Concern aired over preserving entire garden at Jones Library 

Trustee raises concern about petition article that will be presented at Town Meeting

  • The David Chapin Kinsey Memorial Garden behind Jones Library in Amherst, shown Wednesday, may be affected by a proposed expansion. JERREY ROBERTS

Staff Writer
Published: 3/31/2016 2:33:14 AM

AMHERST –  As a project to expand and renovate the Jones Library continues moving forward, library trustees are pledging to do what they can to preserve the Kinsey Memorial Garden, but are reluctant to make a commitment not to disturb it.

Austin Sarat, president of the trustees, issued a statement at the board’s meeting Monday expressing concern about a petition article that will be presented at the annual Town Meeting recommending that the garden be untouched by the building project.

“Putting a restriction on any portion of our property would deny our design team the ability to use our building and grounds in the best way possible,” Sarat said, adding that such a limitation “would unduly constrain the effort to provide the best possible library to the people of Amherst.”

Finegold Alexander Architects of Boston, in conjunction with Kuhn Riddle Architects of Amherst, is charged with designing a building to meet the needs of patrons for the next 25 to 50 years. Both have been informed that care needs to be taken with respect to the Kinsey garden and an 18th-century garden at the neighboring Strong House Museum.

"From the outset, the design team has been told that the library’s external spaces, the gardens and other open areas, are important components of the project,” Sarat said.

The citizen petition comes from Carol Pope, who in 1999 designed the garden as a memorial to her late husband, David Kinsey. 

“While there are many areas of the library that clearly require refurbishing and renovation, an expansion that threatens the valued green space, just when there are plans for establishing a cultural district, seems a definite mistake,” Pope said in an email.

The Garden Club of Amherst has also expressed concern that the gardens may be lost during the project.

Sarat is assuring people that the end result will be a “garden vista which will inspire pride and be visible and accessible to the community” and that there will be community involvement throughout the process. 

Meanwhile, trustees Monday agreed to a request by the Amherst Historical Society that they sponsor two land-related articles that will be considered by Town Meeting.

One will request a zoning change by the Amherst Historical Society for the Strong House property, at 67 Amity St.,  that would change the zoning of the site from general residence to general business. This is needed in case the Jones Library needs to purchase a portion of this land, which would cause the site to be out of compliance with zoning.

The second would establish a historic preservation restriction or deed covenant on the Strong House land to ensure the property would always be used for history-related projects and would not be affected by any other changes in the future.

Scott Merzbach can be reached at


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