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Public airs views on Williamsburg greenway

Chairman Eric Bloomquist said the Mill River Greenway Committee is focusing on connecting Williamsburg and Haydenville in a manner that would be suitable for foot and bicycle traffic.

Bloomquist said that the sidewalks that run along Route 9 between each village center are disconnected by a long stretch of road, making it bike or foot travel treacherous.

“We have been charged by the Select Board to see if residents think this is a good idea, and to get feedback about what issues, concerns or ideas they may have,” Bloomquist said.

Bloomquist said the process is still in its information-gathering stage, and that there were no specific plans in place yet.

“When and if this project goes through, it will only do so with the support of the community,” Bloomquist said.

The committee has had preliminary meetings with the Pioneer Valley Planning Commission and the Massachusetts Department of Transportation. It has also consulted with individuals who helped created the Great Barrington River Walk, a trail along the Housatonic River in downtown Great Barrington.

According to Gaby Immerman, a Mill River Greenway Committee member who teaches horticulture at Smith College, the committee has also been working closely with faculty and students at Smith who have produced a variety of maps of the area in question.

Immerman said that Smith students from a landscape studies class, and the Center for Environmental, Ecological and Sustainable Design, have used GPS units to map the area, reviewed parcel data, and identified land owners within the corridor where a possible connection could be made.

“They really did a great job in gathering the data and creating and printing all of the maps that we are using here today,” Immerman said. “Their input has been a central component that has allowed us to move forward,” she said.

Residents closely reviewed the maps that were laid out on long tables and hung on the walls of the meeting room.

“I rode my bike here today. I had to take the long way around and that tripled the distance for me,” resident Sally Loomis said.

Others wanted to know if the creation of a bikeway between Williamsburg and Haydenville would include any conservation work on the river.

“The river has been vanishing from sight because of all of these invasive plants,” said Eric Weber of Williamsburg. “If they could also get rid of some the bittersweet and Japanese knotweed at the same time, that would be great.”

Bloomquist said that conservation measures could be part of the plan if it was clear that this is what the community wanted.

“Whatever you tells us here today will be reviewed and reported to the Select Board,” Immerman said.

Committee member Mary Dudek said that she thought the group was off to a productive start.

“I am actually surprised at how many people turned out. This is very good,” Dudek said.

Haydenville resident Markelle Smith said she was pleased with the forum and the information it provided.

“This is a great opportunity to have lots of people come and provide feedback,” Smith said. “The Mill River is a special place and I think a Mill River Greenway is a brilliant idea.”

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