Is the Columbia Greenway Rail Trail a park?

WESTFIELD – The Legislative and Ordinance subcommittee took on the discussion of how to categorize the Columbia Greenway Rail Trail at its meeting Feb. 19.
Assistant City Solicitor Shanna Reed said right now the Rail Trail is under the control of the City Council, until it is transferred to a department.
Reed said a legal opinion was requested by the council as to whether accepting certain funding for the Rail Trail makes it a park.
“We’re looking at that now,” Reed said. She said it makes more sense to transfer the Rail Trail comprehensively to a department once it is completed.
Onyski said the urgency of the discussion was due to a motion by the Planning Board to amend the zoning ordinance to require a special permit for any marijuana establishment within 500 feet of a park. The ordinance was resubmitted after the 90-day clock on action following a public hearing ran out. New public hearings are scheduled for the March 5 City Council meeting and March 17  Planning Board meeting.
Onyski said a suggestion was made to add the Rail Trail to the ordinance without designating it as a park.
City Engineer Mark Cressotti said the Rail Trail is not really a park, and not really a transportation throughway. “If you put it in one department, it will need special rules,” he said, noting that parks have set hours or close at dark, the Rail Trail doesn’t close.
L&O member James Adams said he believed that rules did exist for the Rail Trail. Cressotti said some rules were drafted, but he didn’t believe they were ever accepted.
Reed said if it were put under Parks & Recreation, there would probably be a whole separate set of rules. “The Rail Trail is not really a park,” she said.
Onyski said the city shouldn’t have to designate it as a park or a road and suggested a separate category of Rail Trail.
“It has to be under someone’s custody,” Cressotti said.
“Eventually, you’ll have to designate somebody. Wait until it’s completed,” Reed said.
The ordinance remained in committee.

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