Residents eventually learned last night that the cave was damaged, but for most of the meeting they didn’t know whether the cave was still standing.
“Is it (still) there?” Selectman Michael Campbell asked.
Assistant Town Manager Mark Purple said after a morning construction meeting yesterday, the cave was still there. However, a neighbor said he heard a big blast yesterday afternoon.
“I guess what we’re going to have to do is drive up there tomorrow, bright and early,” Selectmen Chairman Jon Fetherston said.
After nearly an hour of debate, resident Rob St. Germain put on his coat to go check.
But as he walked out of the room, Field Study Committee member Mark Juitt took the podium.
“This morning, the front of Devil’s Den was hoe-rammed” by a backhoe with a jackhammer attachment, Juitt said.
He said because officials found additional wetlands during construction, the group changed the plans and chose to demolish the den.
His explanation ended comments last night from aggravated residents who said the town didn’t notify them before deciding to remove the cave and destroy footpaths.
“There seems to be a process here that has gone greatly awry,” said resident Roberta Soolman.
“The town was assured in many different conversations that the Devil’s Den would not be demolished. And then something changed. And it was not made public,” said St. Germain before he left to check on the cave.
Planning Board Chairman Preston Crow also said he remembers the town promising to save the cave.
Fetherston acknowledged that the Bay Circuit Trail was destroyed but said it will be restored when construction is complete.
But Purple said the Field Management Group in November decided to destroy the cave.
The construction company holds weekly meetings on Wednesdays at the high school, open to all residents.
Juitt last night said the group determined that the cave has no archaeological value.
Selectman Steve Mitchell said the cave isn’t listed on the Massachusetts Historical Commission’s list of historical places.
“I came up with quite a few Ashland historical designated sites. Nowhere did I find anything related to Devil’s Den,” Mitchell said.
During a break in the meeting while selectmen had a closed-door talk about an affordable housing development, St. Germain returned from checking on Devil’s Den.
“The cave is still mostly intact,” St. Germain said, describing how a portion of the entrance on the left side had been damaged.
“It is saveable,” he said.
At the end of the meeting Fetherston said that by 10 a.m. today Purple will talk to contractors to see whether the cave is in danger of collapsing. Fetherston said he will talk to the town's attorney about the matter.
Source: Metro Daily News