More than a decade of work, dialogue – at times contentious – and negotiations comes to an 'official' conclusion on Oct. 22, when in a small parking lot off Mill Street officials from Belmont and along with residents and volunteers will officially dedicate nearly 100 acres of open space known as .
At 10 a.m. on that Saturday at 251 Mill St. across from the town's , a ribbon opening the land will be cut "with a pair of really big sissors," promises Ellen Cushman, chairwoman of the , the group which laid the ground work for dozens of paths, cleared openings and forested land.
The protected conservation land of meadows, historic stone walls, hardwood forests, wooded canopies and protected wetland will allow people to hike, walk and ride bikes on miles of public access trails or just come to view the vistas among wild flowers and native plants.
Lone Tree Hill will be connected to the 1,000 acres of the Western Greenway allowing bikers and hikers to spend hours without coming across industrial areas.
But for some residents, the dedication is hardly breaking news as a small but growing number have been exploring the land for several years. Cushman said that people are now asking to be married in the large meadow.
According to Cushman, the opening is more an opportunity to promote the addition of the conservation land to the greater population.
"It's advertising that, "Hey, we're here, everyone!" said Cushman.
"Some people may be thinking that it has been moving at a slow pace," said Cushman, noting that the town began discussion with McLean Hospital in 1996 on development on the hospital site and preserving open space for the town.
In addition, there were a number of groups involved with the process – including the town, McLean Hospital, The Trustees of Reservation which held the conservation restriction and various private organizations and town groups – that brought to the table a myriad of agendas and demands.
"But the end goal for our group was to figure make how to make it assessable but leave it as natural and conserve as we can and I believe we've found that balance," said Cushman.