Grand designs: Students pitch ideas for Mill River Greenway entrance in Williamsburg

  • Luca Guerra works on her ideas for the entrance to the Mill River Greenway. STAFF PHOTO/CAROL LOLLIS

  • Honor Zigmand, left, and Olivia Lockwood, talk about ideas for the Williamsburg entrance to the Mill River Greenway that would connect Haydenville and Williamsburg, as part of a project in Katie Joyce’s fifth grade class at the Anne T. Dunphy School. STAFF PHOTO/CAROL LOLLIS

  • Luca Guerra, works on ideas for one of the entrances of the Mill River Greenway that would connect Haydenville and Williamsburg as part of a project in Katie Joyce’s fifth grade class at the Anne T. Dunphy School in Williamsburg. Some of Guerra’s ideas were a duck pond, picnic tables, a bike rack, and bird feeders. On the left is Colton Shadrick and on the right in red, Elliot Chaplin. STAFF PHOTO/CAROL LOLLIS

  • Jennifer Black works Tuesday with Elliot Chaplin on ideas for one of the entrances of the Mill River Greenway. STAFF PHOTO/CAROL LOLLIS

  • Luca Guerra, works on ideas for one of the entrances of the Mill River Greenway that would connect Haydenville and Williamsburg as part of a project in Katie Joyce’s fifth grade class at the Anne T. Dunphy School in Williamsburg. Some of Guerra’s ideas were a duck pond, picnic tables, a bike rack, and bird feeders. STAFF PHOTO/CAROL LOLLIS

Staff Writer
Published: 1/21/2021 9:57:21 PM

WILLIAMSBURG — Students from the Anne T. Dunphy School are using their talents to help design one of the entrances to the proposed Mill River Greenway.

Katie Joyce’s class of fifth grade students has been asked to draw maps with what they’d like to see at the Helen E. James entrance of the Greenway, a 2-mile-long shared-use path that is set to connect the village center of Williamsburg to The Brassworks building in Haydenville. Because of the hybrid model that the Dunphy School is operating under, Joyce’s class is divided into two cohorts. One group visited the entrance on Tuesday, while the other is set to visit on Friday. 

“They’re contributing to what the future of Williamsburg will look like,” Joyce said. “It’s really important that students feel responsible for the future of their town.”

Gaby Immerman is the chairperson of the Mill River Greenway Committee, which has been working to make the project a reality for about a decade.

Immerman said that the idea came out of a desire to connect Haydenville and Williamsburg with a path not used by cars, as the section of Route 9 connecting the two communities near the Williamsburg Snack bar, a section known as “the pinch,” is too narrow to be navigated safely by walkers or bicyclists.

“All the Haydenville kids can’t walk or bike to school,” Immerman said. “There’s no safe way to do that.”

Unlike an earlier unsuccessful plan to connect Williamsburg to the regional bike trail system, this project eschews the use of rail beds and the easements that come with them. Instead, the Mill River Greenway would run alongside Route 9 in the right of way and involve no takings, although there may be an easement agreed to with The Brassworks property owners, Immerman said.

The Greenway would also be separated from Route 9 by a landscaped strip.

“This is not putting a bike lane on Route 9,” Immerman said.

The students in Joyce’s class are being asked to draw maps with what they would like to see at the Helen E. James entrance, and they will hand them over to the committee in February. 

“Each individual student will present their plans,” Joyce said.

Immerman said that the creativity displayed by the children she met with Tuesday exceeded that of what “crusty old grownups” could imagine.

Some of the ideas she heard from the students involved a fountain, Alice and Wonderland-themed sculptures, and even a pretzel stand.

“All sorts of beautiful visions,” Immerman said.

She also noted she’s done exercises this year with the students on how to read a site map. 

“Our hope is that some of the kids might be interested in making a presentation,” Immerman said.

Since the design for the project is still ongoing, the children’s ideas have the ability to be incorporated in the entrance. Asked if any of the kids’ ideas really stuck out to her, Immerman pointed to having raspberry bushes at the entrance.

“I’d love to see raspberries or fruit trees that are just there for the plucking,” she said.

She also said the idea of having edibles at the entrance wasn’t something the committee had thought of beforehand.

Some of the kids set to visit the entrance Friday shared their thoughts for what should be there with a Gazette reporter.

Luke Pickard, 11, of Williamsburg, said he thought it might be nice to have a statue at the entrance.

Talia Craig, 10, of Haydenville, said that she would like to see a water dispenser for dogs, and elsewhere on the trail, as her dog is always drinking water. She also endorsed having poop bags for dogs.

H. Wes Kellogg, 10, of Worthington brought up the idea of having a frog pond, an idea supported by some of his peers.

“There should be a nice frog pond with some frogs and maybe some minnows,” said Griffin Darling, 10, of Haydenville.

Both Oliva McAvoy, 10, of Williamsburg and Hadley Schiff, 11, of Williamsburg put forward the idea of berry bushes at the entrance.

Aside from one survey paid for by Town Meeting, the project has received no town money. Instead, the project has moved forward through state money, as well as donations of time and money from community members.

“Our stated intention is to not cost Burgy money out of the annual town budget,” Immerman said.

She said that the hope for breaking ground on the project is either 2025 or 2026. However, Immerman said that once construction starts, it will have to move quickly due to the importance of Route 9.

“I think that it will be a one-season project in the year they start it,” she said.

Bera Dunau can be reached at bdunau@gazettenet.com.




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