Winter Newsletter

Dear Mill River Rats,

The happiest of New Years to you and to our amazing river! Once again, Williamsburg and the upper watershed leads the way in accomplishments and will continue to be our chief focus over the next year. But first, some quick updates:

  • We’re thrilled to co-sponsor with Grow Food Northampton an eco-riverwalk with Hitchcock Center’s fabulous naturalist Ted Watt. The event is January 28th, 1pm-3pm. Register here! Meet up at the GFN Community Garden, 140 Meadow Street, Florence. Further details can be found on the GFN website here.
  • Heidi Stevens and the Leeds Mill River Greenway Committee now have a great set of historic signs in the center of Leeds that follow the MRGI brochure’s riverwalk. Pick up a brochure at Historic Northampton or the Northampton Chamber of Commerce (or contact us at
  • We’re still looking at an April date for publication of John Sinton’s book on the Mill River to be published by Steve Strimer’s Levellers Press. Working title? How about Devil’s Den to Licking Water: The Mill River in Landscape and History. If you’ve a better title, let us know! The book will have lots of cool maps and images for your delectation.
  • And now on to Williamsburg! Preparations for the 1874 Williamsburg Dam Disaster signage and brochure are on track for a springtime kickoff. Paul Jahnige and his Burgy Woodlands Trail Committee are leading the way on interpretive signs along the trail. John is coordinating contributions from Burgy Historical Society’s Eric Weber and Ralmon Black, Historic Northampton historian Betty Sharpe, and Smith student Amaya Ramsay-Malone to assemble a brochure to tell the story of the flood from Williamsburg to Florence. Heidi Stevens of the Leeds MRGC will provide graphic design.
  • The Williamsburg Mill River Greenway Committee is thrilled to be working for the second time with Smith College’s formidable Design Clinic. Four Engineering majors (shout out to Marcia Rojas, Laura Rosenbauer, Maya Sleiman, and Fereshta Noori!) are studying the hydrology of the Mill River at the “pinch” in Route 9 just west of the Brassworks and will contribute to the ultimate design of a retaining wall to widen the roadbed and make room for the Greenway as it follows Route 9 from Haydenville to Williamsburg. The students work is ably supported by a crack team of experts – Brett Towler of US Fish & Wildlife; Carl Gustafson of USDA NRCS (retd); Jim Hyslip of HyGround Engineering; and our champion Susannah Howe, Smith College Engineering Prof and director of the Design Clinic.
  • With elegant timing, the Design Clinic students are able to coordinate with and learn from the professional engineers of VHB, Inc., who were selected by the Town of Williamsburg to execute the Master Route 9 Corridor Survey for which funds were approved at Williamsburg’s 2017 Town Meeting. Surveyors can already be seen on and around Route 9 determining right of ways, flagging wetlands, establishing parcel boundaries, and laying down the baseline upon which the Williamsburg Mill River Greenway will be designed in the years ahead. Mark your calendars for a 2025 groundbreaking!
  • The Burgy Greenway received a big boost from Healthy Hampshire to the tune of a $9,999 grant awarded in November. Williamsburg will use the grant to design the future Mill River Greenway to maximize its safety and walkability, design the rest areas, viewpoints, river access points, safe crosswalks at road intersections and driveways, safety and accessibility accommodations, and to work with local partners to ensure that the final design is fully responsive to the needs of all users, with particular emphasis on the elderly, school children, and the disabled.  Healthy Hampshire is focused on improving people’s health in Hampshire County and the Hilltowns by collaborating with municipal leaders, elected officials, public health departments, planners, businesses, community organizations, and residents. It is part of the Mass in Motionstatewide initiative through the Department of Public Health, and administered by the City of Northampton. Thank you, friends!
  • More good Burgy news – the Greenway Committee received its second grant from the Recreational Trails Grant program of the Dept of Conservation and Recreation last October. Almost $50,000 will go directly to improvements to the South Main Connector, which someday will bring users of the Mass Central Rail Trail from the Haydenville dismount at the foot of South Main Street, to the beginning of the Burgy Greenway at the Haydenville Library. Grant funds will support:
    • The completion of trail surfacing between Leeds and Haydenville;
    • Conservation plantings along the trail dismount;
    • Establishment of a parklet at the dismount switchback;
    • Restoration of a retaining wall on South Main Street that will allow for further extension of the South Main sidewalk.

Once again, best wishes to all of you for the New Year, and three extra cheers for the good folks from Williamsburg!!

John, Gaby, and Neal




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