It was a long time in the writing – and more than a year of reviewing and revising — but Sterling’s Open Space and Recreation Plan (OSRP) is complete, state-approved, and available at the town website and Conant Public Library.
That’s actually kind of exciting for all of us, in addition to being a big relief for the Open Space Implementation Committee who prepared it.
This amazing document is 183 page encyclopedia of the physical features of Sterling, as well as our history, environment and natural resources. If you were looking for a science or history project, this is your go-to reference book. Here are some of the questions it is designed to answer:
Where are the open spaces, who controls them, and which open spaces are accessible for recreation?
Where are the hiking trails? What are the plans for future trails?
What fish can be found in our ponds?
What are the rare and unusual species I might find in Sterling?
Which invasive species should I be concerned about?
Am I living in a flood hazard zone?
What recreation programs are available in Sterling?
What is Sterling’s history? How long has it been inhabited, and by what cultures?
Is there any Primary Forest in Sterling?
Where are the important wildlife corridors?
How was the land in Sterling formed, what makes it so hilly? Does Sterling have unique soils and gravels?
The plan also describes our top environmental challenges, which include water resources, invasive species, and chronic flooding/sedimentation. The maps are outstanding. They don’t all come through well online, but if you get a chance to visit a printed copy here are some of the gems:
- Formal Trail Inventory
- Geologic Features
- Stormwater and Flooding
- Open Space Inventory
- Water Resources – Watershed and Flood Zones
- Water Resources – Groundwater Related
It’s great that we have such a wonderful reference book, but the big motivator for completing this plan update was to get access to grants. The Commonwealth really, really wants communities to think about the future of their open space and recreation resources. Grants are a very concrete way of encouraging communities to do so.
Now that we have an approved OSRP, we are eligible for DCS grant programs for up to seven years, including:
- Land and Water Conservation Fund Grant
- Landscape Partnership Grant
- Conservation Partnership Grant
- Local Acquisitions for Natural Diversity Grant (LAND)
- Drinking Water Supply Protection Grant Program
- Parkland Acquisitions and Renovations for Communities Grant (PARC)
Sterling can certainly use help preserving and expanding our drinking water supply, renovating our playing fields, and conserving our most treasured open spaces.
Second, and just as important, the Plan documents our open space and recreation goals. These goals were identified during prolonged engagement with the public. Here are the goals that Sterling participants collectively agreed on:
GOAL A — Encourage responsible protection and stewardship of publicly accessible lands and waters for natural resource conservation, recreation, and water supply protection.
GOAL B — Enhance athletic fields and other recreation facilities.
GOAL C: Improve transparency and communication between town boards, committees, and departments and with the community on open space and recreation issues.
GOAL D: Identify and consider new approaches to Sterling zoning and planning and other protective bylaws that affect Sterling’s open space and recreation needs.
There has been ongoing discussion in the community about building a recreation center. Goal B includes objectives for assessing needs for indoor recreation program space; creating plans for renovating the Griffin Road Playing Fields; and creating maintenance plans for all of the town playing fields. This goal lays the foundation for pursuing a town Recreation Center sometime in the future. It says the renovation and maintenance of our playing fields will be planned and proactive.
That Goal C looks a bit vague, but it is important. It says that when decisions are being made that affect open space and recreation, well, the open space and recreation goals must be considered. And because of our OSRP, those goals are clearly spelled out.
Now, if you don’t agree with the goals, you really should share your thoughts with the Open Space Implementation Committee. And you should especially participate in the public forums that will precede the next update, just a few years down the road.
The Open Space and Recreation Plan can be found online at https://www.sterling-ma.gov/sites/g/files/vyhlif1266/f/uploads/sterling_osrp_update_2019_-6.pdf. Conant Public Library has two printed copies.
The Open Space Implementation Committee meets the third Wednesday of the month, and the agenda is posted at https://www.sterling-ma.gov/open-space-implementation-committee.