The town of Wilmington may be selling off “Central Park North” without considering what could have been a much better long-term benefit to help stimulate economic recovery. After Irene, a number of committees were formed to address various topics that the community thought were important. The recreational task force divided with one group starting work on a community center and the others discussed improving/increasing recreational opportunities, including trails. Without getting in the way of local trail committee(s) work and plans, three possibilities for improvement were mentioned: 1. Improve the Ridge Trail to provide a destination attraction (that process is stalled in the federal bureaucratic processes and further complicated by unauthorized construction within the trail corridor). 2. The creation of an area outing club that could serve as a resource for various recreationists, from kayakers, sailers, trail runners, mountain bikers, fly fishermen, etc., and would be a valuable component of the chamber of commerce’s efforts to show people what sort of recreational opportunities exist, especially for visitors who look for folks of a similar ilk or passion. Thus far no one has stepped up or been identified to help create that club. 3.The creation and use of the former Haystack Village East lands and abandoned roadways for use as a multi use, multigenerational park, Central Park North (catchy title that visitors would recognize and describes the location right on the Wilmington/Dover border).
Unfortunately there is little in the way of trail use for kids, families, trail runners and joggers, horses, etc. The roads and trails that were constructed so many years ago would be incredibly well-suited for a host of uses. With the exception of town efforts to construct a parking area for access, and perhaps two large playing fields for various uses like equestrian or any number of uses, the work could be accomplished with volunteer efforts and required community service, much like award-winning town-owned Pine Hill Park in Rutland (pinehillpark.org). The towns and chamber could point to an area that the public could enjoy almost any time of year, at almost no cost, since the majority is owned by the town.
In this time of folks desperately trying to convince landowners that state statutes protect them, landowners seem unwilling to grant permission to cross their property with a trail. The Valley Trail has been so slow in growing because of either landowner fears or extortion. And yet evidence supports all of the benefits to landowner values and community enhancement, while refuting the negatives. Here is (was) an opportunity for one entity, the town, to move forward with a resource almost entirely under its own control. It looks like that control is about to be relinquished. Public access will shift from the public to the private shortly.
A number of approaches could have been used to ensure benefits to both the public and private interests, sales of portions, Class 4 road designations, and licensed access, etc., there seems to have been no thought toward protecting the public interest, though. I believe that this is very shortsighted. While the priority may be to get un-performing property, and short-term cash, back on the tax rolls, a more attractive place for more visitors would do more to bring people here than spending the cash on short-term fixes, whether it’s for ailing infrastructure or window dressing.
Well, eventually the Rockefellers relinquished their carriage trails to the National Park service in Acadia, and maybe we’ll just have to wait that long too. But then again, they didn’t see fit to plan on building homes throughout the park. As the property shifts from public to private, the private entities will need to navigate various permit processes and the public, and municipalities, may be provided with opportunities for comment. I hope, and urge, those folks to support open spaces and recreational opportunities within whatever is proposed.