Diane L. Kleber: Why has roundabout project been ‘secretly managed’

Published: 7/12/2020 8:00:10 PM

Referring to the Gazette’s front-page story, “Digging for the truth,” (June 27), I would like to ask the city of Northampton why the discovery and handling of the rare approximately 10,000-year-old Native American archaeological site at the roundabout construction site on North King and Hatfield streets has been almost secretly managed without providing public information and seeking public input for over two years?

And why has imminent destruction of the site, maybe only partially excavated, been halted only because of a lawsuit by the former landowner? And why does the city’s planning director, Wayne Feiden, think that casting aspersions on the former landowner’s legal motives or the ethics of his hired archaeologist are appropriate ways to react now that the situation is much more fully public, but not through any action of the city?

The required archaeological report dated last summer was only released last week by the attorney general at the former landowner’s request. It confirms the rarity and importance of the site and says it is eligible to be placed on the National Register of Historic Places. It also says that there are elements (hearths) likely not yet uncovered. It advises the site be avoided by roundabout activities and if that is neither prudent nor feasible, the site should be subject to a particular type of impact mitigation.

The Wampanoag Tribe of Gay Head, as the Native American preservation representative, also requested additional investigation and mitigation of impacts to the site. Who made the decision to proceed rather than preserve the site and what mitigation, if any, was done? And why no public involvement?

The bottom line is who decided that a roundabout had to be the answer, rather than a traffic light system, at the problematic intersection which I often travel, even though it meant permanently destroying an irreplaceable piece of Native American and Northampton history?

Is this “Paradise City” paving Paradise to put up a parking lot? (Thanks Joni Mitchell!)

Diane L. Kleber

Florence




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