The happiest of early summertimes to you, dear Mill River friends!
We are experiencing such a surge of interest and support for Mill River work that we’re beginning to burst with pride at the seams of our all-too-small workforce garment (namely Gaby, John, and Neal). Let’s get to the news:
- A new park is born!! Voters at Williamsburg Town Meeting voted overwhelmingly to approve the acquisition of a new four-acre park located across the Mill River from Local Burgy, Village Green, and Family Veterinary Center in the historic “Skinnerville” village between Haydenville and Williamsburg. A THOUSAND THANKS to dear friends and supporters who contributed over $8,000 in just two weeks to secure the purchase! And thanks to our supportive partners in the Eversource Energy real estate management office for helping us put together the deal.
- The Williamsburg Mill River Greenway Committee has finally secured a whopping $30,000 in State Transportation Bond funds, originally appropriated through the efforts of then-Senator Ben Downing in 2014. Much gratitude is owed to Representative Steve Kulik, and State Senator Adam Hinds, along with their local staff Paul Dunphy and Jon Gould, for their dogged efforts to bring those funds home to Burgy!
- Smith Design Clinic does it again! Our four intrepid Smith Engineering seniors gave a brilliant public presentation and submitted a 178-page report examining the Mill River’s mischievous behavior and possible solutions at the infamous “pinch” where Route 9 is dangerously narrow heading west past the Brassworks out of Haydenville. The impressive and extremely professional report will be shared with VHB Engineers, under contract with Williamsburg for survey and design development of the Burgy-Haydenville Greenway. You can view the report here (link to Burgy committee docs page on burgy.org: https://www.burgy.org/mill-river-greenway-committee/pages/greenway-reports-maps-etc
- Working closely with the Williamsburg Woodland Trails Committee (WWTC) and Smith College, we have just produced the 4thin our line of self-guided tours, this one by car or bicycle. It follows the path of the 1874 Williamsburg Flood from the site of the dam on the Mill’s East Branch to the final resting place of its victims at Florence Meadows/Grow Food Northampton Community Farm. It’s available for $2 from MRGI, the Williamsburg Historical Society, Historic Northampton, or the Northampton Chamber of Commerce.
- …speaking of which, the WWTC has just established one of the Valley’s most outstanding historical trails, this one from a parking spot on Ashfield Road, 2.8 miles from Williamsburg Center. With a Mass Humanities grant, the WWTC has installed a kiosk and series of wayside signs that lead from the trailhead to the dam site. Eric Weber and Elizabeth Sharpe provided the text and images. Eric’s drawings and engineering analyses are eye-opening. Be sure to check it out! It’s about a mile out and a mile back. Great hiking and great history in one fell swoop.
- We will be celebrating the Mill River at the amazing Golden Spike gathering of cyclists and trail enthusiasts throughout Massachusetts on the 27-28 of July. Our rail trail is part of two of the longest, most historic rail trails in New England. We urge you to check it out at https://www.gs2018.org. Gaby will present a short talk on our Williamsburg project, Neal will be at the table to work the crowd, and John will be leading Hidden Mill River tours on Friday and Saturday.
- On June 1st, the Hospital Hill and Smith College sections of Mill River became the focus for a natural history “biothon” to raise funds for the Hitchcock Center in memory of Elizabeth J. Farnsworth, whose untimely passing last November saddened us deeply. Through the amazing efforts of Laurie Sanders, Charley Eiseman, and Julia Blyth, we now have some updated baseline information on the biota of that section of the Mill River. Chief among our discoveries were the first known occurrences of a licorice-smelling goldenrod (Solidago odora) and a wood turtle (Glyptemys insculpta). Now, if we could just find someone to lead a MRGI initiative to list all the species in our Mill River watershed…if only! Any volunteers out there?
- And if ecological sleuthing isn’t your specialty, we would love some help sussing out the questions and process of whether your humble servants at the MRGI should undertake the creation of a 501c(3). If this is more your expertise than identifying salamanders and wildflowers, please let us know!
Attached is a photo of the Community Gardens at the Grow Food Northampton Community Farm, on the Mill River in Florence, courtesy of MRGI champion Reid Bertone-Johnson of Smith College and his kite-mounted camera!