December 3 Autumn Bash and Riverwalk

Williamsburg Dam Trail Map

Your celebration-minded co-moderators – Gaby, John, and Neal – will throw a pizza and beer fundraising party at the home of Neal and Susannah Bastek on Saturday, December 3rd on Village Hill in Williamsburg. From 2:00-4:00, Eric Weber, chairman of the Williamsburg Historical Commission will lead us on a guided hike along the new trail that the Williamsburg Woodland Trails Committee created this summer from Ashfield Rd. to the site of the dam that failed in 1874.  It’s a two-mile round trip.  Eric is a  tremendously knowledgeable guide who has amazing photos to show and stories to tell.  We’re lucky to have him aboard.  Then at 5:00, we’ll gather at the Basteks for an Autumn Bash. We’re asking our hikers and party goers to contribute a small donation of $5 to $10 for the design and printing of the upcoming self-guided tour brochure for this walk that we’ll create in conjunction with the Williamsburg Woodland Trails Committee and Williamsburg Historical Commission. Please RSVP, and we’ll send you details.  We already have a dozen or so of you coming and look forward to welcoming many more.

At the bash, we’ll give you a short update on what MRGI has been doing and what’s ahead, but mostly we just want you to enjoy each other’s company and drink in the holiday spirit!  We can’t do any of this without you, and we’re grateful that you’ve been our stout support for so many years.

THANKS from Gaby, Neal, and John!

 

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Our Autumn Bash and More!

We’ve got a full plate this fall, dear MRGI supporters, starting with an inaugural Riverwalk and a party in Williamsburg! Let’s get to it:

  1. Your celebration-minded co-moderators – Gaby, John, and Neal – will throw a pizza and beer fundraising party at the home of Neal and Susannah Bastek on Saturday, December 3rd on Village Hill in Williamsburg. From 2:00-4:00 we’ll walk the new trail that the Williamsburg Woodland Trails Committee created this summer from Ashfield Rd. to the site of the dam that failed in 1874 and back. It’s a two-mile round trip. Then at 5:00, we’ll gather at the Basteks for an Autumn Bash. We’re asking our party goers to contribute a small donation for the design and printing of the self-guided tour brochure for this walk that we’ll do in conjunction with the Williamsburg Woodland Trails Committee. Please RSVP, and we’ll send you details.
  1. The latest self-guided riverwalk brochure focuses on Florence from Riverside Drive to the Meadow Street Bridge and is now available either at Historic Northampton or the Northampton Chamber of Commerce. We can also mail you a copy. It’s a fascinating story that Wendy Sinton of the Sojourner Truth Memorial Committee has written, exploring the unique juxtaposition of industrial activity and the abolitionist movement.

3.  The “Goat Path” connects the end of the Northampton section of the Mass Central Rail Trail to Haydenville. As we write this, the Williamsburg Highway Department is out on the trail turning a steep, eroded slope into a safer and more ecologically stable trail down to South Main Street, with a switchback, paved surface, guard rails, and native plantings to restore the slope. Cheers to Gaby and the Williamsburg Mill River Greenway Committee for marshalling the funds and people power to get this done!

  1. This summer, Amherst College sophomore Gil Wermeling made huge strides in mapping invasive plant species on three large stretches of the Mill River that impact our big farms – Smith Voke’s agricultural fields in Northampton, Grow Food Northampton Community Farm in Florence, and Valley View Farm in Haydenville. Areas shaded in black on this map are now mapped and catalogued according to species and level of invasion on a dozen of our worst offenders, such as Japanese Knotweed, Bittersweet, and Multiflora Rose. This information will be incorporated into a grant proposal to the USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service next year, seeking to tackle the problem in one comprehensive ten-mile project. Any private landowners along the Mill River who are interested in joining forces, please be in touch with Gaby who is spearheading these efforts. And thanks to Gil for this outstanding work!

