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

Posted in Mill River Greenway | Leave a comment

Fran Kidder’s 1874 Flood Art Show

The Flood show announ_Page_1Artist’s Statement:  This work is based on the Mill River disaster, of 1874, which killed 140 people in the towns of Williamsburg, Haydenville and Leeds Massachusetts.

I live on that same river and have watched it, listened to it, and painted it over the years. But after reading Elizabeth Sharpe’s In the Shadow of the Dam, a carefully and beautifully documented account of the flood, I began to think l about making art about this tragic event.  Tragic on two levels: that of man versus nature, but also that of man versus man, since it was shoddy construction, condoned by greedy mill owners, that caused the deaths of so many innocent people.

Posted in Art, History, Mill River Greenway | Leave a comment

Feb. 2nd — Invitation to MRGI’s First Working Session

Paradise Pond -- Jim Gipe Photo/Pivot Media

Paradise Pond — Jim Gipe Photo/Pivot Media


TUESDAY, FEB. 2, 7:00-9:00 PM

FLORENCE CIVIC CENTER — Park St. and N. Main in Florence next to Lilly Library

To All Mill River Lovers,

Please come and contribute ideas to MRGI’s first ever working session to advance our goals throughout the Mill River Watershed. Because of your generous donations, we were able to hire Margot Halpin and Armi Macaballug of the Conway School, Easthampton (formerly the Conway School of Landscape Design). We’re excited because this is the first time we will be able to view the whole Mill River watershed from Goshen to Williamsburg to Northampton and begin to figure out where we should focus our attention.

Armi and Margot have been asked to present images, designs, and maps of the natural and cultural features of the river along with an assessment of how much we know about each section of river and where we need to gather more information

Here’s where 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 Mill River corridor.

The Feb. 2 event will be a working meeting that will produce ideas and suggestions for Margot and Armi to incorporate into a second meeting on Monday, Feb. 29, Leap Day to present an integrated vision of what you would like to see happen as well as what factors might permit or limit activities, such as preservation, access, or the building of bridges and multi-purpose paths. All these results will become fodder for a strategic plan that will concentrate our energies and activities over the next several years.

A quick word on the timing of these meetings: Conway School’s winter semester began late January and will end in late March, thus the short time between meetings. In order to prepare all the materials in a timely manner, Margot and Armi have to wrestle with a very tight, exhausting schedule.   We’ll depend on the patience and fortitude of you, our amazing MRGI friends, to advance our visions.

See you at the Florence Civic Center on February 2nd. If you can’t make it, please send your ideas to Armi and Margot at

Once again, many thanks for making this all possible,

The MRGI co-conspirators

“The River Runs Through Us”

Posted in Mill River Greenway, Neighborhoods | Leave a comment

Deep Gratitude and Excitement for 2016

Paradise Pond -- Jim Gipe Photo/Pivot Media

Paradise Pond — Jim Gipe Photo/Pivot Media

Dear Mill River Greenway lovers,

We are filled with gratitude and excitement as 2016 begins.  Above all, we are grateful for your outpouring of support for our work with The Conway School for a gap analysis of the watershed’s natural, cultural, and recreational assets. It will help us set priorities for the next 5 years and provide an inventory and analysis of all our maps, images, documents, and GIS materials.

WE HAVE EXCEEDED OUR GOAL for funding this program and really can’t believe how lucky we are to have been able to meet you, walk with you, bring you out to the river and have you respond with such generosity and spontaneity.

Wow, we’re simply overwhelmed with the support of MORE THAN 50 of our Mill River folks.  We will be sending out letters of thanks and tax deduction receipts to everyone within the next 2 weeks, so if you have donated but not been recognized with a note, please let us know.

But wait, we’re not finished with the good news.

First, Maggie Leonard, landscape designer/builder/planner, as well as a former adjunct instructor at UMass and the owner of Paradise City Landscape Design, has agreed to lead MRGI in our initiative with the Conway School of Landscape Design/Easthampton Branch.  Maggie is an extraordinarily capable landscape architect/regional planner, an excellent teacher, and a strategic thinker.  She will have the full support of Gaby, John, and Neal, as well as our GIS guru at Smith, Jon Caris.  We will have 2 Conway students to work with on this project, which begins the second week of January and concludes at the end of March.  There will be a crucial community listening session at some point mid-way, which you will be hearing more about as soon as the students get cracking.

