Officials to Weigh What’s Next for Bedford Town Common Improvements

April 1, 2024
Municipal staff members will consider how to respond to Annual Town Meeting’s rejection of a proposal to study and design improvements to the Town Common. Photo: JMcCT

Municipal staff members will consider how to respond to Annual Town Meeting’s rejection last week of a $350,000 proposal to study and design improvements to the Town Common.

“We are going to regroup in the coming weeks to determine next steps,” said Jeanette Rebecchi, transportation program manager with the Department of Public Works, who spearheaded the idea for betterments. “We’re not sure what the next steps are. We’ve got to get some input from the Select Board.” 

She added, “I don’t think we are going to pursue a large reimagining of the Town Common.” 

The comment that triggered the divided Town Meeting outcome was registered by Alethea Yates, a former Bedford Historical Society president and a frequent Memorial Day narrator at the Common’s World War I monument facing The Great Road.

“I can’t see any need for that,” Yates said of the proposal for redesign. “It’s a very nice common with open space, and trees to hang Christmas lights, and fencing.” Town officials did not respond with details of possible improvements.

The proposal, the last in a list of community preservation projects, lost by fewer than 20 votes among almost 500 cast.

“I have already been approached by numerous residents asking if this project will be re-presented in more detail at an upcoming Town Meeting,” said Assistant Town Manager Amy Fidalgo, who is the staff liaison to the Community Preservation Committee. “I will likely share this feedback with the membership, and discuss next steps if they would like to see this on a special town meeting warrant.” 

 “Staff members have been talking about all of our public areas to get them ready for the town’s 300th anniversary,” Rebecchi said. “We assume the common will host some celebration.” Although the 300th anniversary is Sept. 23, 2029, plans call for commemorative activities to begin a year earlier. 

“This is a once-in-a-generation opportunity to think about what we want the Common to look like,” said Rebecchi. “At a minimum, some basic maintenance should be performed prior to the 300th

“The project has a lot of different facets,” including landscaping, monuments, and circulation, Rebecchi said. For example, there’s no crosswalk between Old Town Hall and the Common, but many pedestrians assume there is. The approach is intended to be “holistic about how the Common fits into its environment,” she explained. 

One priority, Rebecchi said, is replacement of the walkways that traverse the Common, which were installed in the 1990s and fall short of Americans with Disabilities Act width standards. The sidewalks in spots are heaving and cracking, she said; they were installed by Bomanite, a company that specializes in decorated imprinted concrete. The picnic table area should be more accessible, she added. 

“Now is the time to do something,” Rebecchi said, acknowledging that perhaps money from annual hardscape improvements would suffice.

Rebecchi said she was inspired by the renovation of the Needham common, which features streets on three sides and Town Hall in the rear. 

“Because the Town Common is such a public space, we built into the budget a workshopping process,” Rebecchi said, so officials can get input from residents on “what they want Town Common to look like.”

That’s a point resident Nick Howard raised at Town Meeting. “Get a sense of the town before spending a large amount of money on a study,” he said. “If the town doesn’t want to build it, it’s money down the drain.”

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Dave Draper
April 2, 2024 8:14 am

$350,000 is a lot of money for a study and design. This is especially true when the basic layout and character of the common is not going to be changed. I am all in favor of cleaning up and modernizing the common however $350,000 to figure out what to do is excessive.

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