Judy Wakefield Staff Writer
The Andover Townsman
---- — Armed with a petition with 92 names, a group of Chandler Road area residents has been quietly fighting against plans to build a small parking lot near a town trail in their neighborhood.
A 60-by-30-foot parking lot for six cars is planned for 194 Chandler Road, at an entrance to Fish Brook Conservation. It’s a popular town-owned trail for local hikers, but parking is difficult. Currently, just two parked cars can fit on an existing pull-off on the shoulder of Chandler Road. Many hikers park further away and walk to the trail.
Barry McQuade, whose property abuts the proposed new lot, said neighborhood concerns can be summed up in one word – safety.
“Safety is what we are worried about,” McQuade said. “I could care less about abutting, I’m just worried about what this parking lot will bring at night.”
McQuade said last August’s incident where an out-of-town couple allegedly high on drugs hooked up at another town reservation (Serio’s Grove) in the middle of the night is worrisome to the neighborhood. After an early morning 911 call was made to police by a woman whose boyfriend had bit her, police found the man naked and covered in feces. The couple was arrested at 5:15 a.m. that day and faced numerous charges, including heroin and LSD possession.
Conservation Director Bob Douglas said bringing up the Serio’s Grove incident was “unfair.”
“They lifted the gate, drove a car under,” Douglas said. “We have fixed that gate so you can’t lift it.”
His focus is the parking lot on Chandler Road. A permit to build the parking lot has been approved by the town’s seven-member Conversation Commission. Trees will soon be cleared and fill delivered for the small, new lot. Douglas hopes to have the lot finished in mid-winter, he said.
“We plan to appeal,” said McQuade, whose group has a lawyer.
There have been months of Conservation Commission meetings with concerned neighbors as the town fulfills a management plan to build the parking lot.
Douglas said the town owns the 58 acres of land, known as the John and Marie Boloian Reservation. The parking lot land is part of that reservation.
A management plan filed in 1991 requires a parking lot. Douglas said selectmen have mandated that trail signs and parking be improved at trail sites. He’s following those mandates and that’s how this issue emerged. Local hikers also want better accessibilty to town trails.
“This piece of conservation land is owned by all the residents of Andover and should be enjoyed by any resident...not just abutters....better access is needed as clearly there is a desire to access the public land,” Keith Saxon of Andover, a hiker and volunteer Conservation Overseer wrote about the issue in a letter to the Conservation Commission dated Sept. 10.
As for the neighborhood’s safety concerns, Douglas said the parking lot will be clearly visible from Chandler Road. (Serio’s Grove is not clearly visible from the road. Typically, canoeists are the ones who access that area, Douglas said.)
There will be no trash barrel. The town’s conservation overseers will maintain the parking lot.
The Andover Police Department presented a safety assessment to the Conservation Commission in August 2011. Safety Officer Chuck Edgerly reported on incidents in the area over a three-year period as a way to address the neighborhood safety concerns.
Five calls were “of interest,” Edgerly wrote - a loose dog, a non-injury car crash due to weather, a hunter complaint, assisting the Fire Department with a bonfire and a deer hit by a car.
“Our first choice would be parallel shoulder parking; however, the statistics and basic engineering principals show a small off-street lot would work provided the grade and visibility issues are addressed,” he wrote.
Those two issues have been addressed, said Douglas, emphasizing that the new lot will be clearly visible from the street.
The parking lot will not cost taxpayers any money as volunteers, most likely Eagle Scouts, will build it, Douglas said.
“It’s a nice area and nice to enjoy. Parking is not good and this lot will allow more residents to enjoy it,” Douglas said.