A Hamilton neighborhood is banding together in attempt to halt the sale of town-owned land that they say provides crucial public access to Pleasant Pond.
The process to sell the .1-acre parcel, sometimes known as “The Wall,” on Lake Drive was approved by voters at Town Meeting in 2006 in a vote that, in all, gave permission to sell 15 small town parcels. But the process to start selling the Lake Drive property did not begin until earlier this year.
The property is used by neighbors to launch rowboats, canoes and kayaks and gives them a place for their dog to take a dip in the summer. In the winter, it is used as a way for ice fishermen and ice skaters to get to the 43-acre pond.
“This is heavily used for every use imaginable,” said Sue Kassirer, a Lake Drive resident during a walk of the area on Monday afternoon.
But neighbors say that the land is also a key link between the Pleasant Street neighborhood in Wenham and downtown Hamilton. Residents of streets such as Longfellow Road and South Street in Wenham use trails that connect to Lake Drive to cut to downtown Hamilton and other destinations, such as .
It is a three to five minute walk from Lake Drive in Hamilton to in Wenham, while it is 2.5 miles to drive around.
The property also forms an important link in a running and walking loop that includes Arbor, Cherry Highland and Monument streets.
“This through-way means as much to Wenham as it means to Hamilton,” said Kassirer, who has helped rally neighbors in recent days and presented a petition with 70 signatures to Hamilton Selectmen at on Monday night.
Without it, walkers on the path around the lake would have to trespass to get from Pleasant Pond Beach to Lake Drive, Kassirer said.
Several Lake Drive neighbor showed up at the Hamilton Board of Selectmen meeting on Monday night, hoping to show the board how important the land is.
Town Manager Michael Lombardo and board Chairman Jennifer Scuteri said they could not stop the bidding process before the April 6 deadline.
“We can always turn any bid,” Scuteri said.
A minimum bid of $20,000 is required and as of Monday afternoon no bids had been received, according to Lombardo.
In an interview, Lombardo said the land is not buildable, but if added to a neighboring property may allow the needed room to add a deck, for example.
Selectman Marc Johnson told neighbors that with several town-owned slivers of land, the idea was that interested neighbors would step forward to buy the land.
“We don’t want the property,” said Matthew Winston, who lives next door to the property. “We want what they want,” referring to the desire to have the town continue to own it.
On Lake Drive, neighbors told selectmen that they were advised by an attorney not to form a neighborhood association or similar group to buy the property.
Instead, Scuteri said they plan to put an article on the Town Meeting warrant in May asking voters whether they want the town to hold on to the land. It would require a two-third vote.
Jeff Stinson, a selectman, said the Board of Selectmen could designate the property as a public park so that it could not be sold.
Years ago, the area was somewhere that teenagers often gathered to drink and was littered with trash. But in recent years it has been kept clean, helped by a trash barrel that was placed there a few years ago that is often emptied by the .
Kassirer suggested the town consider resetting the stone stairs and repairing the wall on the property and naming it “Idlewood Park,” a name that area had at certain points in the past when it was a vacation getaway.
“I think this is going to bring a lot of exposure to this parcel,” Scuteri said.