Gifts that keep giving

Frances Wilkinson is an unsung Swampscott hero who is making it possible for walkers to enjoy a wealthy and exclusive corner of town.

Wilkinson in 2011 conveyed a conservation restriction to the town for Blythswood, the Littles Point Road estate that conjures up visions of “The Great Gatsby.” The restriction includes a 10-foot-wide path running along one of the estate boundaries.

Town officials are drawing up plans to maintain the path and ensure its use does not infringe on the privacy of Littles Point residents. The plans are part of a grander town vision for providing access to local property once enjoyed by the very wealthiest locals.

Blythswood public access will be limited but use plans have already been drafted for the Ewing Woods and the King Forest properties. Like Blythswood, the names conjure up a grand and bygone era when big estates covered beachfront land in Swampscott and Lynn and armies of groundskeepers tended sprawling lawns and big gardens hemmed in by ornamental hedges.

Private estates can still be found in Swampscott and surrounding towns but, thanks to the generosity of landowners like Wilkinson, the big properties have transitioned into landholdings now wholly or partly available for public use.

To the town’s credit, Swampscott officials understand the responsibility involved in ensuring formerly private land is used responsibly once it falls into the public domain. The Blythswood easement will include a maintenance plan as well as plans for signs, litter control and opportunities for volunteers to help maintain the easement path.

Town Director of Community Development Peter Kane’s goal is prepare maintenance plans for every park and playground in Swampscott. His commitment to providing recreational opportunities for town residents matches the generosity displayed by Wilkinson and town residents involved in planning future use of the Ewing and King properties.

Only proper planning and a commitment to future generations can ensure Swampscott has sufficient open space for recreation use or just quiet enjoyment. Planning upkeep costs associated with parks and playgrounds is an annual exercise the Board of Selectmen, Town Meeting and the Finance Committee are well-versed in discussing and mapping out.

But the job of looking ahead and even over the horizon to calculate land use needs requires skills demonstrated by Kane and the dedication displayed by volunteer residents interested in making suggestions for how private property can be converted into public use when the opportunity arises.

 There will be ample opportunities for residents to help map out conservation and recreation plans with public input sought on the Blythswood easement through Sept. 1. Town officials also want residents involved in forming a “friends” group to oversee conservation land with established organizations in Lynn and Marblehead providing examples for forming a local group.

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