Second, our two projects with Smith students will continue through the Spring term. The first is an engineering design for the “goat path” connector from the rail trail at the Leeds/Haydenville line to South Main St. in Haydenville. The second is a self-guided walking tour brochure for Industrial Florence. The engineering project is happening under the watchful eye of Susannah Howe, Director of the Smith College Design Clinic, and the brochure effort is being led by Wendy Sinton of the Sojourner Truth Memorial Committee and Scott Laidlaw, an architect from Florence.

Third, working with the Williamsburg Mill River Greenway Committee, Peter Flinker and intern Nelle Ward of Dodson and Flinker Associates have delivered a superb analysis of the options for trail siting across the Brassworks Meadow area in Haydenville, part of the eventual link between Haydenville and Williamsburg Center.

Fourth, our watershed-wide approach to managing invasive plant species will take a big leap forward with the imminent release of a management plan being created by the New England Wild Flower Society on behalf of Smith College.

Let us know if you have any questions or would like to see copies of, or contribute to any of these projects.

You have warmed our hearts in this season of cold.  We will continue to work tirelessly to fulfill our promises to all of you and especially to the river that runs through us.


All the best, with hopes of seeing you all in ’16,

Gaby, John, and Neal

PS A shout out to Jim Gipe, who allowed us to use this gorgeous 2009 photo!



Posted in Invasive plants, Mill River Greenway | Leave a comment

Last Riverwalk; Link from Leeds to Haydenville; Florence Brochure in the Works

Welcome to Fall on the Mill River!  It’s been 2 eventful months since our last communication, and we’ve got some welcome news.

  • Our final 2015 Riverwalk will be to the 1874 Williamsburg Dam Disaster Site on Saturday, November 14 10:00-12:00 with Eric Weber, Williamsburg historian. Please sign up for this as soon as you can – these events fill up quickly. Contact
  • Linking Leeds to Haydenville! We’re thrilled that four great Smith College students – Sophia Poulos, Joanna Kenneally, Jin Rui Yap, and Eliana Perlmutter – will be the engineering team to design the path from the Leeds rail trail down to South Main St. in Haydenville. Working with their professor Susannah Howe, engineer Jim Hyslip, and a team from Northampton’s Dept. of Public Works and Dept. of Planning and Sustainability, the students will develop a series of alternative designs and costs for the project. They will submit their report in April 2016.
  • A self-guided tour brochure for Florence! We have a fantastic team of four Smith students – Nina Jarrell, Dianne Jester-Wieland, Bella Revett, and Julia Scarselli – who will produce a walking tour for Florence based on the Transit Authority Figures’ design for the Hidden Mill and Leeds. Scott Laidlaw of Florence and Wendy Sinton of the Sojourner Truth Memorial Committee will lead this project with the support of MRGI and Kelly Anderson, Smith archivist and oral historian..
  • We hope to have some exciting news in the coming months about a long-term working relationship with the Conway School of Landscape Design. Stay tuned!


Thanks for a wonderful year, and please let us know what you’d like to see happen on the Mill in 2016. Here’s to a happy winter,

Gaby, John, and Neal

Posted in Mill River Greenway | Comments Off on Last Riverwalk; Link from Leeds to Haydenville; Florence Brochure in the Works

Sojourner Truth Walking Tour October 3

Saturday October 3 Walking TourIMG_0790

Walk through history in Florence

Saturday at 9:30 come join us to learn about African-American history in Florence including  Sojourner Truth’s house, abolitionist sites and the 19th c. utopian community in Florence.  We will explain what brought a progressive group of people to Florence in the 19th century,  how they influenced Florence’s development and what happened to those innovative and progressive people.
Walk starts at the Sojourner Truth statue, Park & Pine St. in Florence at 9:30 a.m.
Rain cancels
Walk sponsored by Sojourner Truth Memorial Committee and David Ruggles Center
Walks last about 1 1/2 hours. No need to sign up ahead of time, come and join us on  Saturday morning!

