Acknowledgements. i

Section 1 – Plan Summary. 1

Summary. 1

Section 2 – Introduction. 3

Statement of Purpose. 3

Planning Process and Public Participation. 4

Section 3 – Community Setting. 7

Regional Context 7

History of the Community. 10

Population Characteristics. 12

Growth and Development Patterns. 15

Zoning. 19

Map 3-3.  Zoning Section 4 – Environmental Inventory and Analysis. 22

Section 4 – Environmental Inventory and Analysis. 23

Landscape Character 23

Geology, Topography, and Soils. 24

Soils. 27

Water Resources. 31

Vegetation. 37

Fisheries and Wildlife. 39

Scenic and Cultural Resources. 44

Section 5 – Conservation and Recreation Lands. 49

Protected Land. 49

Section 6 – Community Goals. 61

Description of Process. 61

Community Goals for Open Space and Recreation. 62

Section 7 – Analysis of Needs. 63

Summary of Resource Protection Needs. 63

Summary of Community Needs. 65

Summary of Management Needs. 67

Section 8 – Goals and Objectives. 69

Goals and Objectives. 69

Section 9 – Five-Year Action Plan. 71

Five-Year Action Plan. 71

Implementation Subcommittees. 80

Section 10 – Public Comments. 81

Meeting Minutes. 81

Survey Results. 100

 

Acknowledgements

 

Thank you especially to James Drawe, Chair, Cummington Open Space Committee, for your impetus in bringing this plan into being and for your ongoing efforts to safeguard Cummington’s rural heritage.  Also, thank you to the members of the Cummington Open Space Committee who assisted this project, especially Audrey Marcoux and Judy Moore. 

 

Many residents and board members of town committees offered their time and information, including Brian Anderson, Nancy Childs, Stephen Howes, Peter Lang, Charlie Quinlan, and Dave Robb.  Thank you all as well to Lisa Carey, Administrative Secretary, and Karen Tonnelli, Town Assessor.

 

The Pioneer Valley Planning Commission kindly offered their expert help in preparing Mass GIS maps for Cummington and by gathering statistical data for this report.  Thank you, Shawn Hayes, for responding so quickly.  A heartfelt thanks goes to Jim Scace, whose energetic efforts in supplying maps was fundamental to getting this report off the ground.

 

Many thanks to the faculty and staff of the Conway School   of Landscape Design--Don Walker, Maureen Buchanan-Jones, Chet Cramer, Jeanne Armstrong, Rick Brown, Ilze Meijers, and Janice Wood--for their tireless direction and assistance, and their cheerful encouragement.

 

Finally, thanks to all of the residents of Cummington who have enthusiastically given their time and energy to the development of this plan.

 

 

 


Section 1 – Plan Summary

Summary

 

Preserving the rural, remote character of Cummington--its steep slopes and rushing brooks, its tree-lined roads and vistas across farmland to distant hills, and the wild pulse of the Westfield River through the heart of town--is the primary purpose of this Open Space and Recreation Plan.  For centuries Cummington has been “off the beaten path,” a small town where farmers, poets, artists, and musicians have woven a rich cultural tradition that residents still enjoy.  Although the creep of suburbanization has yet to reach Cummington from Northampton and Pittsfield, many citizens are concerned by the rapid growth of surrounding communities and of Cummington, too.

 

Until now, Cummington’s hypsography and distance from urban areas have protected it from overpopulation.  Along with the lack of industry in town, the difficulties of building on its rocky slopes and of siting septic systems have kept the number of residents at approximately 600 people for over 150 years.  Over the last twenty years, the population has climbed to about 1,000 people. With cell-phone towers looming in its future, Cummington is in the process of being “discovered” by daily commuters along Route 9.

 

Half of Cummington’s land is protected to some degree as open space, but only 16% is permanently protected.  The rest of the town is at risk for residential development.  Much of the town’s farmland is already enrolled in the State’s Agricultural Preservation Restriction program, which protects it in perpetuity; however, a third of the town participates in Chapter 61, which gives only temporary protection to open space.  Cummington’s most scenic views are generally across Chapter 61 lands that could someday become subdivisions.

