Amherst reviewing open space plan 

  • Amherst Town Hall

Staff Writer
Published: 2/20/2017 12:35:39 AM

AMHERST — Nearly a decade ago, an out-of-date Open Space and Recreation Plan cost Amherst state money that would have allowed the town to form the Hills Historical Landscape Park by preserving two vacant lots on Main Street.

While the area in front of the Henry Hills Mansion remains undeveloped, and has protections provided by its place in the Emily Dickinson Historic District, Amherst Media is contemplating building its new headquarters there, which is only possible because the town lost out on a $189,000 Parklands and Acquisition and Renovations for Communities grant because of an “expired” plan in 2008.

As the town seeks a $300,000 Land and Water Conservation Grant to offset some of the anticipated $1 million needed to build a spray park, pavilion and playground at Groff Park on Mill Lane, Amherst officials are making sure that this won’t happen again with the plan, which examines how open space is protected for wildlife habitat and agriculture and addresses how recreational facilities, such as playing fields, parks and pools, are improved.

Assistant Town Manager David Ziomek said he is working with the Conservation Commission and Leisure Services and Supplemental Education Commission to review the 105-age document last updated in 2009.

The process includes soliciting feedback to make sure the plan remains valid through 2024.

“Our goal is to have a draft plan by the 10th of March,” Ziomek said.

The Conservation Commission meeting at 7 p.m. Feb. 22 at Town Room at Town Hall and LSSE Commission at 7 p.m. Feb. 23 at the middle school, and a joint meeting March 1 at 7 p.m. at the Glass Room at the Bangs Community Center, are opportunities for residents provide information about what should be included in the plan.

The public is also encouraged to offer feedback by visiting

Ziomek said the state grant is expected be announced in October, in advance of fall Town Meeting. Already, $550,000 from the Community Preservation Act account is paying for Groff Park, and more will be sought at spring Town Meeting.

Meanwhile, Amherst recently received an $18,000 grant from the Division of Fisheries and Wildlife for conservation land improvements, with work to be done at Atkins Flats off Middle Street, Lawrence Swamp off Station Road and the Eastman Brook area north of Puffer’s Pond.

In all three, Ziomek said the work will be to done on early successional habitat management, pushing back forest edges and removing invasive species, and retaining the habitat for various brids, butterflies and box turtles.

Land Manager Brad Bordewieck and his staff are beginning the work this month, and will continue into the spring, with the grant expended by June 30.

Scott Merzbach can be reached at

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