Friday, December 4, 2020

Draft of Windham Open Space Master Plan available for comment

By Elizabeth Richards

A draft of the Windham Open Space Master Plan has been completed, and is available on for public comment through Dec. 4.

 A series of videos that summarize the plan and three specific policy areas are now available on the website along with the draft plan.  

The plan’s Executive Summary says, “Windham is fortunate to have acquired over time, a large network of open space properties that have become significant assets to the community. This Open Space Master Plan highlights the importance of these assets to the community for both the recreational and environmental benefits, while also serving as a guide for the management and enhancement of the open space network in Windham.”

Windham Planning Director Amanda L. Lessard 
reviews open space maps for the town in
conjunction with the release to the public of a 
new draft Open Space Plan. The initiative
identifies four activity centers and two
additional rural character preservation zones
for Windham, focusing on the conservation
of rural character and rural functions going forward.
According to Windham Planning Director Amanda L. Lessard, part of the motivation for the Open Space Master Plan was concern about preserving Windham’s rural places. 

“There was a lot of concern about development happening in rural areas…the plan focuses a bit on these rural protection areas and what the town should be doing in those areas,” she said.

In June, Lessard discussed the specific importance of rural areas to Windham in general during an interview with The Windham Eagle newspaper.

“Rural character is central to Windham’s identity as a community. Being proactive about open space in the face of strong residential growth pressures will help preserve community character and ensure that Windham’s most important open spaces will remain available for future Windham residents,” she said.

Thinking about how to best manage and develop Windham’s current open spaces will add value for today’s residents, Lessard said.

The draft plan identifies four activity centers and two additional rural character preservations zones, where the focus is on conservation of rural character and rural functions.

It outlines current open spaces that exist in the town, discusses challenges and constraints around these spaces, and identifies priorities and opportunities for these spaces.  Three main policy recommendations were made including to acquire new properties and develop new facilities; to improve existing properties and open space assets; and to update policy and practice. In the draft plan, each recommendation is followed by specific goals.

COVID considerations have made people more eager to identify recreational areas.

“We’ve seen an uptick in activity,” Lessard said.

The process of developing an open space plan has made people more aware of what open space already exists in town, Lessard said. 

Many people have asked questions about where in the area they can participate in specific activities, not realizing those activities are already available right in Windham, she said. 

“This is a good opportunity to raise awareness of what is out there,” Lessard said.

One of the recommendations centers around signage and wayfinding, she added.

Lessard said that the plan will be an easily accessible source of information about anything related to open space, whether for conservation or active recreation.

Looking at open space planning now will provide Windham with an opportunity to assess where the town is currently, where the community would like to go and how it might eventually get there, Lessard said.

She said that this type of planning assists in the protection of important open space and will be used to encourage compatible growth in the future by managing aspects of growth and development in ways that preserve, protect, and enhance the environment, along with exposing potential problems and conflicts while there is still time to prevent them from arising in the future.

The deadline of Dec. 4 was given to allow the committee time to incorporate suggestions into the final version of the plan, Lessard said. 

“We still want to hear from the public after that, but we’re trying to work towards a date where we can have a final draft to present to the council,” she said.

 Comments can be posted directly on the website. <

No comments:

Post a Comment

Your Comments Help Improve Your Community.