Delays snag Hickory Ridge solar project in Amherst

  • The former Hickory Ridge Golf Course in 2021. Completion of a solar and battery project at the former course is being delayed. GAZETTE FILE PHOTO

Staff Writer
Published: 10/2/2023 5:40:51 PM
Modified: 10/2/2023 5:39:51 PM

AMHERST — Completion of a solar and battery project at the former Hickory Ridge Golf Course is being delayed, even as the town embarks on a project to enhance the trails and habitat at the 150-acre site at 191 West Pomeroy Lane.

While about 26 acres will be used by PureSky for a 6.2-megawatt solar array, a project that was in the planning stages before the town acquired the land for $520,000 in early 2022, Assistant Town Manager David Ziomek said the installation timeline for the panels and battery system has changed.

“It’s moving a little slower than we thought and PureSky thought,” Ziomek told members of the Conservation Commission at their Sept. 27 meeting. Project developers had hoped to complete it by the end of the summer.

Ziomek said the town considers solar a good and complementary use for the site, with the town getting annual payments for leasing the property to the solar company. Energy produced from the arrays will be going to the city of Springfield.

In an interview before the meeting, Ziomek said the solar project has been delayed by weather and supply chain issues, as well as a review under the MassWildlife’s Natural Heritage & Endangered Species program, and the need to protect rare species on the site. More than 200 trees were removed last winter to make way for the arrays.

The order of conditions expired in early September and the Conservation Commission will need to renew its permits with the town.

The project has come under criticism from those who worry about harm to the site, and the Fort River that runs through it. Dynamic Energy Solutions LLC, a Pennsylvania company handling the work on behalf of PureSky, reached a $1.14 million settlement with the attorney general for damaging wetlands while building a solar installation in Williamsburg several years ago.

The slowdown in the solar project comes as the town has submitted its own notice of intent to overhaul the former golf course’s trail system, and remove some of the cart paths once used by golfers.

“Fundamentally this effort is about trail enhancement and providing more access to this unique property off of West Pomeroy Lane,” Ziomek said.

At the same time, the town intends to safeguard and enhance natural resources on the property.

The notice of intent includes the handicapped accessible trail system, work on the trail bridges, and various restoration and mitigation activities associated with the riverfront and wetlands.

The commission will continue a hearing on the notice of intent Oct. 11 at 7:35 p.m., as it awaits comments from the state’s Department of Environmental Protection and the Natural Heritage & Endangered Species program.

The north-south trail connection to the East Hadley Road apartments and neighborhoods is a key aspect of the project. This will allow people to talk through the property to the Pomeroy village center. The town is using $185,076 in Community Development Block Grant money, a $280,000 grant from the state’s Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs Parkland Acquisitions and Renovations for Communities program, and a $120,000 match from the town’s Community Preservation Act account.

This trail is “one of the principal reasons the town purchased the property,” Ziomek said.

During the town’s work on the site, in addition to a number of cart paths used by the golf course being retired, two of the seven bridges will be removed and culverts will also be taken away. There will also be habitat restoration for rare and endangered species.

A coinciding project is building an accessible loop trail with a $400,000 grant from the state. “All of the trails are designed to be low impact,” Ziomek said.

Town officials also expect to minimize the existing parking.

A portion of the property, including frontage on West Pomeroy, remains on the table for possible use as a fire station for South Amherst, and some of the site could be set aside for affordable housing. The town is embarking on a study to determine what might be able to fit on the property.

Scott Merzbach can be reached at


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