An art exhibit borrowed from Concord’s Umbrella Arts Center, surprisingly, has stirred controversy. Scheduled to be installed along the Freeman Rail Trail in May and remain on display until Nov. 30, the installation has been met with some resistance.
Friends member and long-term resident Emily Teller has been the driving force behind the effort to install doorways along the rail trail section in Westford. On April 23rd, she showed WestfordCAT a spot near the intersection of Routes 27 and 225, where two doors are expected to be placed. Another five, including one commissioned by the Friends in partnership with the town of Carlisle, will go elsewhere along the trail.
An experienced local carpenter will anchor the doors into the ground.
The project is called “Go Out Doors 2021.” It plays to those who can imagine stepping through a threshold and to find a new life; or to those who see an unlocked door as opportunity, hope, and promise.
Teller said the Friends of the Bruce Freeman Rail Trail are covering all expenses, including installation, removal of doors, and the artists’ cost of renovating their doors. The installation, she said, will be handled by the Umbrella staff.
But the display’s promise for some brings worry for others. Jeff Bentley of Landmark Road and his wife, Janet, have sent a letter to the select board opposing the displays. Part of their yard abuts the rail trail and they worry about noise, trash, privacy and their safety.
“…the art installations seem intended to encourage people to observe the installations, linger and interact,” they stated in a letter to the select board. “This will likely aggravate existing noise, trash, privacy, property and safety impacts that abutters deal with on a daily basis.”
Residents and users of the trail fell on both sides of the issue, according to a list of comments compiled by the town manager’s office. One commenter at the select board’s meeting, said: “I LOVE this idea! As a former abutter to the trail, I was always a huge fan of it, in addition to my long time love of the arts. The integration of public art along the BFRT just pulls it all together, and makes an even more memorable experience for people on the trail.”
Another pointed to a safety issue regarding a missing post near the planned site of two doors: “In Chelmsford, near Heart Pond at the Lakeside Avenue cross street, there is a missing yellow post. The base is there and someone could easily get hurt if not paying attention….Any plans to put the post back or remove the base?”
Teller and Chris Barrett, chair of the Pedestrian Safety Committee, brought the issue first to the Parks and Recreation Committee on April 26, and next to the select board on April 27. The members of Parks and Recreation voted unanimously to recommend the installation to select board members, and the select board members voted unanimously to allow the doors to adorn the rail trail.
|One meeting attendee asked, “How is it possible for the Select Board to vote on this issue? You still don’t know what the project is. Last night (April 26) at the Parks & Rec meeting, we were shown 2 plans for installation…We still don’t know what you will be voting on. Most of my neighbors and I would appreciate knowing the number and locations of installations before a vote is taken. ‘Considered’ locations is not a disclosure of locations.”
But another said,
|“…I am an abutter who is very supportive of the art project …”|
Editor’s Note: Check below for Emily Teller’s complete statement.
UPDATE: The source of the comments was specified on May 2.