Section 8 of this report proposes a broad vision of protected open space for Cummington’s future. This includes a greenway along the Westfield River that unites Cummington’s open spaces with those in neighboring towns, providing an unbroken corridor for wildlife and passive recreation throughout the region.  Cummington’s stewardship of the Westfield River’s watershed is taken seriously, with plans for maintaining the pristine water quality befitting a National Wild and Scenic River.  To make this vision a reality requires a pro-active approach to community planning.  Creative steps that Cummington might take include adopting a flexible zoning by-law, encouraging the use of conservation restrictions on private properties, and enlisting school children’s help in monitoring water pollution across the town. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


Section 2 – Introduction

Statement of Purpose

 

This is the first Open Space and Recreation Plan that Cummington has undertaken.  In fact, other than Cummington’s zoning by-laws, this is the first community planning that the town has ever done.  Last year, the town was drawn into heated controversy over an application to build a cellular-telephone tower in Cummington, which was eventually approved and built.  This experience made the town realize how vulnerable it is to outside interests shaping its growth and development.  As a result, an Open Space Committee, chaired by Selectman James Drawe, was formed, dedicated to preserving open space and recreation in Cummington.

 

The aim of this plan, as mandated by the community, is fourfold:

 

·         To direct the growth of the town

·         To preserve the town’s historic integrity

·         To protect its water supply

·         To preserve, enhance, and maintain recreational opportunities in Cummington

 

 

 

 

 


Planning Process and Public Participation

 

At the town meeting in May of 2000 money was raised and appropriated to pay for the creation of an Open Space and Recreation Plan.  This plan will serve three purposes for the Town of Cummington.  First it will develop a consensus opinion about the development and preservation of open space in Cummington and second, it will contain a five year plan of action items that will implement the open space and recreational vision of the community.  By developing and filing this plan with the Office of Environmental Affairs, the Town of Cummington will become eligible for a range of state and federal grant moneys.

 

The Open Space and Recreation Committee was formed during the fall of 2000.  Members of the Recreation and Pettingill Memorial Field Committee, the Planning Board, the Board of Health, the Historical Commission, the Conservation Committee, and the Board of Selectmen participated.  The first order of business was to develop a community survey to determine Cummington’s residents’ views on the development and preservation of Open Space and to determine the current and desired recreational opportunities that these open spaces provide.  The eight-page survey was quite lengthy but the response was enthusiastic.  Of the 450 surveys mailed out, 101 were completed and returned. 

 

In December 2000 the town contracted with the Conway School of Design to develop and write a draft Open Space and Recreation Plan for Cummington.  Three students and an advisor were assigned to the project as part of their coursework for the spring semester.  The students gathered background documentation and maps from various residents and held extended interviews with several residents to gain a sense of place and history. 

 

Two public meeting were held at the Community House.   To encourage participation, a notice was inserted in the local newspaper and flyers were posted throughout the town.

 

Twenty-two residents attended the meeting held on February 1.  In small groups, they were asked to locate their favorite places in town on maps provided for this purpose and to say why they loved these places.  They were also asked to describe things they would like to change about the town and what their concerns were about its future.

 

The second meeting on February 22 presented the findings of the students and the lists developed by the residents in the first meeting.  The 26 people attending the second meeting were then asked to develop goals and interests and to identify areas of special concern.  The community reached a consensus regarding the purpose of the Open Space and Recreation Plan, as described in the Statement of Purpose.

 

The results of both meetings were recorded and are included in Appendix B, along with an article describing the first meeting that appeared in the local newspaper.

 

The students took the information from their background research and from the public meeting and produced a very through and insightful draft of Cummington’s Open Space and Recreation Plan.  The plan was presented to the Town in April 2001.

 

During the next year the Open Space and Recreation Committee reviewed and edited the draft plan.   The committee met in open session every three weeks to debate and rewrite the objectives and action plan.  Minutes were kept of each meeting and distributed via e-mail to a large group of residents.  The final draft was published in March 2002.  Copies of the final draft were available at the Post Office, the Community House, the Bryant Free Library, and the Old Creamery Store.  A public hearing was held in April at the Community House.

 

The final goals, objectives, and action items were presented to the annual town meeting in June 2002 for community acceptance.  The members of the annual town meeting voted unanimously to approve the goals, objectives, and action items contained in this document. 

 

The final document will be forwarded to the Commonwealth of Massachusetts’ Office of Environmental Affairs for acceptance.

 

This report is organized to reflect the Executive Office of Environmental Affairs OSRP guidelines.

