Easthampton residents weigh in on plans for Nashawannuck Pond boardwalk

Last modified: Wednesday, March 12, 2014

EASTHAMPTON — City officials have been talking about building a boardwalk around the downtown end of Nashawannuck Pond for over a decade, and now it’s time to nail down specifics of the $645,164 project so it can begin later this year.

At a public forum Thursday hosted by City Planner Jessica Allan, residents lobbied for specific materials and features and asked questions about what sort of long-lasting, low-maintenance decking the city could afford.

“The boardwalk material probably has the biggest cost implications and maintenance considerations for this project,” Jeff Squire, a landscape architect for the Berkshire Design Group of Northampton told the 32 people in attendance.

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Squire presented preliminary plans for an eight-foot-wide, street-level boardwalk that would run about 500 feet along Cottage Street and Williston Avenue, with a break at the Cottage Street bridge.

While some features are open to debate, Allan said that the terms of the grant dictate the boardwalk include a roughly 1,600-square-foot plaza and three boat docks.

Squire told residents that he would take their comments into account as he begins to develop the preliminary plans into a design that is 75 percent complete. He promised to come back in about a month with the updated design as well as samples of building and railing materials for residents to consider.

The plans must be finished by June 30, according to the terms of the state grant, and then the project will need approval from the Conservation Commission.

“Hopefully we’ll start moving into the construction phase in late summer or early fall,” Allan said.

The project is financed by a $400,000 state Parkland Acquisitions and Renovations for Communities grant and $245,164 in matching Community Preservation Act funds.

Berkshire Design Group’s plans show a plaza at the pond’s northernmost point with landscaping and benches and steps down to a platform about 12 to 18 inches from the water level, where people can fish.

The handicapped-accessible boat docks would likely be floating with gangways that could be removed in the winter, Allan said. Two would be off the plaza and a third would be further down Williston Avenue, according to the designs.

Squire told residents that the support structure of the boardwalk would likely require concrete pylons, but the rest could be made of timber or steel. He said the decking could be made of a variety of materials, from wood (the least expensive) to a durable plastic or steel.

Most people agreed that using a cheap wood that would fall into disrepair too quickly would not end up being cost-effective. Allan said the cost estimates the city used in its grant application were based on using a moderately expensive, extremely durable, mold-resistant wood called ipe. But other materials, including plastics that resemble wood, are also options.

Some said they envisioned a boardwalk made of actual boards, but others, including Nash Gallery owner Marlies Stoddard, said a wood-like decking would be acceptable.

“I think aesthetic is incredibly important. It’s a centerpiece,” Stoddard said. “We can’t create a concrete jungle.”

Resident Dana Salisbury suggested the city could “split the difference” and use wood-like plastic underfoot but real wood for the railings. “Where you are going to come in contact with it, we should really consider the pleasure factor,” she said. She imagines that people will want to lean their elbows on a wooden railing to look out over the pond.

But some, including landscape architect and city resident William Canon, said using thin steel or cables as a railing would allow for a better view out over the pond. “It would be more transparent,” he said.

With the view in mind, Greater Easthampton Chamber of Commerce President Patrick Brough said the landscaping should be low. “I would want no trees,” he said. Current plans call for removing eight trees and planting 20, Allan said.


Allan said the biggest concern she hears from residents is that it will cost a lot for the Parks and Recreation Department to maintain the boardwalk.

But according to Allan, Parks and Recreation Director John Mason believes paying for upkeep will not be a problem. And if residents are worried about frequent maintenance work being required, Allan said, they should speak up in favor of some durable materials. “We want to know what our priorities are,” she said.

At-Large City Councilor James “J.P.” Kwiecinski asked Squire to come back with a maintenance schedule that would allow for comparisons among the various materials and when they would need upkeep and replacement.

Nashawannuck Pond Steering Committee member Elaine Wood said her committee had discussed selling engraved stone pavers or bricks in the plaza to raise money for boardwalk maintenance.

“You’re putting down bricks anyway, so you might as well,” she said.

Squire also suggested asking donors to fund benches on the boardwalk. “We can get creative,” he said.

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


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