Friday, July 3, 2020

Franklin Annual Report 2019: Conservation Commission

From the Annual Report 2019:

Franklin Conservation Commission is responsible for promoting and protecting the Town of Franklin’s natural resources, and protecting the Town’s wetlands resources.

The Commission is comprised of seven volunteer residents appointed for three year terms by the Town Administrator. Current Commission members 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.

The Department of Planning and Community Development provides administrative and technical support to the Commission.

Franklin has continuously been well represented at the annual conference of the Massachusetts Association of Conservation Commissions each 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.

Permitting of Work Within or Adjacent to Wetlands Resources

The majority of the Commission’s attention is directed to administering Massachusetts and Franklin wetland protection laws and regulations. Those laws and regulations require Conservation 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.

During the first quarter of FY19 the Commission voted to amend Franklin Conservation Commission Regulations to allow the Conservation Agent to authorize projects that require a speedy approval due to possible threat to safety, or projects that are barely within the Conservation Commission’s jurisdiction. This new process has resulted in applicants quickly receiving permission to perform projects such as hazardous tree removal, construction of porches, decks, and patios, or gaining access through jurisdictional areas to non-jurisdiction activities without being required to attend a Conservation Commission meeting. The new regulations have resulted in a streamlined permitting process, allowing small projects to quickly move forward. During FY19 the Conservation Agent reviewed and administratively approved 16 minor buffer zone applications.

During FY19 the Conservation Commission received 50 permit applications to work within areas under their permitting jurisdiction. In addition the Commission issued Certificates of Compliance for previously permitted projects, and granted permit extensions to allow projects to finish.

Some of the more interesting project applications before the Commission during FY19 include Amego Incorporated’s Lite House Commons on Washington Street, the Southern New England Trunkline Trail (SNETT) tunnel under Prospect Street, and two large scale solar farms.

DelCarte Conservation Area

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 2015-2016 has given the Town a comprehensive understanding of exactly “what is there” and includes a management plan to help keep the area viable as a true recreational jewel. The first two phases of the plan’s recommendations, the treatment of invasive plant species was undertaken in the spring/summer of 2017 and 2018. The Town appropriated Capital Improvement funds to help implement the next phases of this study in 2018-2019. The pond’s invasive species will again be treated throughout the summer of 2019. In addition the funds are being used to implement the ADA recommendations under the master plan developed for DelCarte. This plan, developed for the Town by Mass Audubon was presented to the Commission in the fall of 2017.

The Commission began to 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 improve the overall aesthetics of the area. This portion of the improvements was completed in the spring/summer 2019.

A concrete pad was constructed for the picnic pavilion that will be installed in the upcoming fiscal year as one of the improvements outlined in the Delcarte Property Land Management Plan.

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.

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 after being evaluated by the Commission it was decided that any action on the beaver population was cost prohibitive.

In late April, the Commission conducted its fourth annual clean-up day at the DelCarte Recreation area. The event was attended by many citizen volunteers who lent valuable assistance and manpower in helping to maintain this valuable Town resource.

Other Conservation Areas and Trails

The Commission would like to draw the attention of the Town’s residents to the many natural areas in 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.
  • 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; trails in this area were improved 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 boasts an extensive network of walking and ORV trails;
  • The Southern New England Trunkline Trail (SNETT) starts at Grove Street in Franklin, and goes all the way to Douglas State Forest. The Trail section from Prospect Street into Bellingham was recently reconstructed by the Mass Department of Conservation and Recreation; plans to construct a tunnel under Prospect Street have been approved.
  • Charles River Meadowlands. 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, Interstate 495, Grove Street, West Central Street, I-495 again, Beech Street, and Pond Street before finally meeting the Charles River on the Medway border.
  • 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 Massachusetts DEP.

The Commission would also like Franklin’s 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.

In recent years the Conservation Website has been reworked to be more user-friendly and now provides more information about filing types and procedures. 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.

Conservation Commission membership and staff underwent substantial change during FY19 with Commissioners Tara Henrichon and Angela Gelineau leaving, and Alan Wallach and Brandon Rosenberg being appointed to the Commission. In addition, Conservation Agent George Russell retired, and Jennifer Delmore came on board as the new Agent. Please visit our website for additional information:

Currently Franklin Conservation Commission consists of the following members: William Batchelor, Jeffrey Milne, Staci Dooney, Paul Harrington, Jeffrey Livingstone, Braden Rosenberg, and Alan Walloch.

Respectfully submitted, 
William Batchelor, Chair

Download your copy of the Annual Report

Franklin Annual Report 2019: Conservation Commission
Franklin Annual Report 2019: Conservation Commission

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