Westhampton seeks public input on open space, recreation plans

  • Westhampton Town Hall GAZETTE FILE PHOTO

Staff Writer
Published: 2/17/2022 6:32:17 PM
Modified: 2/17/2022 6:32:05 PM

WESTHAMPTON — Town officials are trying to gauge if there’s an interest in improving recreational resources like public access to local waterways or parks, or in creating new spaces such as a dog park or a pickleball court. 

The Westhampton Open Space and Recreation Committee is working on a seven-year update to the town’s Open Space and Recreation Plan. As part of developing that plan, the committee is surveying residents on the town’s current use of its open spaces as well as its recreational opportunities, said Laurie Sanders, chairperson of the committee. 

“Their opinions and ideas will identify what our priorities should be for the next seven years and will shape the action plan,” Sanders said.  

Surveys are available online at bit.ly/3sGSFJ6 or at the Town Hall, at 1 South Road, or at the Westhampton Public Library, at 1 North Road.

Sanders, who has been a part of the survey process in the past, said the information gathered provides context and reasoning as to why a particular piece of land should be protected or used in a different way. The survey also helps guide the committee by letting members know what activities they enjoy or would like to do more of. For example, she noted, the town has no clear bicycle lanes.

“We have very scenic routes, but adding a bike lane might encourage people to feel safe enough and bike more. There are many things we could do at the local level that aren’t that expensive,” she said. “This survey is a critical component. We want to know what kinds of things people love now and ensure that continues. Our goal is to get the input of as many people as possible. The plan will help guide strategic decisions about open land in Westhampton and how we can provide for our recreational preferences.” 

An updated plan is also required for the town to apply for state grant funding that focuses on land and recreation projects. 

In developing the survey, Sanders said the committee has discovered opportunities to work with neighboring towns and get more important, long-term solutions and protections. The committee has had the opportunity to collaborate with other communities such as Williamsburg, as well as with consultants from the Franklin Regional Council of Governments and the Pioneer Valley Planning Commission.

In taking a look at other communities’ surveys and plans, Sanders said the committee has been able to get perspective of the neighboring towns and refine its surveys in a way that best reflects Westhampton. 

“This kind of planning is increasingly important considering conservation, agricultural and climate-related issues,” she said. “The collaboration is just great. We’re discussing such similar areas that benefit all of us, so why reinvent the wheel?”

Survey responses need to be completed by Thursday, March 10. A public meeting to discuss results has been tentatively scheduled for Wednesday, April 6. 

The town’s Open Space and Recreation Plan is due to the state by June 30. For more information or to get involved in the Open Space and Recreation Committee’s planning process, email Sanders at laurielsanders@gmail.com.

Emily Thurlow can be reached at ethurlow@gazettenet.com.

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