Invasive Species Areas of Interest Watershed Map

  1. Did you know there used to be a village on Roberts Meadow Brook, a major tributary of the Mill that feeds into Leeds? You can find out all about it in John Clapp’s The Lost Village of Roberts Meadow. It’s the story of a forgotten village founded in 1770 in the northwest corner of Northampton. You can buy the book at Historic Northampton on Bridge St., Northampton.
Village of Roberts Meadow by John Clapp

Village of Roberts Meadow by John Clapp

  1. We’ve got fantastic news about the Mill River Greenway from the end of the Mass Central Rail Trail in Haydenville to the center of Williamsburg, but you’ll have to be patient because it will take 6 to 8 years for Mass DOT to execute the project. The Greenway will run along Route 9 from the Haydenville Library to the intersection with South Street in downtown Burgy, separated from traffic by a landscaped curb. The Williamsburg Mill River Greenway Committee has been working closely with the MA DOT for the last three years to incorporate plans for the Greenway into their scheduled rebuild of Route 9, slated for roughly 8 years from now. Plans for this “linear park” include several green spaces along the way, and a link to the MassCentral Rail Trail dismount at the foot of South Main Street. Deep gratitude to Nick Dines, who has been spearheading this effort for several years! Stay tuned for updates and opportunities to get involved as the project progresses (During this phase, it would be spectacular if anyone wished to provide pro bono survey or engineering services!).
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Florence Riverwalk October 1

Nonotuck Silk/Littfield Parsons Co. ca. 1865

Nonotuck Silk/Littfield Parsons Co. ca. 1865

Florence Riverwalk Oct. 1

Join us for the inaugural riverwalk celebrating the new Florence Self-Guided Tour Brochure!

Saturday October 1st 10:00 am to 11:30 am

Meet at the Nonotuck Mill parking lot across Nonotuck St. from ChemiPlastica (do not park at ChemiPlastica!)

MRGI’s third Historic Mill River Walk brochure is hot off the press, and we’re pleased that Wendy Sinton, author of the brochure, will be our leader for our inaugural guided tour.  The walk is a mile and a half, but those who are unable to walk that far will be able to do the first half mile and then return to their car.

Long the center of Mill River industry, Florence, originally known as Broughton’s Meadow, was home to factories that produced silk thread, plastics, and brushes.  You’ll explore the unique juxtaposition of industrial activity and the abolitionist movement.  Sojourner Truth and David Ruggles once lived and worked here as part of a utopian community.  This tour ends at the farm of a noted abolitionist and the spot where the sad remains from the 1874 flood came to rest.

As usual, the tour is limited to 20 participants, so let us know of your interest.

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Mid-Summer Newsletter

Happy mid-summer to you all, and, yes, we are also bewildered by the surfeit of stones and dearth of water in our beloved Mill River. Yet the rain gods have come and we, who follow in the footsteps of the Nonotuck – the People In the Midst of the River – will husband our resources and prepare for late summer’s bounty

Unlike the frantic pace of outdoor activities last year, especially the monthly riverwalks, this summer has been one of gathering up and preparing for the fall. We have been busy, but it’s been like organizing the plumbing and electric in the house that you can’t see happening.

So let’s get on with it. Here’s what is, in fact, happening:

  • After the publication of our collaborative invasive/native plants guide with Smith College, we received lots of requests for hard copies, and then the Hampshire Gazette covered the story in mid-July: http://www.gazettenet.com/Mill-River-Greenway-Initiative-seeks-to-remove-Invasive-plants-3187059. You can find the digital copy of “Making Room for Native Plants and Wildlife” on the MRGI website here: http://millrivergreenway.org/wp-content/uploads/2011/03/Smith-College-invasive-guide-booklet.pdf.
  • We are in the process of completing a new historic riverwalk brochure, once again in collaboration with Smith College. “Florence: Riverside Drive to Meadow St. Bridge,” will be available in September, and we’ll inaugurate the brochure with a guided tour in October led by Wendy Sinton of the Sojourner Truth Memorial Committee, who managed the project. This brochure features the Northampton Association of Arts and Education and the silk and plastics industries in the life of the Mill River.
  • The Burgy Mill River Greenway Committee is working with the Williamsburg Highway Department to alleviate erosion problems and make rough improvements to the trail link (aka the Goat Path) at the Northampton/Haydenville boundary on the rail trail. This fall the town of Williamsburg will be improving sidewalks and signage on South Main Street in Haydenville to provide safer passage for pedestrians, bicycles, and automobiles.
  • In collaboration with the Northampton Office of Planning and Sustainability (thank you, Wayne Feiden!), we are producing handsome new trail markers for the Mill River Greenway. You’ll begin to see them in the Leeds-Haydenville area this fall. Here’s what they’ll look like: http://millrivergreenway.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/07/MIL-trail-markers-03-1.pdf
  • Conway School students Margot Halpin and Armi Macaballug, class of ’16, compiled reams of GIS data for us on the Mill River watershed. The emerging “Master Map of the Mill River Greenway” will be housed at Smith College’s Center for the Environment, Ecological Design, and Sustainability (aka CEEDS) under the able stewardship of Smith’s Spatial Analysis Lab.  Digital or hard copies of Margot and Armi’s report, “Building a Strategic Plan for the Mill River Greenway,” are available from the Conway School: http://www.csld.edu/contact-us/ Unfortunately, since the digital copy is 63 megabytes, we at MRGI aren’t capable of providing the direct link. Thanks again to our members for funding this project!
  • We are delighted to welcome intern Silke Hensteback, a UMass Landscape Architecture and Regional Planning undergraduate, who will be studying options and supporting planning/organizing for the Bay State section of the Greenway, a trail from Smith College (Paradise Pond), along the base of Hospital and Yankee Hills and close to the Clement St. Bridge

