A. DESCRIPTION OF PROCESS
The Town of Charlemont's open space and recreation goals were developed in part through the following planning processes:
The Town of Charlemont began to develop consensus on their most important community goals in 1998 when a Graduate Regional Planning Studio from the University of Massachusetts was hired to develop the Background Document. Public participation in the 1998 planning process included:
Eight meetings with the Planning Board to receive input on the plan;
Forty interviews with residents, business owners, and town officials; and
Approximately 500 Master Plan Surveys were distributed throughout the community and 20 percent were returned.
In 2001, a second Graduate Regional Planning Studio was hired to write a Master Plan for the Town of Charlemont. This next step in the Master Planning process used the Background Document as a foundation. The Studio used results from the Charlemont Public Vision Forum, and feedback from the Master Plan Committee, which held meetings twice a month as guidance for generating the recommended actions listed in the Master Plan. Over fifty of the town's residents attended the vision forum held on Monday, October 15, 2001, providing an adequate sample of the residents' vision for the future of their community.
In November 2002, a Planning Committee was formed to develop the town's Open Space and Recreation Plan and an EO418 Community Development Plan. In December 2002 and February 2003, the Committee reviewed, discussed, and developed a set of goals and objectives that reflected the extensive public participation of the recent past. Many of the people on the Planning Committee participated in the earlier planning efforts.
Between November 2002 and December 2003, Franklin Regional Council of Governments Planning Department staff developed this Open Space and Recreation Plan under the supervision of the Planning Committee. The planning process used several methods for involving public participation:
The results of the 1998 and 2001 Master Plan documents were used as the basis for the development of goals and objectives as well as the overall open space and recreation vision.
The Planning Committee held ten public meetings.
Several drafts of each section of the plan were mailed to approximately fifty-five people representing key town boards, community groups, and residents.
Several sets of the Open Space and Recreation Plan maps were displayed at the Town Hall, Hawlemont Elementary School, and at other locations.
Elementary School students were encouraged to draw pictures of their favorite places in Charlemont. These will be used to adorn the cover and pages of the Plan.
A public forum was held on March 24, 2004, where residents reviewed and discuss the major findings and five-year action plan. All public comments were recorded and considered for incorporation into the plan.
B. STATEMENT OF OPEN SPACE AND RECREATIONAL GOALS
Residents recognize that the economic vitality of Charlemont is dependent on the ecological integrity of its watersheds and on the retention of its historical and naturally scenic agricultural landscapes. They value its diverse terrain, which includes a mix of working farms, extensive forests, steep hillsides and the Deerfield River floodplain. They like living in a town with clean air and water and a great diversity of native plants and animals, that is relatively safe from crime and vandalism, has affordable housing, and offers abundant opportunities for outdoor recreation.
Residents who have participated in past planning processes and in the development of this Open Space and Recreation Plan, have a vision for the future of Charlemont's natural, historical, and recreational resources. In this vision, the town's large blocks of forests, sensitive wildlife habitat areas, and active farmland are protected as a result of cooperative efforts between private landowners, and local and state agencies and private non-profit organizations. The town has a history of yearly contributions to a town match fund to support local farmers applying to protect their land through the Agricultural Preservation Restriction Program. Most protected
lands have remained in private hands and control, and continue to contribute property taxes. The town has protected land along the Deerfield River to protect public access to its waters as well as some of the finest scenic views in town. Residents continue to enjoy clean drinking water from sources and aquifers that have been protected from contamination.
In this vision for the future, Charlemont has a diverse local economy anchored by existing recreational-based tourism firms. Farmers and wood producers link forces with local retailers taking advantage of the tourist traffic along Rte. 2. Residents speak proudly of their successful efforts to maintain and restore historic buildings in each of the villages, but especially in the Center. The Fairgounds grand stands have been lovingly restored and are used for town community events and festivals. Charlemont Center continues to thrive as the commercial and civic center.
Residents of all ages and abilities enjoy a system of well-maintained trails, most of which are on private property. Town officials and trail enthusiasts are successful at organizing and facilitating trail use among residents to only those trails open to the public with the express permission of the landowners. Using the success of the Deerfield River Impact Committee to facilitate the adoption of safety policies by all types of recreational users of the river, residents have developed a protocol for private property trail use that was adopted town wide. The resulting pedestrian and biking trails provide an alternative mode of transportation to residents
between villages, recreational amenities offered by local tourism-based businesses, and a source of customers of local farmers road-side stands.