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Plan aims to get college students out of Amherst neighborhood during late nights

Under what is being called the “walk this way” plan, students and volunteers, including members of the Campus and Community Coalition to Reduce High Risk Drinking, will be positioned at the intersections of Fearing Street and Nutting Avenue and Nutting Avenue and Phillips Street between 10:30 p.m. and 2 a.m. on three nights in April. They will be urging walkers returning to campus from the downtown area to head north on Nutting Avenue, where they will pass Kappa Kappa Gamma sorority, and end up in the parking lot behind the Robsham Memorial Visitors Center where the Baby Berk food truck will be selling food.

There will also be electronic signs pointing students away from Fearing Street.

The campus-bound pedestrians could then continue west through the parking lot, to North Hadley Road, and into the Southwest residential area, according to university officials who devised the plan.

The hope is that this will become the preferred walk home, said Lisa Queenin, director of UMass community relations.

Giveaways and other promotions will be used to entice the students, she said. The plan, which will be enacted April 5, April 13 and April 20, will be evaluated before steps are taken to establish a permanent, festive walkway along the route, according to the coalition, which met last week.

The “Minutemen Trail” would feature a new sidewalk, painted maroon, and lights situated along the southern end of the parking lot.

Select Board Chairwoman Stephanie O’Keeffe, a member of the coalition, praised the concept as being directly responsive to concerns from residents.

Last month the university established a late-night bus called the Sober Shuttle to provide late-night transportation for students in another effort to keep them away from North Amherst neighborhoods.

Last fall some residents, frustrated with the shenanigans of intoxicated college-age students, hired a private security company to keep watch on weekend nights.

Amherst Police Capt. Christopher Pronovost said many of the people walking in the area are trying to find house parties hosted at off-campus residences, with some people heading to student-occupied dwellings on Phillips and Allen streets.

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