Conservation Commission keeps eyes on East Mountain Road property

City and state inspectors gain access to East Mountain Road property in November, 2019. (THE WESTFIELD NEWS SUBMITTED PHOTO))

WESTFIELD – The Conservation Commission met remotely on April 14 to continue its oversight of wetlands in Westfield. Among the topics was the ongoing restoration plan for the property on 1223 East Mountain Road owned by Mark and Chris Dupuis, which had received a cease and desist order after clearing resource land without a permit.
Conservation Coordinator Meredith Borenstein said the restoration work is continuing on the site, and planting will begin on Monday, according to a communication from Mark Dupuis.
Borenstein said she had also been going back and forth with GZA GeoEnvironmental, which is conducting the restoration, because some native species were not available locally and more trees had been added instead.
Borenstein said the next step for the Dupuis’ is a site plan review with the Planning Board, which has not yet been scheduled. She said she is also still working with Natural Heritage about their concerns at the site which contains endangered species.
“My main concern is following up with the Planning Board and getting the site review done. They’re still not in compliance with city ordinances, and are working it out with Natural Heritage,” Borenstein said.
Several members of the commission expressed concern about the Dupuis’ plan to put up chains in addition to fences to prevent trespassing and crossing of Barry Brook on a popular ATV trail.
Commissioner Alex Fagnand said he was concerned about kids getting hurt on the chains. Borenstein said she would share the concern, but it wasn’t really under the commission’s jurisdiction.
Commissioner James Murphy suggested that the chains be threaded through four-inch drainage pipe, which is highly visible, and might avoid injury.
“The memo from GZA specifically said the Westfield Conservation Commission approved the gates and the chain. I totally agree with Alex, we stepped into a liability issue I want no part of. At the very least, GZA should correct that statement,” said Commissioner Thomas Sharp.
Sharp also questioned the approval to seed the land which the Dupuis’ intend to farm with a cover crop. Although not in the buffer zone or wetlands area, Sharp asked whether the area bleeds into the resource area. He also objected to the approval of the plan without a vote by the entire commission.
Borenstein said that Natural Heritage approved the plan, with Commissioner David Doe adding that it was a recommendation that Natural Heritage thought was a good idea to keep vehicles away from the brook.
Fagnand said he is not in favor of pushing the limits of the commission’s jurisdiction. “They have paid dearly for what they did, with consultants, and a lawyer. Onlookers should realize this is not a cheaper way,” he said, adding that if the Dupuis want to put in a hemp field, they will keep the property better than if they are blocked completely.
“They have been financially strapped quite a bit, set back in their plans quite a bit. We need to continue with our jurisdiction,” Fagnand added.
Doe suggested that Borenstein send a letter to the Dupuis’ asking them to enhance the safety of the crossing. “At least it’s going to keep four-wheelers from crossing that brook. Let’s have a recommendation to have GZA add safety features to the chains,” he said.

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