Posted in Mill River Greenway | Comments Off on Sojourner Truth Walking Tour October 3

Florence Riverwalks 8/15 and 9/26

Get ready for some high summer fun on the two Florence riverwalks and prepare for a fantastic fall!

The Florence I riverwalk from Maines Field to Meadow St. Bridge will be led by Wendy Sinton of the Sojourner Truth Memorial Committee and MRGI’s John Sinton.  It’ll feature the Mill River industries that drove Florence’s prosperity with a focus on the underground railroad and the Northampton Association of Industry and Education.  That’s Sat. August 15.

The Florence II walk on Sat. Sept. 26 walk is one of our most popular, featuring naturalist Laurie Sanders and Elizabeth Sharpe, author of In the Shadow of the Dam.  It will cover the river from Meadow St. Bridge to Crimson & Clover farm across from Look Park.

Room is available on both those tours, a sneak preview of which can be found at this link, which you should simply copy onto your browser:

The video was brought to you by Burgy’s inimitable and invaluable Tom Adams, Director/Owner of Reelife Documentary Productions & Folktography by Tom

And get ready for a fantastic fall.  We’ll be working with new partners and old to create a path from Leeds to Haydenville, to begin some invasive management, to develop a partnership with the Conway School, and add to our Mill River History.

With all our best wishes,  John and Gaby

Posted in Florence, History, Invasive plants, Mill River Greenway, River walks | Comments Off on Florence Riverwalks 8/15 and 9/26

Interactive Map for the Hidden Mill Riverwalk

Here’s an amazing interactive map for the Mill Riverwalk from Paradise Pond to Old South Street.  Check it out and send us your feedback at
Thanks to the incredible work of Victoria Beckley and Jon Caris at the Spatial Analysis Laboratory at Smith College, we have an interactive map of the riverwalk from Paradise Pond to the corner of Old South Street and Conz in Northampton.  This is a companion to the brochure, but allows us to display other features and links, such as Smith College’s Paradise Pond monitoring project.  It also provides a more accurate location for the former Hoe Shop at the dam.

Please let us know what you think of it.  You can find it here.

Posted in History, Mill River Greenway, Northampton, River walks | Comments Off on Interactive Map for the Hidden Mill Riverwalk

Leeds Rail Trail Closing in July

Construction of the MassCentral Rail Trail extension will begin in Leeds in the middle of July, precise date to be determined. During much of the construction, the existing and new section of the trail north of Florence Street/Mulberry Street and Grove Avenue will be closed.

This is one of the projects that the CPC and your donations to the City of Northampton and Friends of Northampton Trails and Greenways have supported over the years. Thank you.

Posted in Leeds, Mill River Greenway, River walks | Comments Off on Leeds Rail Trail Closing in July

New T-Shirts and MRGI in the News

First, check out these fabulous MRGI t-shirts designed by the extraordinary Rob Stewart and Damia Cavallari of Transit Authority Figures.  They come in black or green, sizes small to extra large, and you can buy one for $20 at any MRGI event.  Sorry, no mail sales, but if you contact us, we might be able to meet you somewhere in the Mill River watershed.

Second, see how fine these t-shirts look on Gaby and John, who were thrilled on May 13th to receive the Friends of Northampton Trails and Greenways 2015 Trail Neighbor Award.  Thanks to all our supportive members who made this special accolade possible!

Third, Gaby and John had a great time with Jim Madigan on WGBY’s Connecting Point this month when Jim interviewed us about MRGI’s work.  It’s a fun 6 minutes, so check it out — hit the link and scroll down to the Mill River Greenway segment.

Finally, we still have some room left on the summer riverwalks, so please sign up to assure yourselves places.


Gaby and John with the new MRGI t-shirt 5.13.15

Gaby and John with the new MRGI t-shirt 5.13.15

Posted in Mill River Greenway, Newsletters, River walks | Comments Off on New T-Shirts and MRGI in the News