$36K in renovations for Puffer’s Pond, Amherst, slated for later this year

Monday, July 14, 2014
AMHERST — On hot summer days, some swimmers at Puffer’s Pond continue to access a cliff that rises above the water and climb on top of the dam that deposits water to the Mill River below.

Other people who use the pond’s two beaches and nearby walking trails may notice that the wooden cribbing, used to hold sand in place and stabilize the pathways, are sagging.

These are among issues at the North Amherst pond, which Assistant Town Manager David Ziomek said is the town’s “most well-used conservation area,” which will be corrected during a series of safety and aesthetic improvements scheduled to begin later this year.

The $36,000 in work will commence, Ziomek told the Conservation Commission this week, after town officials recently learned that half the cost will be picked up by a federal Water Conservation Grant the town applied for in April 2013. The remainder will come from $18,000 appropriated by Town Meeting a year ago. The work must be completed by June 30.

Ziomek said one of the priorities is installing new barriers to prevent people from getting onto the cliff and dam.

“Fencing at the cliffs is almost non-existent now. It’s been vandalized so often over the last three to five years,” Ziomek said.

Police officers and conservation staff often respond to remove teenagers and college-age people. Ziomek said the town wants to keep as many people from those areas as possible.

At north beach, where people can bring their dogs, cribbing that is falling into the pond and deteriorating cribbing on the perimeter trail will be replaced. At south beach, the main area where families congregate, the town will reconfigure the existing handicapped parking spaces and fix the accessible pier from which people can fish. In addition, some of the old cribbing on the beach will be taken out, Ziomek said.

If additional money is available, Ziomek said this will pay for a couple of picnic tables for both beaches.

The projects will take just a few days to complete.

Because much of the work takes place near a body of water, these will be reviewed by the commission to ensure there are no significant impacts.

In addition to the work at Puffer’s, there are a series of projects that will improve other conservation areas in Amherst.

Brad Bordewieck, land manager for the conservation department, told the commission that one will create a new crushed stone parking area at the entrance to Wentworth Farm Conservation Area off Old Farm Road and installing a new gate at the entrance.

A new gate is also proposed for the entrance to Amethyst Brook Conservation Area, along with drainage improvements to prevent runoff that damages the trailhead.

There are planned bridge replacements, as well, one at the Stotz Conservation Area that passes over Cushman Brook on East Leverett Road, the other over the Eastman Brook at the Ellsworth Barnard Trail near Leverett Road.

In addition, a new kiosk will go up at the entrance to Amethyst Brook. Ziomek said this kiosk will include information about the regulation requiring dogs to be on leashes before 10 a.m. But, observing that five signs and posts placed in the vicinity have all been torn out of the ground and removed since the regulation went into effect nearly three years ago, Ziomek said the town will try to “armorize” the new sign.