 

Thanks to all of the residents of Cummington who have enthusiastically given their time and energy to the development of this plan.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


Section 3 – Community Setting

Regional Context

Summary:  Cummington, a rural town of about 1,000 people in Hampshire County, covers about 23 square miles.  Residents must drive out of town to shop, work, and attend public schools.  The Westfield River, the first National Wild and Scenic River in Massachusetts, flow 10 miles from the northwest to the southeast corner of town.  This prominent natural feature links Cummington with neighboring communities to the south.  North of town lies a wildlife corridor that stretches to Vermont and beyond.

 

Cummington, a rural hill town of steep slopes in the foothills of the Berkshires, lies in the northwest corner of Hampshire County in western Massachusetts.  Covering about 23 square miles, or 14,835 acres, Cummington is rich in hills, forests, and brooks.  One half of town drains directly into the Westfield River, which flows for 10 miles from the northwest to the southeast corner of Cummington.

 

Two main roads serve Cummington.  Route 9, running east/west, is the primary highway linking Cummington to Pittsfield, Northampton, and Interstate 91.  Route 112 runs north/south, connecting Cummington to Franklin County to the east and the rest of Hampshire County to the south.  Most Cummington residents travel outside of town to shop and work, primarily in Northampton and Pittsfield, since there is no large grocery store or any commercial center in town.

 

The Central Berkshire Regional School District includes seven towns:  Becket, Dalton, Hinsdale, Peru, Washington, Windsor, and Cummington.  This 212-square-mile district has approximately 2,500 children in grades K-12.  After completing fifth grade at Berkshire Trail Elementary School in town, Cummington students attend Nessacus Middle School and Wahconah Regional High School in Dalton.

 

Surrounded by a network of state parks and land preserves, Cummington is a vital link in an emerging pattern of regional greenways.  The Deer Hill State Reservation in the town’s northwest corner extends north into Plainfield, and above the Reservation lies a band of protected land stretching into Vermont.  The Gilbert Bliss State Park in Cummington’s southeast corner spills into Chesterfield, with state lands connecting farther south along the Westfield River.

 

The National Park Service has designated several sections of the Westfield as a National Wild and Scenic River.  One section begins at Cummington’s northern border and includes the entire stretch of the Westfield running through Cummington down into Chesterfield.  A group called the Westfield Wild and Scenic Agency is working to create a greenway through 13 towns along the River, including Cummington; another group, the Westfield River Association, promotes environmentally sound practices along the river.  Tourism is no longer a major activity in Cummington, making local fishing enthusiasts the primary users of the Westfield River.

 

Cummington is a member of the Pioneer Valley Planning Commission, which supports the Westfield Wild and Scenic Committee’s efforts to create a regional greenway.  The town is also a member of the Hilltown Community Development Corporation, located in Chesterfield, which has helped Cummington pursue various grants for recreation and community improvements.

 

 

 

 

 

Map 3-1.  Regional Context.

The Westfield River is the defining natural element of this region in western Massachusetts.  A large stretch of the River, shown here between two asterisks, was the first to be designated a National Wild and Scenic River in the state.  Permanently protected wildlife corridors weave through State Forests and land trusts both north and south of Cummington’s borders.

 

 

State Protected Land

 

 

Trustee Protected Land

 

 

Source:  1982 USGS Maps, Mass GIS maps

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Map 3-1.  Regional Context.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

History of the Community

 

Summary:  Cummington’s three villages – West Cummington, Cummington Center, and Swift River – were settled in the 1790s.  Agriculture and water-driven industry were the mainstays of Cummington’s economy until the mid-19th century when half the population moved west.  The town is proud of its long tradition of supporting the arts, which continues today.

 

Prior to settlement by the Colonists, the Algonquin Indians inhabited Cummington’s virgin forests of hemlock, pine, spruce, chestnut, maple, birch, oak, ash, and beech.  Township #5 was the most remote of the Commonwealth’s townships and the last to be settled.  The first permanent settlers arrived in Cummington in 1762 when the township was purchased from Massachusetts by John Cumming.  He bought the town to help Massachusetts raise money to send delegates to the Paris Peace Conference.  The town was divided into 63 lots of 102 acres each and sold to settlers with some land reserved for building roads, schools, and churches.

 

Communities first began to take shape in the hills south of the Westfield River near an old military road that ran between Northampton and Adams.  Next to be settled were the hills north of the river along a road that became the main east-west stagecoach route for over a century.  Today it is known as Stage Road.

