Plans aired for extending regional trail system from Northampton to Hatfield

By SCOTT MERZBACH

Staff Writer

Published: 09-21-2023 11:35 AM

HATFIELD — A memorandum of understanding between officials in Hatfield and Northampton is being sought so connecting the regional rail trail system to Hatfield, a project expected to be fully funded by the state through its Transportation Improvement Program, can move to the design phase.

Rich Abbott and Mark Gelotte, members of Hatfield’s Open Space Committee and Sarah LaValley, assistant director of Northampton’s Office of Planning and Sustainability, informed the Hatfield Select Board Tuesday that a series of topics will be covered by the agreement, including a conservation restriction to be placed on 11.58 acres of Northampton-owned land being donated to Hatfield, 1.24 acres of land that Hatfield gives to Northampton and a 750-foot easement across the town’s Department of Public Works yard for the shared-use path and related parking.

In addition, Northampton is committed to paying for the design and right-of-way plans using a $300,000 legislative earmark, with no costs to be covered by Hatfield.

Before the Connecticut River Greenway Trail memorandum of understanding for the shared use path that would extend from Damon Road to Elm Court is finalized, though, Select Board Chairwoman Diana Szynal said it should be more descriptive and precise for what Hatfield should do, and then be reviewed by the town’s attorney.

“I think there is a lot of detail missing from this,” Szynal said. “Especially if we’re going to accept land and have a conservation restriction on it.”

Town Meeting voted to support efforts to obtain funding and construction of the trail. The plan calls for a 1¼-mile extension, beginning at River Run Apartments on Damon Road in Northampton and then paralleling the railroad tracks, typically staying about 50 to 60 feet away, and ending at Elm Court in Hatfield.

The 10-foot wide, paved path, with lanes in both directions, would only have the final 750 feet in Hatfield.

Szynal said she is concerned that parking may intrude onto the DPW yard and that additional agreements may be needed related to this aspect of the project. 

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“I look it at as a first step. There’s going to have to be additional MOUs when we have more information,” Szynal said.

She also asked for more information about the land that is coming to Hatfield, situated between Hatfield Road in Northampton and Elm Court and Little Neponset Road in Hatfield.

“It would be a kind of land swap,” Gelotte said.

Abbott explained that Hatfield also will have to assign a representative, such as Town Administrator Marlene Michonski or a member of the Open Space Committee, to work with the Northampton Office of Planning and Sustainability  and also participate in meetings with the Massachusetts Department of Transportation and the company that will design the extension.

LaValley said parking lot details for the trailhead will be finalized once the design gets underway.

“What Northampton is looking for at this point is a commitment to the participation in the process and providing this lot to the city, along with the easement for the trail, ” LaValley said.

LaValley said there will be public hearing at the 25% design stage.

Scott Merzbach can be reached at smerzbach@gazettenet.com.]]>