Over 100 people turned out for the Pheeny’s Island public hearing Monday night, many of them voicing their strong opinions against the proposed adventure park.
Currently the island is for sale by a private owner.
“Be aware, this is a private land owner, as we all potentially are,” said Conservation Commission member Julian Kadish. “And there are a lot of rules about what people can’t do with their land, but in general we’re allowed freedom beyond that to do what we want with the land. So you have to look at both sides of this issue.”
Chris Yarworth of Yarworth Engineering presented the project, describing it as an “environmentally sensitive course.” The goal is to use the trees for rope bridges, ziplines and other challenges.
The commercial aspects are to be run from Mansfield, across the street from Comcast Center. John boats will ferry patrons to a dock on the west side of the island where they will not infringe on the wetlands. Most of the action will take place on that side as well, so to comply with the Wetlands Protection Act and shelter the activity from residents to the east of the island.
Norton resident Lee Parham, who lives about 200 yards from the island, began a petition opposing the park and collected about 150 signatures so far. He cited concerns about the potential buyer,
“He drove it into foreclosure in less than 10 years,” Parham said.
The view and noise from patrons and the propane generator were other issues brought up during the hearing. Though Leavitt did not specify how many people would be on the island at one time, he said that 250 harnesses would be available.
"Sound carries on water," said Carol Zwicker. "We can hear the fisherman talking."
Yarworth said shrubbery on the east side of the island should block some of the noise and view of the course. He also noted that a quiet generator will likely be purchased and stored in a building.
“The purpose of this thing is its an immersion in nature, the people who are doing this course,” Leavitt said. “The whole idea is to bring them to a beautiful place where you’re not seeing any houses and you’re in nature. Just as Mr. Parham here doesn’t want to see us, we don’t want to look up and see any civilization. We want it to be green, so it works both ways.”
Perhaps the biggest concern expressed at the meeting was the environmental impact the park would have on the island and reservoir itself. While professional wetland scientist Scott Goddard saw no eagle nests on the island, residents claim they have seen one land in the trees on occasion.
“I’ve lived there for 26 and a half years and I have looked at that island every day with love and admiration,” said Brandt Henderson. “In Norton, Massachusetts I saw my first bald eagle and it will never land there again.
“Do we want to endanger this beautiful little piece of nature for an amusement park? I suggest, ladies and gentlemen, we do not.”
Selectman Robert Kimball noted that there are still quite a few measures to take before this proposal becomes more of a reality. It will have to go before Mansfield, the Norton Planning Board and Board of Health.
"We want that reservoir to be used for something," he said. "We're not saying you have to endorse the project. All we ask you to do is listen to what the project is all about and make your decision based on what you think is right."
Kimball also noted that if residents want to protect the island, the town must consider buying it. The most recent price is listed at $149,900.
As per usual, the Conservation Commission began their meeting in . However, the room could not accommodate all the people in attendance, so the meeting was moved to . While the next Conservation Commission meeting must begin in Town Hall, the hearing will resume once again at the library March 12 at a time to be announced.