SOUTHBOROUGH, Mass. — The towns of Marlborough, Westborough, Northborough and Southborough will be able to explore the possibility of linking their parks into a regional park system thanks to a grant from the Metropolitan Area Planning Council.
According to its website, the MAPC seeks to promote "smart growth and regional collaboration" among the 101 cities and towns in the metropolitan Boston area.
The $15,000 grant will pay for a feasibility study examining a partnership among the towns and private land trusts. The studies will be carried out jointly by the MAPC and its sister agency, the Central Massachusetts Regional Planning Commission.
The idea is to connect parks and other open space by either using existing trail systems or creating new ones, said Arthur Bergeron, chairman of the Board of Directors for the Marlborough Economic Development Corp.
"Among the ‘boroughs we all have trails, we all have open space, but a number of them are not connected,” Bergeron said. "This is not about trying to get the state to come in and help us buy a billion acres of open space."
The impetus for this project came from a surprising source — local businesses, Bergeron told the Southborough Board of Selectmen on Tuesday.
Preserving open space and encouraging business development can go hand in hand, Bergeron said. In speaking with owners of many local companies, many brought up the topic of walking trails, he said.
"We were amazed," he said. But as business owners explained more, it made sense. "Their biggest challenge is trying to attract and retain talent here," Bergeron said. When competing with Boston-area firms, many local companies have found that employees are attracted to the open space in this area. Many enjoy walking and biking along the existing trails; a few, Bergeron said, even use them to get to work.
Ultimately, Bergeron said the goal would be to market the four ‘borough towns together in a way that could become a model for other regions.
Southborough selectmen were interested in the idea. "I think the preservation of open space is everyone's objective here in Southborough," Chairman John Rooney said, adding that attracting business is another main objective.
Planners expect to complete the feasibility of the project by the end of the year.