 

Initially, the Westfield River valley wasn’t settled because the River flooded every spring and this area was considered unsuitable for crops and for building.  There were no bridges, and River was difficult to ford.  In 1775 the first bridge was built across the River, at the upper end of present-day Main Street in Cummington Center.  Cummington became incorporated in 1779.  Town Meetings have been held regularly since then, providing a continuity of purpose and contributing to the residents’ strong sense of place.  By 1790, 11 years after incorporation, the Westfield River had been controlled and harnessed by bridges and dams, and the town center shifted from the southeastern hills into the valley, to the present site of Cummington Center.  The communities of West Cummington and Swift River developed upstream to the west and downstream to the east. 

 

During the prosperity following the American Revolution, industries began to establish themselves along the river.  These included grist, lumber and woolen mills, tanneries, and a paper mill.  The community was successful and began to produce for markets outside of the town.  In 1805 a tannery was established in the village of West Cummington.  In 1825 new owners founded a paper mill that produced and exported fine quality writing papers, employing 20 men and women.  The wood-powered mill used 1,000 to 1,200 cords per year.  The mill, which was considered the “heart” of West Cummington, closed in 1877, partly because it had depleted the surrounding forests for fuel.  Residents have expressed interest in locating the remains of these mills and restoring one as a reminder of Cummington’s industrial past.

 

Farming was the main occupation in town, despite its rocky soils.  Early settlers produced their own food, clothing, and many implements.  Small diversified farmsteads raised sheep and cattle for wool, meat, and mild, and wove textiles from flax and wool.  Typical crops included hay, wheat, rye, oats, corn, barley, and fruit trees.  With the opening of the Erie Canal, a surge of emigration farther west led to abandoned farms throughout New England.  Between 1840 and 1850, the town lost half of its population, but many descendants of the earliest settlers remained in the town.  The Cummington Fair was established in 1869 by the Hillside Agricultural Society, with the objective of encouraging young men to stay on the farms and promoting the best agricultural methods.  Today, the Cummington Fair is the oldest regional agricultural fair in the United States, operating in the same location since 1883.

 

The town’s h9story includes many artists and performers, a tradition that continues today.  William Cullen Bryant, poet and editor of the New York Evening Post, was born in Cummington, and resettled in his hometown later in his life.  In 1872 he built the Bryant Free Library, a treasured landmark.  During the years after World War II, the town was featured in a short documentary film produced by the US Office of War Information entitled “The Cummington Story.”  The film documented the experiences of displaced families from Europe who were hosted by families in Cummington.

 

In the 1920s, Katherine Frazier founded The Playhouse, a school for the arts, on Potash Hill.  Later known as Cummington School of the Arts, this summer program of arts education lasted into the 1990s.  For a time the school also housed the Cummington Press, a small publishing press actively helping writers to gain a larger audience for their work.  Another summer arts program, the Greenwood School of Music (also known as Greenwood Music

Camp) draws youth from New England and beyond, and attracts many local and regional residents to its concerts.

 

Population Characteristics

 

Summary:  Residents are increasingly younger and interested in new recreational facilities.  Half the entire population is employed, and most workers commute out of town.  The disparity in income levels reflects the relative affluence of newcomers to town.  There are few employment opportunities in town for residents.

 

Cummington has the rare distinction of claiming about the same number of citizens today as it had in the 18th century.  Eleven hears after it incorporation in 1779, Cummington’s population was 873 hardy souls.  By 1840, the success of the town’s mills had pushed that number to 1,237 people.  But when the railroad bypassed Cummington and mills began to fail, half its citizens left for greater opportunities out west.  From 1850 to 1970, Cummington’s population stabilized at approximately 600 people, perhaps due to the almost total lack of industry in the town.  Since 1970 the population of Cummington has swelled to 978 living in 461 housing units according to the 2000 census.

 

The population is overwhelmingly Caucasian.  In 2000, less than 2% was listed as Hispanic, and no African Americans lived in town.  People in Cummington are well educated: 40.3% are college graduates and 32.9% attended college but didn’t graduate.  Of the remaining residents, 21.2% graduated from high school, leaving only 5.6% with less than twelve years of school.  Many residents have a connection with the arts.

 

Twenty-five years ago, rural towns in western Massachusetts reflected an aging, retiring population.  That trend seems to be changing in Cummington where 25-44 year olds have risen from 30.9% to 40.3% of the population (see Table 1-1, below).  This age group represents Cummington’s many commuters who work in nearby Northampton, Pittsfield, and Amherst at distances of 20, 22, and 25 miles away, respectively or further afield in Albany, NY, Hartford, CT, and Springfield, MA.  The average commuting time is 38 minutes each way.  The number of working residents who live in Cummington rose from 290 in 1980 to 486 in 2000.

