One of the features of Pratt’s Brook Park in Yarmouth are the many water crossings. The town is considering an updated management plan for the park. Royal River Conservation Trust

YARMOUTH — Two years after the Parks and Lands Committee first presented an updated draft management plan for Pratt’s Brook Park, the Town Council is on the verge of adopting the document.

There was still debate at Tuesday’s meeting, however, about whether to allow bicycles in the park and whether there are still too many incompatible and conflicting uses taking place, from hunting to dogs being off leash.

The proposed management plan is scheduled for a vote July 25, although councilors said they may offer amendments or seek changes at that time.

Jay Waterman, chairman of the Parks and Lands Committee, told councilors a new management plan is needed because the current one for the popular park, off North Road, is outdated and doesn’t reflect how recreational activities and user demographics are changing.

Overall, he said, the goal of the plan is to “provide a vision and guidance for staff to manage the day-to-day activities.”

Waterman said during three well-attended public meetings in 2016, the issues most on people’s minds included whether to continue to allow hunting and dogs; adequate trash cans; better signage; better connectivity, and whether bicycling should be added to the list of allowed activities.

Yarmouth Community Services oversees the 220-acre park, which is the town’s largest. It offers more than 6 miles of hiking trails, including several loops “through piney woods and open meadows, with bridges and other crossings over the many tributaries of Pratt’s Brook,” according to the community services website. Stream-side overlooks, blueberry fields and a rocky waterfall are also popular spots for visitors, according to the website.

Several councilors on Tuesday remained on the fence about biking in the park, and there was also some disagreement over who should have the ultimate authority to designate bicycle trails – community services staff, the Parks and Lands Committee, or the Town Council.

Waterman said after all the public input his committee received, members decided to continue to allow hunting because Pratt’s Brook Park is one of the only open spaces available for the sport. He also said the committee decided that dogs could remain off leash, and under voice control, as long as they were leashed within a 100 feet of any trailhead. Waterman said his group also wanted to keep the popular and well-used disc golf course.

The concern about bicycles, he said, is that many of the trails in the park are not designed to support biking and at least one parcel in the park has a deed restriction that doesn’t allow mechanized vehicles.

Councilor Tim Shannon said he would like to see biking allowed. “This plan is necessary because the current plan doesn’t fit with modern uses of our public recreational spaces,” Shannon said. He also called the new management plan “a thoughtful balancing act.”

But Councilor Rob Waeldner said he still has several concerns about safety issues and would not like to see bike trails without specific consent from the council.

Former Councilor James MacLeod said while “there are issues of user-group conflicts that have not really been resolved. I see this as a public safety issue, especially since many of these uses can’t peacefully coexist.”

Councilor Andrew Kittredge said it’s important for the council to take a hard look at the plan because “we’re being asked to put our stamp of approval on it.”

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