Historical Commission OKs relocation of Jones Library’s memorial garden in Amherst 

  • The David Chapin Kinsey Memorial Garden behind Jones Library in Amherst in 2016. GAZETTE FILE PHOTO

Staff Writer
Published: 5/24/2022 9:15:00 AM

AMHERST — Many of the plants and hardscapes in a memorial garden behind the Jones Library can be relocated to Kestrel Land Trust’s headquarters in South Amherst later this year.

With extensive planning already underway for transferring elements of the Kinsey Memorial Garden from the 43 Amity St. library site to Kestrel’s property at 37 Bay Road, in advance of the $36.3 million renovation and expansion of the library, the Historical Commission approved the move at its May 18 meeting.

The commission has responsibility for oversight, under a preservation agreement between the town and the trustees for the library, that includes both the building and the property.

“I think it's a wonderful solution,” said commission member Jan Marquardt. “I don't see why we wouldn't support it. I think it's a great idea, a great plan.”

Commission member Pat Auth said the garden is not original to the library and is also not historic landscaping. Still, Auth said she wants to see the garden thrive.

“Kestrel Trust is certainly someone we can put our faith in to preserve the plants they have chosen,” Auth said.

Amherst Planner Ben Breger said the preservation agreement applies to both the original 1928 portion of the Jones, which has seen several additions over the years, and also the property itself.

The action of removing the garden falls under what is considered a major category of change, Breger said. As the project continues and plans are unveiled, the commission will also have to give approval for any changes to elements of the building.

The garden was completed in 1999 by Carol Pope and is dedicated to her late husband, David Chapin Kinsey, a University of Massachusetts international education professor.

The memorial garden has been referred to as a “botanically sophisticated garden” by residents concerned with the scope of the library project and its impact on the surroundings. Among its plantings are a forest pansy variety of redbud tree, and rare varietals including cyclamens, hellebores and astilbes, planted alongside daylilies and ornamental grasses.

A grove of Japanese maples is also in the garden, with varieties that have red, orange or yellow foliage in the fall.

“I just think this is an incredible opportunity to preserve Carol Pope's vision in a way we wouldn't be able to do given the construction project itself,” said George Hicks-Richards, facilities supervisor for the Jones.

Jane Bryden, a member of Kestrel’s board of trustees, said Kestrel will preserve the beauty and love of plants that Pope has been nurturing and watching over.

“We thought it would be a wonderful thing to move these beautiful plants to a new location that is still valued by the town of Amherst,” Bryden said.

The commission’s decision means that pruning will begin soon, setting the stage for the relocation of what can be feasibly be transplanted in the fall.

Library Director Sharon Sharry said there will not be any investing in resources in the interim, meaning that the area of the garden will not look good when the plants and benches are removed. But landscaping will be part of the design and development of the property as the project moves forward, and Sharry said there is likely to be some fundraising associated with landscaping.

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

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