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Grant propels Southampton recreational trail project

SOUTHAMPTON

The town has received a $225,720 state grant that will allow it to purchase 26 acres of unused railbed to be used as a recreational trail, as long as the town can successfully negotiate with the landowner, New England Railroad.

The trail will allow residents to access more than 600 acres of protected land, forests and working farms.

Town Meeting voted to allow the town to purchase the land for its appraised price of $340,000, contingent upon receiving the state grant, which will reimburse two-thirds of the cost. The remaining $115,600 would come from Community Preservation Act funds.

Michael Buehler, a member of the Southampton Greenway Committee, said members of the committee and the Conservation Commission, which submitted the grant application, were thrilled to hear the news.

“It’s a combination of a sigh of relief, because our application was nonstandard in that it was for a linear trail, rather than a traditional parcel,” he said Wednesday. “But it’s also remarkably energizing and satisfying. It’s exciting to think the wind is really in our sails now.”

Now the town’s newly formed negotiating committee needs to sit down with representatives from New England Railroad to work out a price. Since the land was appraised at $340,000, the town cannot pay more than that amount according to law. The committee is made up of Select Board members Jacqueline Sears and Edward Cauley, Conservation Commission Chair Charles McDonald and Greenway Committee member April West.

“We’re confident that there are challenges ahead in negotiating, but I know both sides are approaching this with good will and a real interest in making it work,” Buehler said. “There have been preliminary conversations and we expect they will pick up after the holidays.”

Since the Town Meeting vote to purchase was contingent on the grant, Buehler said the Friends of Southampton Greenway group was “instrumental in informing and mobilizing” voters to support the purchase. The vote was 432 in favor and 101 against.

“The most exciting part of all this has been watching the citizens get behind the project, evidenced both by the great turn out at the Town Meeting, as well as the support of the elected officials like the selectmen and Rep. John Scibak and Sen. Michael Knapik,” he said.

Winter produce

With its new winter farmers market in the Eastworks Building, the city has joined the ranks of local communities that are providing people a chance to buy produce and other local products throughout the winter.

The Agricultural Commission, after a successful first season putting on the summer farmers market in the Municipal Building parking lot, opted to start the city’s first winter farmers market Fridays, from 2 to 6 p.m., in the Eastworks Building, near the Apollo Grill, at 116 Pleasant St.

Sage Franetovich, co-manager of the market, said the commission saw “a need in Easthampton” for a place to get local produce and other products throughout the winter.

“We also wanted some continuity from the summer market, both for our customers and our vendors,” she said. Many of the vendors at the winter market are the same and include Intervale Farm and Mycoterra Farm in Westhampton, Whitehouse Farm in Southampton, Chicoine Family Farm in Easthampton, Twin Oaks Farm in Hadley, Twin Maples Farm in Hatfield and Frosted Swirl Cupcakes of Westfield.

In addition to local produce such as greens and root vegetables, customers at the market can find garlic, mushrooms, maple products, eggs, meat, and baked goods, Franetovich said.

The market started on Nov. 16. “People who come to the market seem very pleased with what we have, but we could definitely use more people,” she said.

Franetovich said Valley residents are becoming more aware that they can get local produce, even in the winter months. “I think people are starting to recognize it and so these winter farmers markets are becoming more popular,” she said.

She said the city’s summer farmers market developed a “good following” in the community this summer. “We hope it will be even bigger next year,” she said.

Rebecca Everett can be reached at reverett@gazettenet.com.

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