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Coexistence of Northampton residents and bears recognized by state

Northampton recently earned a plug in Massachusetts Wildlife magazine for efforts to deal with a large and growing black bear population. In discussing human-bear interaction in the eastern part of the state, Wayne F. MacCallum, director of the state’s Division of Fish and Wildlife, pointed to Northampton as an “excellent example” of the ability of bears to live in nonrural communities. He briefly outlined the division’s longtime use of radio collars to study the movement and behavior of bears in the Northampton area, and pointed out the city’s efforts to prevent the feeding of bears through an ordinance adopted last year.

“Extrapolation of the Northampton bear study suggests that residents of eastern Massachusetts are going to have to learn to tolerate the presence of bears in their communities,” MacCallum wrote.

Estimates peg the state’s black bear population at 4,000. For a time, most of these bears lived in the four western counties but in recent years have been moving east, MacCallum explains. The division is launching another study of bears to track their movements.

“Clearly the public needs to understand that the bears are coming into eastern Massachusetts because there isn’t room for them in rural western Massachusetts,” MacCallum wrote.

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Volunteer hours add up

If it’s true that volunteers make an organization tick, then the city’s senior center is in good hands.

The Northampton Council on Aging recently presented a fake check to Mayor David J. Narkewicz that put a dollar value on the 14,215 volunteer hours its members logged last year at $381,558.78. The recognition came at a recent annual banquet for National Volunteer Month.

“I want to thank all the many volunteers at the senior center for the time that they put in in support of all the programs that go on,” Narkewicz said when presenting the check to the City Council last month.

With serious financial talk looming later in the meeting, Ward 3 City Councilor Owen Freeman-Daniels offered a suggestion to the mayor.

“It’s Thursday night, but you can still cash that tomorrow morning,” Freeman-Daniels said.

“The thought has crossed my mind,” the mayor said.

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Potholes begone

Those ginormous potholes that dot the streets throughout the Meadows may soon get filled — at least those on public byways.

The Department of Public Works reiterated its promise last month to farmers in the area, at the request of the Agricultural Commission, to fill the potholes with gravel at least once or twice each year. DPW crews filled the holes once in 2012.

“The current plan is to do it twice a year, once in the fall and once in the spring,” said Edward “Ned” Huntley, director of the DPW. “There’s some pretty big, monster potholes down there.”

Huntley said the state Department of Transportation has authorized using state Chapter 90 money to purchase materials for the effort. The public roads include Fair Street, Old Ferry, Hockanum, and Milk roads.

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Bike for Leeds bridge

An effort to save a historic bridge in Leeds will get a boost later this month when the Leeds Civic Association holds its fourth annual Bridge Bike Ride.

The ride, scheduled for Sunday, May 19, at 8 a.m., has three routes ranging in length from 10 to 50 miles.

The event is part of Northampton Bike Week. Advance registration is open online at www.leedscivic.org, or riders can register the morning of the ride at the start location in the parking lot of ChartPak Inc., 1 River Road.

The routes wind through some of the Valley’s most beautiful byways, including one that passes over the covered bridge in Conway.

All proceeds will go to preserving the bridge in Leeds that once served guests and workers of the Leeds Hotel. Closed to vehicular traffic in 2004 due to safety concerns, the bridge now serves as a connector to conservation lands and foot and bicycle traffic over the Mill River.

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