Pave Ship Pond Road?!

Ship Pond Road may be getting a little TLC this summer.

Spurred by the efforts of Robyn Risso, the owner of Valinor Farms on Old Sandwich Road, Public Works Director Jonathan Beder told the Planning Board Monday that he planned on regraveling the stretch of Ship Pond Road that stretches from Long Pond Road to Old Sandwich Road. That section would be regraded regularly, and he would report back eary next year.

Risso has been pushing to have the road paved,  but Beder told the Planning Board that would be a much more complicated operation. Paving the road would require extensive land takings to accommodate drainage for the road. The 20-foot wide road would have to be widened to 50 feet, Beder said.

Both Risso and Beder think the road has become problematic.  “the road is a maintenance issue for us. Winters, especially this one, have been a challenge,” Beder said.  Risso, whose farm is near the intersection of Ship Pond and Old Sandwich Roads, said she’s seen an increase in traffic while “the road has stayed the same. It’s not safe any more,” she said.

Public safety is a big reason people give for paving the road. Ship Pond Road resident Tom Begley argued that, if the road was a challenge for private vehicles, it must be equally so far public safety vehicles as well. In fact, Risso’s quest to pave the road began last summer when she tried, but failed, to get similar action taken on Old Sandwich Road. At the time she was spurred by a rider injured at her farm who had to wait 15 minutes for an ambulance to arrive.

One passionate objection to the idea of paving Old Sandwich Road came from Plymouth resident Samuel Chapin, who serves on the board of the Wildlands Trust and spoke about his organization’s concerns. The trust owns most of the land on either side of the road, he said. “The trust has discussed this petition,” he said, . If takings are necessary they will not be friendly takings.” He added that  paving the road  would be “contrary to conservation interests.”

While the Wildlands Trust is willing to work with the town, the amount if land the town would need to build a paved road in that area is more than the trust is willing to give up.

The possibility of paving the road led others to think about how else it could be improved.  One resident spoke about including room for bikes and pedestrians, saying it is heavily used for recreation.  Planning Board Member Malcolm McGregor also expressed interest in making the road more friendly to human-powered transposition and said paving would help.

Getting a road like Ship Pond paved is not easy.  Under town bylaws, it is considered a “road of special concern,” according to Planning Director Lee Hartmann. Risso had to get 75 percent of abutters to sign a petition supporting the move. Which kicked off  a public process that included, so far,  an assessment by the Director of Public Works, a public hearing before the Planning Board, and a review by the Roads Advisory Committee. The Board of Selectmen have the final, official, say on the matter.

The Planning Board unanimously voted to support giving Beder’s plan a try, but its motion also expressed support for paving and including space for cyclists and pedestrians.

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