Advocates for combining the East Boston Camps with the nearby Stepinski parcel into a new property that would be called the Westford Woods came before the Conservation Commission last week, seeking a recommendation on the Town Meeting warrant but finding that more discussion will be needed.
Last year, several residents attempted the name change at Town Meeting, but discovered that the Conservation Commission could override even a Town Meeting vote on changing the name of the property, which they had indicated that they would if needed.
Former Selectman and lifelong Westford resident Dina Healey Coffin introduced the measure to the board this year after hearing town counsel’s advice that a proposed bylaw change could circumvent the impasse that occurred last year.
Coffin, who served on the several committees related to the camps and other Master Plan committees in town, told the board that the goal of the warrant article was to help residents know they owned the camps, help make the camps a more inclusive place and end any lingering hostility among longtime residents who once saw the property as an “off limits” place, used only by children from East Boston.
However, members of the board were unsure of those intentions given recent statements to the press given by members of the group advocating for the warrant article, and also asked why further action was not made to reach out to the Friends of the East Boston Camps.
East Boston Camps caretaker George Fletcher also interjected into the meeting that claim stating that people in town did not know what the East Boston Camps were was incredulous, stating that several hundred people walk the camps each weekend, more during festival weekends, and that residents in town not knowing about other parts of town is common place.
“The town of Westford is a town of history. We don’t go around and say ‘let’s change the Roudenbush,’ ‘let’s change change the name of Forge Village,’ ‘let’s change Graniteville,” he said. “Those names don’t mean anything to most people in town.”
However, Conservation Commission member Jim Gozzo stated that the purchase of the land in the 1990s reflected a new chapter in the land’s history.
Eventually, the board came to a general consensus that they could support a name change as long as the portion of the property where the camp buildings themselves were located continued to be described as the East Boston Camps
Westford Woods supporter Robin Connell disagreed, comparing retaining the name of the East Boston Camps in any way would be comparable to Whole Foods retaining the name of Market Basket once they move into Westford Valley Marketplace in 2016.
However, Conservation Commission member Marilyn Frank was adamant in particular that a compromise would be needed on the issue for support from her, urging the advocates of the issue to also further educate the public on the parcel’s history.
“Everything has just gone into buildings (in town), I don’t mind what I have, but I miss what I have,” said Frank. “The names carry weight for me. I don’t care that (East Boston children) were our tenant, they were a blessing.”
The board continued the hearing to their next meeting on whether or not to recommend the article to voters at Town Meeting, requesting that the supporters of the warrant article return with amended language to compromise between keeping the East Boston Camps name for the camp buildings themselves