As always, let us know your thoughts, keep in touch, keep cool, and keep loving our river!

Gaby, John, and Neal

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Two Great August Events for MRGI Members

While not directly related to the Mill River, both these events will appeal to MRGI members — first, a play and second, a paddle.

1. Join us for an outing to the William Cullen Bryant Homestead in Cummington for a performance of “A Fiery and Still Voice,” a site-based living history play about the poet.  Here’s what playwright Priscilla Hellweg of Enchanted Circle Theater says about Bryant:

“He was an amazing man — fiery abolitionist, conservationist, statesman, journalist, and poet. Who knew HE was the reason Lincoln became elected (and then he was furious with him for only gradually emancipating the slaves)?! He had the original idea for Central Park! He founded the Metropolitan Museum of Art!”

Members of the Mill River Greenway Initiative and Sojourner Truth Memorial Committee can get tickets through us at the member price of $9/each. We invite you to bring a picnic lunch and walk the beautiful farm and woodland trails of the Bryant Homestead afterward.

Wednesday, August 17
Show time 11:45am (meet at Bryant Homestead 11:30am)

Please RSVP directly to Gaby Immerman at gimmerma@smith.edu if you’d like to join us for this outing!

2. Paddle For Home (002)

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A Stunning Spring and Summer Ahead

We’re thrilled to announce a series of great initiatives this spring and summer:

LET’S TACKLE INVASIVES ALONG OUR RIVER!

We’re delighted to make available a new guide for land stewards in the Mill River watershed, “Making Room for Native Plants and Wildlife.” The guide, written by the New England Wild Flower Society with support from Smith College, is a plant-by-plant guide to the management and removal of invasive plants species commonly found encroaching on the banks and floodplains of the Mill River. The guide devotes one page per species to repeat offenders such as Japanese knotweed, oriental bittersweet, and multiflora rose, offering pictures and description for identification, a table of when and how best to combat each species, and suggestions for replacement plantings of species native to this region. The guide is available for free on our http://millrivergreenway.org website and will also be available in a printed, bound version at cost, $15 per guide (email us at info@millrivergreenway.org if you’re interested in purchasing print copies). We’re planning to organize educational and stewardship events along the river this summer to distribute the guide and galvanize the community to care for the river. Stay tuned for more info. We hope we’ll see you out there!

THE CONWAY SCHOOL BOOK WILL BE AVAILABLE BY MAY DAY

We’ve gotten an early peek at Armi and Margot’s work at the Conway School and it looks beautiful. The book, entitled “Building a Strategic Plan for the Mill River Greenway” is 68 pages and chock full of photographs, maps, and data. THANK YOU, Mill River Lovers, this is your gift to the river, and the river will be giving back to you. We can’t wait to get this out to you. Watch this space.

A SELF-GUIDED TOUR BROCHURE FOR FLORENCE

Wendy Sinton of the Sojourner Truth Memorial Committee, with the help of Dianne Jester-Wieland (Smith ’16), Julia Franchi Scarselli (Smith ’18), and Florence architect Scott Laidlaw have a draft prepared for a Mill Riverwalk in Florence. Designed once again by the inimitable Rob and Damia of TransitAuthorityFigures.com, we expect to have copies of the brochure early this summer. This is the third brochure in what we hope will someday be a series of ten!

BAY STATE RIVERWALK OPTIONS

Once again, Smith students lived up to their reputation for amazing projects by producing maps and data that summarize parcel data, historical features, and invasive species challenges on the Bay State reach of the river. This work will provide the basis for Bay State residents and the City of Northampton to envision the Greenway from Paradise Pond to the Cutlery Building, as well as gathering the information that will become another self-guided tour brochure. We will post their work on the website in May. Thanks, Julia Graham, Grace Peralta, and Bryn Gingrich for work that will have lasting impact!

