SOUTHBOROUGH, Mass. — Without getting two heavily into the details, a group of planners from Northborough, Southborough, Westborough and Marlborough met at the Southborough Senior Center on Monday night to begin discussing tentative plans to link walking trails among the four towns.
Many local CEOs mention open space and quality of life as attributes that would attract them to the 'boroughs area, said Arthur Bergeron, chairman of the Board of Directors of the Marlborough Economic Development Corp.
"What we were expecting to hear was about reduced taxes and better schools," Bergeron said. "Places for people to walk and bike seem to be the overarching issue."
The Metropolitan Area Planning Council has awarded the four towns a $15,000 grant that will go toward a study of a potential partnership of the towns and private land trusts in this effort. There are no guarantees that the project would move forward after the study, Bergeron said.
However, such a project could help the ‘boroughs area compete with well-known high-tech regions, such as Silicon Valley or the Research Triangle, for jobs.
"These trails that we had always thought we were just developing for our own citizens could also be attractive to those we want to come here and help develop our communities," Bergeron said.
The project would not involve a large acquisition of land by the towns, he said. Instead, it would be built on trails already in place.
Planners would need to study what has been done already on trails before defining the scope of the feasibility study, Westborough Town Planner Jim Robbins said. "We don't want to be a study looking for a mission," he said. "If this group is going to stay alive, it's going to be defined by the work of others."
Northborough Town Planner Kathy Joubert wondered about the best way to get private businesses to buy into the project. "How do we physically get those employees out to those networks?" she asked. Joubert also suggested linking the trails to all area office parks.
The proposed trail network should expand to include Framingham and Sudbury, said Don Burn, one of the driving forces behind the "Charm Bracelet" trail system in Westborough.
"As far as an open space piece," he said, "I always felt it should be as big a piece as we can get so there's more impact."
Other planners, however, said they should focus on the 'boroughs first.
"I’d love to see this grow," Robbins said. "If we can get these four done, the next steps will tell us where to go next."