We hope you survived “winter” and are off to a great new year. We wanted to quickly let you know what we were up to in 2011 and what to look forward to from us in 2012. 2011 was a year of making connections and momentum building. We’ve got a great foundation to work from this year.
We got serious enough about the Greenway effort to take it public, and in late March we launched millrivergreenway.org (Thanks for visiting!). The website is the information hub for the Greenway effort. We’ve gathered a great collection of resources already, from stunning photos to historical maps, and we’re always on the lookout for more — send us some great content about the river and we’ll put it up.
Growing Community at the Bean Allard Farm
In July, several of us scoped out a river trail on the Bean Allard farm property in Northampton to be a part of the new recreation and farming complex. Working with Northampton’s planner, Wayne Feiden, and members of the Grow Food Northampton community, students at Smith’s Center for the Environment, Ecological Design and Sustainability led by Reid Bertone-Johnson, a Smith faculty member, will be designing a trail along the newly acquried Mill River greenway from Meadow Street to the Bean farm. Gaby Immerman and her Smith students also did some invasive species surveying, finding a good deal of multiflora rose, knotweed, and bittersweet that needs our attention.
Hurricane and Rain
In August we were visited by hurricane Irene and a 500-year flood event on the Mill River. We all witnessed the raw power of the river as it ran through several sections of Rt. 9 in Williamsburg and the flood control gate was raised in Northampton for the first time in 50 years.
With the ground so saturated, the river seemed to stay swollen all fall, right through the Halloween nor-easter that left many of us without power for multiple days.
Smith College Gets Involved
In November we participated in a Kahn Institute program at Smith, an interdisciplinary collaboration of Smith faculty exploring the possibilities of using the Mill River Greenway Initiative to address the ecological needs of the river while connecting the college to the community in new ways. John has led several groups on tours of the historic Mill River from downtown Northampton to Bay State, pointing out the original path of the river and the early beginnings of the industry on which Northampton depended.
A Look Ahead for 2012
There’s a lot to look forward to in 2012. We hope to spend more time with more people out on the river this year spreading the word about the Greenway Initiative, and we plan to continue to grow and mature this modest citizens group and build public will for the Greenway. To that end we’re in the early phases of collaborating with with the Williamsburg Village Center visioning Committee and the Pioneer Valley Planning Commission on exploring the possibilities of a multi use corridor connecting the two village centers. Northampton and PVPC have applied for a grant to do an ecological survey of the river, which would require volunteer help from our members.
We’re planning several riverwalks, and will be especially excited to welcome Laurie Sanders, who has volunteered to lead a walk on the Bean-Allard land this spring or summer. John will continue to lead walks from downtown Northampton to Bay State, and we’re hoping to corral members in Bay State, Florence, Leeds, Haydenville, and Williamsburg into leading trips. We’ll also plan a paddle in March or April from Hulburt’s Pond (Arcadia Refuge) to South Street in Northampton.
Exciting projects are taking shape up and down the river, and we probably don’t know about many of them all so drop us a note if you hear of something! We’re looking forward to getting involved with all of you.
Neal and John
P.S. Help spread the word about this effort and forward this email on to your friends.
P.P.S. You can connect with us on facebook.