Saturday, February 23, 2019

Franklin Annual Report - 2018: Conservation Commission

The Franklin Conservation Commission is responsible for promoting and protecting the natural resources of Franklin and protecting the town’s watershed resources. A large part of the Commission’s attention is directed to administering Massachusetts and Franklin wetland protection laws and regulations. Those laws and regulations require Commission permits to work in or within 100 feet of a wetland, in the 100 year flood hazard zone or within 200 feet of a perennial stream.

The Commission comprises seven volunteer residents appointed for three year terms by the Town Administrator. The current members of the Commission have diverse professional experience related to environmental science, biology, engineering, and project management. Because of their different backgrounds, each commissioner is able to offer a different perspective during the review of applications for a wetland permit that ultimately benefits Franklin.

Franklin has continuously been well represented at the annual conference of the Massachusetts Association of Conservation Commissions in March, with Commissioners attending classes and workshops and talking with other Commissioners from across the state as well as lawyers, ecologists and engineers active in conservation.

The Commission continues to work on the DelCarte Area (aka the Franklin Reservoirs) off of Pleasant Street. There are a series of seven structures (six dams that had been originally used for cranberry farming and a stone wall that beavers had dammed) along Miller brook thru the 100+ acre DelCarte Area. The Commission retained the services of ESS, Inc. to undertake an ecological study to ascertain the flora and fauna viability in the pond and develop a long term management plan. 

This study, completed in the winter of 2015-6 has for the first time given the town a comprehensive understanding of exactly “what is there” and has developed a management plan to help keep the area viable as a true recreational jewel. The first phase of the Plan’s recommendations, the treatment of invasive plant species was undertaken in the spring/summer of 2017 and phase two will be undertaken in the spring/summer of 2018.

The Commission has requested additional Capital Improvement funds to help implement the next phases of this study in 2018-2019 as well as funds to implement the ADA recommendations under the master plan developed for DelCarte by Mass Audubon. This later plan was presented to the Commission in the fall of 2017.

The Commission will undertake improvements to the DelCarte Recreation Area in the late summer/early fall of 2018 to bring access to the trails and the water bodies up to ADA standards and the improved the overall aesthetics of the area. The Commission applied for a 2018 Recreation Trails grant to also offset the cost of ADA improvements in the DelCarte Recreation Area.

The Commission collects application fees for all permits that come before them. These fees paid for, among other things, the studies on the DelCarte recreation area and thus allowed the Commission to truly understand the issues facing the town in maintaining this area for quality recreation.

Notice of pond treatment at DelCarte
The Commission has also initiated a comprehensive study of the beaver population and associated issues within the pond area to come up with best practices to prevent irreparable damage to the pond ecosystem and surrounding private properties. The results have been received and are being evaluated by the Commission.

Since the last annual report, the Conservation Commission has received 61 permit applications to work within areas under their permitting jurisdiction.

The Commission also issued 30 certificates of completion for various projects and granted extensions to allow projects to finish.

In late April, the Commission conducted the third annual clean-up days at the DelCarte Recreation area. The event was also attended by a number of citizen volunteers who lent valuable assistance and manpower in helping to maintain this valuable town resource.

The Commission completed studies on Chapter 61, 61A & 61B parcels within the town as well as a study on all Commission-managed town-owned land. These studies can be used by the town’s decision makers to better understand the implications of purchasing or not purchasing property that becomes available and how to best manage properties or parcels already owned by the town. Recommendations on some of the parcels currently managed by the Commission have been made to the Town Council.

The Commission also completed a study of all land under its management jurisdiction. This will allow the Commission to better evaluate how to manage these parcels and to determine if any additional parcels should be under Commission jurisdiction or if some should in fact not be and to make appropriate recommendations to the Town Council.

The Commission has developed a series of standard operating procedures and educational snippets, which are posted on the Commission’s website, to help the citizenry understand some of the rationale behind the Commission’s operations and procedures.

The Commission would like to draw the attention of the Town’s residents to the many protected natural areas in the Town and the opportunities for passive recreation they enable:
  • The DelCarte Area, with parking off of Pleasant Street, has improved walking trails through woodlands along a series of ponds. Two canoe launches and an above-water boardwalk that completely connect the trail system have been installed;
  • The town forest has access off of Summer Street and trails thru woodlands and across Uncas Brook.

Other trail areas, not under the jurisdiction of the Commission include:
  • Indian Rock has good access off of both King Phillip Road and Lost Horse Trail with walking trails through woodlands near two large vernal pools and to the top of historic Indian Rock; The trails in this area were improved in the spring as part of an eagle scout project;
  • The Metacomet Land Trust owns several pieces of protected land, notably the walking trails off of Bridle Path and The Lady Bug Trail near JFK school;
  • The Franklin State Forest is accessible off of Grove Street and Forge Hill Road and boasts an extensive network of walking and ORV trails;
  • The SNETT trail goes all the way to Douglas. There is a Town parking lot off of Grove Street. The Trail section from Prospect Street into Bellingham has been reconstructed by the Dept. of Conservation and Recreation;
  • The expansive marsh near Interstate 495 exit #17 is the US Army Corps of Engineers Natural Valley Flood Storage Project, preserved to protect against downstream flooding in the Charles River basin. That marsh is along Mine Brook, the largest stream in town, draining about half of Franklin, starting at the extreme south end of Franklin, passing underneath Washington Street, Beaver Street, 495, Grove Street, West Central Street, 495 again, Beech Street, and Pond Street before finally meeting the Charles River on the Medway border

Other significant streams in Franklin include Shepards Brook, Miller Brook, Uncas Brook and Bubbling Brook. Lake Populatic is part of the Charles River, the other navigable ponds in Franklin are Spring (Green’s) Pond, Beaver Pond, and Uncas Pond, the last two of which are listed as Great Ponds by Mass DEP.

The Commission would also like the town residents to be aware of the potential tax savings of M.G. L. Chapter 61 (forest land), 61A (agricultural land) and 61B (recreational land). Such programs are designed to benefit the land owner via reducing the tax burden as well as to preserving and maintaining the quality and quantity of environmentally sensitive and natural areas within the commonwealth.

Conservation Commission Members:
William Batchelor , Chair
Tara Henrichon, Vice Chair
Jeff Livingstone Staci Dooney
Paul Harrington Jeff Milne
Angela Gelineau

Respectfully submitted,
William Batchelor, Chair

You can read the full Annual Report for 2018 online

The archive of prior year annual reports

invasive plant species visible at DelCarte
invasive plant species visible at DelCarte

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