ENGINEERING DESIGN FOR THE RAIL TRAIL DISMOUNT TO SOUTH MAIN STREET IN HAYDENVILLE

…speaking of lasting impact, Joanna Kenneally, Sophia Poulos, Jin Rui Yap, and Eliana Perlmutter, Smith seniors working through the Engineering Department’s Design Clinic, have completed an engineering study to link the end of the rail trail in Leeds to South Main Street in Haydenville (Williamsburg). They presented two options, one earthwork and one boardwalk, at a very well attended Community Forum in Williamsburg on April 9. The students’ design and analysis lays the groundwork for Williamsburg to seek the funding that will be required to complete the project. Our deepest gratitude to Smith and the College’s superb students!

 

 

 

 

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New Guide: Managing invasives in the Mill River watershed

We’re delighted to announce the publication of a new guide for land stewards in the Mill River watershed, Making Room for Native Plants and Wildlife.

Screen Shot 2016-04-15 at 1.00.27 PMThe guide, written by the New England Wild Flower Society with support from Smith College, is a plant-by-plant guide to the management and removal of invasive plants species commonly found encroaching on the banks and floodplains of the Mill River. The guide devotes one page per species to repeat offenders such as Japanese Knotweed, Oriental Bittersweet, and Multiflora Rose, offering pictures and description for identification, a table of when and how best to combat each species, and suggestions for replacement plantings of species native to this region.

The guide is available for free download on this website and will also be available in a printed, bound version at cost, $15 per guide (email us at info@millrivergreenway.org if you’re interested in purchasing print copies).

We’re planning to organize educational and stewardship events along the river this summer to distribute the guide and galvanize the community to care for the river. Stay tuned for more info, we hope we’ll see you out there!

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Help Connect Haydenville to Williamsburg on April 9!

MRGC forum flier 4-9-16

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Leap Day MRGI Community Meeting!

CONTRIBUTE YOUR IDEAS AT OUR SECOND MEETING WITH THE CONWAY SCHOOL

Monday, Feb. 29, 7:00-9:00 PM at the Florence Civic Center

Dear Mill River Lovers,

Once again we’re asking you to contribute ideas on how to advance our goals for a greenway along the Mill River. Margot Halpin and Armi Macaballug, grad students at the Conway School, will be on hand to present the results of our Feb. 2nd meeting and report on how they’ve integrated your comments into their preliminary suggestions for priority projects. They’ll discuss opportunities for a variety of projects from multi-use paths to woodland trails to ecological and research sites to scenic overviews and historic sites.

Agenda For The Meeting:

  1. Review input from last community meeting.
  2. Present recent Conway School work including methods, maps, and analysis.
  3. Review regional map from Arcadia to Goshen to see relationships among opportunity areas, current green spaces, parks, public lands, bike routes, pedestrian routes, and paths. Request comments from the community.
  4. Discuss a selection of focus areas with maps and solicit input from the community.
  5. Discuss next steps.

Once again we stress that your contributions are vital: You know specific information about the river itself, but especially about your preferences concerning what you would or would not like to happen to different sections of the river. Here’s your chance to make a difference in the long run because your voices are needed to carry out our collective vision of a beautiful and vibrant river corridor.

See you at the Florence Civic Center on February 29th. If you can’t make it, please send your ideas to Armi and Margot at millriver2016@csld.edu.

Many thanks for making this all possible,

The MRGI co-conspirators

“The River Runs Through Us”

 

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Request for Funds for Leeds Interpretive Signs

1873 Leeds (Beers Map)

1873 Leeds (Beers Map)

The Leeds Civic Association and Leeds Committee of MRGI are seeking funds to provide historical interpretative signage to compliment the Mill River Greenway Initiative’s Self-Guided walking tour through historic Leeds.  Historical signage will depict the village during its manufacturing heyday as the center of economic and industrial vitality in Northampton.  Mills, using water power from the Mill River, produced silk thread, woolen broadcloth, and vegetable ivory buttons, which will all be displayed near their historic locations. A proposal for a small CPA grant is currently being crafted, and, if that is approved, the cost to produce the remaining signage will be approximately $1,500.  Checks can be made out to Leeds Civic Association with “Historic Signage” written in the memo line. Checks can be sent to LCA at PO box 114 Leeds, MA 01053

Thank you for helping fund this project supporting Mill River history!

From Jason Johnson and the gang at the Leeds Mill River Committee and the Leeds Civic Association

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