HOPKINTON— On Tuesday evening, the Hopkinton Conservation Commission (HCC) discussed its mapping project of area trails that will soon be available on the town web site.
The trails are part of Hopkinton’s Land Trust, a municipal land trust whose mission is to “protect the Town of Hopkinton’s rural character and natural heritage,” according to www.hltri.org .
“We hired the Southern Rhode Island Conservation District (staff) to help us with the mapping. We purchased a GPS unit that we’re sharing with them so that we could continue to update maps over time,” said HCC Chairman Harvey Buford.
“We’re going to GPS a lot of trails, which is a lot of miles in the woods,” he said.
In particular, Buford showed newly minted maps of walking and hiking trails in Grills Wildlife Sanctuary in Hopkinton and Grills Preserve in Westerly.
“We’re trying to map all the properties and this is the one that was the most difficult,” said Buford.
The updated maps will be available on www.hopkintonri.org  and www.exploreri.org .
“We’ll also have a web page called Hopkinton Outdoors, which will have all the trails,” said Buford.
The mapping project began partly as an outgrowth of the HCC’s goal to bring more visitors into Hopkinton in order to stimulate spending at local businesses.
“We were trying to think of what we could do to increase economic activity while promoting the things that we care about. We came up with the idea of more people coming here to camp and hike and kayak. If we can promote outdoor activity, it will bring in some money to restaurants and other shops,” said Buford.
Creating a template for the maps is one of the project’s major challenges, Buford added, because maps of area trails come from a variety of sources, which have different types of graphics and information.
“We got Nature Conservancy, Audubon, Boy Scouts, Department of Environmental Management (DEM) and Land Trust maps,” he said.
“It would be great to have the maps be consistent because the maps are all over the place with what they have or don’t have on them. Consistency is important. We’ve got a lot of work ahead of us,” he added.
In other business, the HCC is watching bill H5703/S0544, known as the “slopes bill,” which passed the state senate and has moved to Gov. Lincoln Chafee’s desk.
“We’re waiting to see what the governor does. We’ll wait a few more days, in case he vetoes it,” said Buford.
The bill would include steeply sloped land in the calculation of a buildable lot, which would allow developers to increase the number of lots in a given area.
If the bill passes, Buford said the HCC is considering the idea of using soil types as a new limiting factor in zoning and construction.
“There are 111 types of soil and six of those occur at fifteen percent or higher grade slopes, which are considered unsuitable for community development,” he said.
“I’m suggesting that we can look at ways that towns can get around the steep slope by going to soil types. I don’t know if that will fly or not because it may be that the state says you can’t use certain criteria,” he said.
If towns were to use this method, they would need a soil analysis map, Buford added.