlan said that parking and a means of egress could come by way of Swain Road near the DPW’s salt shed. These details, however, are still preliminary. Best case scenario, McLachlan said he would like to see the land linked with the current Deep Brook conservation land.
McLachlan told the committee that using Oak Hill as conservation land would "benefit a section of town that's been short-changed."
“This is a beautiful piece of land, there’s no question about it,” he said. “This is the kind of asset that Chelmsford I think could really utilize as conservation."