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EDITORIAL: Let’s Look to Library As Model For Prescott

When the Library was expanded from its original footprint on Main Street, the only way to add to the original building was at the back. This configuration, born of necessity, has worked incredibly well for the Library and for Groton. It takes traffic off Main Street, while keeping the library in the heart of the town’s vital commercial and government district, making access to the Library convenient and safe.

This configuration has worked so well that we should look for similar opportunities to take more traffic off Main Street, making convenient public access for residents. The obvious place where this configuration could be implemented is Prescott School.

Just like the Library, Prescott School could be accessed at ground level at the back, allowing easy access to all floors from a planned central elevator. Like the Library, beautiful views of Broad Meadow swamp and the rail trail from the back of the building are available. Like the Library, parking at the back of Prescott could take traffic pressure off Main Street.

But, unlike the Library, using this back-of-Main Street strategy brings many additional benefits. Perhaps, most interesting, Prescott sits on 3.6 acres of prime land in the center of town. Of this acreage, only about .6 acres is wetland, leaving almost three acres of public land right in the middle of the Center. There is enough land for greatly expanded parking as well as a large open green area that could function as a Town Common. This could be a great place for open-air community events such as Grotonfest.

As we have said editorially, a good municipal parking lot at Prescott would make pedestrian access of services in the Center much easier because it is so centrally located. But if access at the back of Prescott is added, it would be much better because many residents would have access to the center via Broad Meadow Road with minimal need to travel along Main street.

To make such access a reality, a short stretch of road connecting Broad Meadow Road to the back of Prescott School would need to be built. About 100 feet of wetland would have to be crossed to make this roadway possible. Wetland regulations appear to allow such an access roadway. According to public testimony of Conservation Administrator Takashi Tada, regulations allow disturbing up to 5,000 square feet of wetland to install such an access road. With 100 feet of wetland to cross and a road 30 feet wide, this would be 3,000 square feet, well under the minimum.

We think a Community Center/Senior Center at Prescott could rival the Library’s convenience and broad public use. Concentrating the town’s creative, financial and planning resources on the Prescott School building will bring serendipitous effects that will retain and expand community attraction to the Center while still allowing commercial growth to flourish. Instead of spending $7 million on a standalone Senior Center, let’s use our financial resources to create a community gathering place that will serve the town for the next fifty years.

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