Letter to the Editor:  Town Should Improve Access to Trails without Using Eminent Domain

~Submitted by Walter St. Onge

Article 10 of the Special Town Meeting has generated passionate feelings on both sides. Reasonable persons can fairly support or oppose the article despite many legitimate questions including the status of necessary approvals, sources of funding, the net environmental impact and the scope of the project. (Is a tunnel under Concord Road really needed?)

I am opposed to this article and will be voting no. I will do so because I do not believe this project merits the use of eminent domain to acquire property interests of some of our neighbors and businesses.

Eminent domain is a powerful tool. It should be used sparingly and only as a last resort, especially when taking private, residential property. And in that case, it should only be used in the most significant or necessary circumstances, such as matters of public safety or the ability to deliver essential governmental services.

This project does not meet that standard. It is a “quality of life” issue for all of us. While many may enjoy the benefits, its burdens will fall on only a few. This is unfair to the abutters who are our neighbors and friends. Many of them oppose it. They deserve our support.

Some in favor of Article 10 have cited the accessibility benefits that a new paved trail will provide – and they are correct about that. To address this important matter, I would like the Town to develop a plan to begin to improve our existing trails, paths, sidewalks and playing fields to make them more accessible to all. Of course, not every trail or path or field will be suitable for the improvements needed, but certainly portions of many of them could be improved to provide better access and enjoyment for everyone across Bedford.

I urge the Select Board to establish an ad hoc committee to inventory all Town trails, playing fields and sidewalks and to report to the Select Board and a subsequent Town Meeting with recommendations for what could and should be done. I would be happy to participate in that effort.

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The opinions expressed in Letters to the Editor are those of the writer, not The Bedford Citizen.

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