Falmouth survey will help chart course on open space

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FALMOUTH — The town is conducting a survey to learn how open land is used and how residents feel about what’s been done to help guide future decisions.

The survey, which is available online and on paper, will be available through Nov. 5, according to Theo Holtwijk, director of long-range planning and economic development.

The survey results will help update the Greening of Falmouth plan, Holtwijk said this week. He said the town’s plan is more than 10 years old “and a lot of work has happened on the open space front since then.”

He said the goal behind updating the plan is to “take stock of our accomplishments and chart the course for the next decade.”

“There’s significant value in having a document like this,” Holtwijk added. “What we want is to protect what’s worthwhile, while ensuring it’s accessible and managed well.”

The Long Range Planning Advisory Committee, which is overseeing the update to the Greening of Falmouth plan, wants to know “how open space is used, how often and how people feel about what’s been done.”

The committee also wants to know whether residents believe the town should devote time and resources to acquiring more open space and what goals or ideals should guide future actions, Holtwijk said.

“Our accomplishments (since 2006) have been pretty significant,” he said, “but we want to know, does the public concur and where should our emphasis be” going forward.

“We’ve acquired a lot of land already,” Holtwijk said, so “maybe (residents) want us to focus more on how best to manage that land. That’s what the survey is for.”

In addition, with this effort, Holtwijk said the committee and the town hope to better inform people about what open space is available and let people know how those lands can be used.

“We know that what people value the most about Falmouth are the schools, but they also value the protected open space and the rural feel that gives to the town,” he said.

The vision for the Greening of Falmouth plan reflects those values and says in part, “Falmouth will continue to be recognized as a place defined by its rural character and open space resources.”

The original plan, completed in 2006, also envisions “people in all parts of Falmouth, in both established neighborhoods and newer subdivisions will have convenient access to open space.”

The Greening of Falmouth plan also made a commitment to diversity in open space acquisition, a value Holtwijk said the Long Range Planning Advisory Committee continues to share.

He said the ultimate goal is to bring the updated Greening of Falmouth plan to the Town Council sometime next spring.

The original plan stated access to open space would be “provided to the ocean, Highland Lake, and our major rivers and streams for boating, fishing, hiking and sightseeing.”

And it also made a commitment to ensure “the park system will be maintained as a significant component of the open space system.”

“We’re trying to get a sense of how the community feels about open space,” Holtwijk said. “The committee will then use that feedback to help shape our action plan going forward.”

Kate Irish Collins can be reached at 710-2336 or kcollins@theforecaster.net. Follow Kate on Twitter: @KIrishCollins.

An overview of where Falmouth’s open space is located. The town is conducting a survey now to determine its future course in terms of open space aquisition and use.