An unofficial compromise has been proposed on the issue of closing Ravine Road, a Town Council dilemma that centers on the long-standing conflict of farming and urbanization in Storrs, those concerned said.
“There’s a solution and we’re working on it,” said Mayor Paul Shapiro. “There’s got to be a way for the woman who farms to use the property the way it was intended and also do something the neighbors find agreeable.”
Karen Green, whose farm has resided on Ravine Road for six generations, first brought concerns over traffic and farming to the town in 2011 when GPS apps began designating the road as a cut-through to the university.
The road, which is about 75 percent unpaved, connects Route 32 or Stafford Road to North Eagleville Road. It’s been closed since a one-vehicle accident last March.
The debate was split between complete discontinuation, approximated to cost $10,000, or reopening of the road, proposed to cost $110,000, according to town documents.
At a site visit by the Town Council on Saturday, Feb. 6, town officials described a way to do just that.
According to Ravine Road residents who were at the site visit, the solution would be a gate by the Green’s Spring Brook Farm, closing off the road when the farmers need to move machinery, hay or farm animals across the road.
The solution involves “keeping the gates, leaving them open so pedestrians and bikers can pass and closing the gates when she needs to for farming visits,” said Lynn Stoddard, resident of Ravine Road, co-owner of The Adventure Park and Director of the Institute for Sustainable Energy at Eastern Connecticut State University.
This solution should keep farm operations safe from increased public use of the road, a primary concern for Green and her supporters, such as Stacey Stearns of Mountain Dairy Farm.
Stearns knows, from personal experience, the tribulations of increased population around working farms. Heralded as her farm’s “security service” by her family, Stearns often finds people walking around on her farm, taking photos or exploring.
Safety is huge, she said, and two safety conflicts are cars and trespassing.
“Ninety to 95 percent of people are good people, but it’s just these 10 percent that are causing problems for the agricultural community,” she said.
Safety and supporting farms is part of a landowner’s responsibility, Stearns said, and she sees the issue of Ravine Road as one of “protecting the land.”
The town and Ravine Road residents hope the solution can satisfy most people concerned.
“It’s a great solution, one which we helped suggest,” Stoddard said.
Both Green and the town would have a key to the gate, which would be closed “only during times they need it,” said Keith Conrad, a math professor at UConn and resident of Ravine Road.
Stearns, of Mountain Dairy Farm, remains unconvinced, however.
“Not knowing if a road was going to be open or closed would open a whole new can of worms,” she said.
Green was present at the site visit with her two sons, Olin and Quinn, and didn’t “speak up” in protest, Conrad said. Green could not be reached for comment.
The site visit came on the heels of a Jan. 25 Town Council meeting in which 43 people engaged in public comment focused on the future of Ravine Road, breaking a town record.
Stoddard, who was present at the meeting and site visit, said she appreciates the town’s work and knows “this isn’t easy.”
Residents expect to hear a more official conclusion at the Feb. 22 Town Council meeting.