Heritage Museums & Gardens is proposing a realignment of several public roads, a move, the organization says, will reduce congestion and improve safety.
The museum wants to obtain the town’s permission to discontinue two sections of roads and create two new sections with better sight lines.
But the public seems to be taking far more interest in a done deal inside the museum grounds: what Heritage president Ellen Spear says will be “an aerial adventure experience” up to 50 feet above the forest floor.
Ms. Spear said yesterday, August 28, that the aerial experience, which will include zip lines, platforms and a variety of physical challenges, is scheduled to go into operation on a four-acre piece of forested Heritage land next Memorial Day Weekend.
She said that Heritage obtained town approval of the aerial project this past April from the Sandwich Historic District Committee.
Ms. Spear further said Heritage officials had reviewed the proposed aerial experience this past spring with Sandwich residents who live near the institution and also in separate presentations to local and regional business groups.
But the aerial project only tipped over into what effectively was full public view at last week’s meeting of the Sandwich Board of Selectmen—not in Ms. Spear’s scheduled presentation, which covered the road realignment, but in statements from residents who spoke during time allotted for public comment.
Don J. Stainbrook of Faunce Mountain Road, which is close to Heritage, suggested that the aerial adventure attraction would bring in a flood of visitors that would overwhelm public roads in the Heritage vicinity.
“What we don’t need is an amusement park,” Mr. Stainbrook said.
The aerial adventure attraction and its potential effect on traffic congestion also loomed large Wednesday, August 27, at another meeting for Heritage neighbors.
Ms. Spear said that the meeting, which was held in Heritage’s Shaker Barn, was set up last week by Heritage after the road realignment was placed on the selectmen’s meeting agenda.
She said Wednesday’s meeting generated worthwhile suggestions, such as a trolley system that could bring in Heritage visitors from a satellite lot elsewhere in town.
On August 28, Ms. Spear said that some estimates that had been circulating about the visitor impact of the aerial experience were highly inflated.
At present, she said, Heritage draws 105,000 visitors a year.
Ms. Spear anticipates that the aerial experience could draw up to an 36 additional vehicles in the morning and another 36 vehicles in the afternoon, with an estimated three people in each vehicle. Reservations will be required.
She further anticipates that the aerial experience would run on a schedule similar to the rest of Heritage: weekends in the spring and fall, and seven days a week in the summer.
Ms. Spear said yesterday, August 28, that the aerial adventure will consist of five different courses. The difficulty would increase from a course about 15 feet above the ground to a course about 50 feet off the ground.
The operation would include two yurts, where people would be outfitted with safety harnesses and given safety instructions and a bottle of water before being turned loose on the courses.
Ms. Spear said Heritage sees the aerial adventure, which will provide participants with information about the environment through which they are moving, as serving an older demographic than the existing Hidden Hollow, a nature area designed for families with children up to 8 years of age.
“This is not an amusement park,” Ms. Spear said of the aerial experience.
While Heritage apparently will have free sailing on its aerial adventure, several hurdles await on its plan to realign public roads.
At present, Grove and Pine streets meet with Shawme and Pocasset roads in a “bow-tie” directly in front of the Heritage visitor entrance.
Ms. Spear said buses are forced, because of the lack of adequate parking, to pull over across from the entrance, forcing children getting off the buses to walk across the public roadway.
So Heritage has proposed abandoning 150 feet of Grove Street and 500 feet of Shawme Road. In the new alignment, on land donated by Heritage, both Grove and Shawme would come into Pocasset Road at a 90-degree angle.
Ms. Spear said Heritage would combine the abandoned road layouts with its own land to create special parking areas for buses and to increase the number of parking spaces from 375 to 500.
The state Legislature has awarded Heritage a $1 million grant toward the road realignment project. Ms. Spear said on August 28 that she could not estimate the overall cost of the road realignment, but she did say no Sandwich property tax money would be used toward the project.
The realignment is scheduled to go before the Sandwich Planning Board and then the board of selectmen before going to Town Meeting for a final decision.
Ms. Spear said that Heritage does not need the road realignment to move forward with the aerial adventure experience, which the organization plans to pursue in any case.