Guest columnist Pickles? Or, pickleball?

A 61,750-square-foot pickleball/tennis facility is being proposed for a business-zoned site just north of 253 West St.

A 61,750-square-foot pickleball/tennis facility is being proposed for a business-zoned site just north of 253 West St. BERKSHIRE DESIGN GROUP


Published: 05-28-2024 7:20 AM

Three generations ago my great-grandfather chose North Hatfield to farm. He had limited resources, an indomitable Polish work ethic, two draft horses, minimal command of the local language and a family to follow and feed. Hardship often rained down: drought for months, snowfall in May and punishing perforating hail. There were no grants, time shares, or GoFundMe pages to mediate loss. If by chance some farm bounty happened it was bartered or shared. So much for my nostalgic farm-generated perspective.

Onto the unconscionably gigantic 61,750-square-foot pickleball/tennis building proposal. It is seemingly fast-tracked, on archaeologically sensitive, prime farmland in a historically designated district, a racket swat away from the Malinowski Brothers Farm. I couldn’t construct a two- or three-hole farm field outhouse without proper Hatfield planning protocol and abutter notification. Yet, this noisome pickleball volley seems to roll without question.

How will the compatibility of design (Historic District), vegetative screening, lighting impact, traffic study, outdoor court noise, be addressed? Can someone tell this Hatfield taxpayer about my rights of freehold? The developmental cancer à la mode, currently killing Route 9 in Hadley, has aggressively manifested among the crumbling Route 5 Hatfield corridor, rendering a pall of vanishing farmland. The charming, quiet, quintessential center of Hatfield will forever escape the commercial ravaging of West and North Hatfield while enjoying sewer, sidewalks, and truck silence.

Ironically, the approval of this pickleball palace will directly assure that three of the most architecturally egregious Hatfield buildings: C&S Wholesalers, the regional library, and this recreational box/pox all abut the Malinowski farm I share with my brother. Previous farmland lost forever; while a praise-worthy, rehabilitation, agricultural collaborative operates on limited ground as a direct abutter to the south.

There are no Hatfield islands or dead malls to suitably accommodate this devastating project and the bigger courtside question looms: If the land to grow pickles is lost forever, what becomes of a giant steel box, shadowing my farm when the pickleball fad fades into sport oblivion?

The Great Depression clipped onion sales in Hatfield. Health consciousness chopped the tobacco crop. And, hemp speculation went up in smoke. Will commerce and development finally conquer the resilient fight in the farmer? This project has an obvious, clear and direct impact on my life. It will also effect the quality of life in North Hatfield and for that I promise a fight.

The people plodding in to pickle won’t think about the cucurbits that grew beneath their feet for hundreds of years. A glance across Route 5 to the Malinowski farm, however, will still showcase sweet corn and pumpkins grown in my fight with an increasingly fickle Mother Nature on precious New England farmland not lost forever.

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Edward Malinowski lives in North Hatfield.