 

In 2000, the median age of residents was 38.1 in Cummington, which perhaps explains the increase in the number of children between 15 an 19 years old.   Children attend Berkshire Trail Elementary School in Cummington Center.  This public school educates students through the fifth grade and was remodeled ten years ago.  On classroom is dedicated to each grade except for kindergarten, which has two classrooms.  The school is sited on ground that doesn’t meet Massachusetts standards fro playground space, so students use adjacent facilities at Pettingill Field, the town’s recreation area and home to its ball fields.  The growing number of children in Cummington, coupled with the poor quality of Pettingill Field’s old playground, led the Cummington Recreation Committee to raise funds for constructing a new playground, installed in 1998.  Many parents wish that Cummington had an indoor recreational facility with youth programs and a swimming pool, but with its limited residential tax base, the town cannot afford the expense of building one.

 

 

Age Group                                    1980                1990                2000

     0 – 4                                 7.0                   6.0                   3.7

     5 – 9                                 5.6                   8.0                   4.7

   10 – 14                               7.5                   7.9                   6.1

   15 – 19                               5.9                   5.9                 16.6

   20 – 24                               5.3                   5.2                   2.6

   25 – 44                             30.9                38.5                40.3

   45 – 54                             10.0                  8.0                 15.7

   55 – 64                             10.5                  7.5                   9.1

   65 – 74                               8.4                   7.8                   5.9

   75 & over                                      8.7                   5.2                   5.3

 

Table 1–1 Percent of Population by Age Group 1980, 1990, & 2000

 US Census Figures from the US Census Bureau.

 

Fourteen apartments provide housing for the elderly at Hillside Terrace, a complex of four buildings off Main Street in Cummington Center.  Built in 1983 by the Hampshire County Regional Authority, this elderly housing project currently has a short waiting list of town residents who would like to live there.  The complex of four buildings wasn’t designed for assisted living and lacks common space for meals.  Some of the project’s residents enjoy working in the vegetable and flower gardens on the property, and some play horseshoes at the recreation field nearby.  All Hillside Terrace residents need cars to go shopping.  Other than walking, hiking, and an exercise class at the Community House, no recreation is available for the elderly in town.  No public or special transportation is available for them in Cummington, either, and some depend on Meals on Wheels for sustenance.

 

In 2000 there were only 27 businesses registered in Cummington.  Residents who work in Cummington are, for the most part, self-employed farmers, entrepreneurs, artists, and / or part-time workers.  In 2000 the median house hold income was $42,250.  Families living with income below the poverty level accounted for 4,2% of the population in 2000, yet 38.1% of Cummington’s residents had household incomes exceeding $50,000.  The disparity in income levels reflects the relative affluence of newcomers, who are either retired or commuting to jobs outside Cummington.  Nonetheless, the town appears to be united in its desire not to spoil its rural, low-density character by attracting new industry or new employers.

 

 

 


Growth and Development Patterns

 

Summary:  Cummington’s population has grown 75% since 1970.  All residential growth has been outside of the village centers as they are fully developed.  Commuting to work and to shop is the way of life in Cummington.

 

Not since the early 19th century has Cummington seen the kind of residential growth it is experiencing now.  Since the 1950s, rural populations (towns with less than 2,500 people) in the Pioneer Valley Region have grown dramatically, decade by decade: 17.6% in 1960, 22.8% in 1970, and 18.9% by 1980.  Development patterns throughout the area have shifted as people move away from cities on the Connecticut River and into the surrounding countryside.  For the first time in this region’s history, commuting long distances to work has become the norm.  Although Cummington escaped the first wave of suburbanization after World War II, between 1970 and 1980 its population jumped from 562 to 657 people, an increase of 16.9%.  In 1990, 785 people lived in Cummington, or 19.5% more than in 1980, and in 2000, 978 people lived in Cummington, or 24.6% more than in 1990.

 

From 1986 to 1996, five to ten new homes were built each year.  In fiscal year 2000, Cummington’s Building Department issued forty-three Building permits, well above the permit activity of previous years.  During this period, four new homes were under construction, double the number of those build in 1997 and 1998 combined.  The Academy at Swift River, a private school, undertook a major renovation of the former Swift River Skit Lodge, and Greenwood Music Camp constructed a new building, designed for superior acoustics.  The public performances presented there in the summer greatly enrich community life.  The most controversial building project approved by the Zoning Board in 2000 was the planned construction of towers for personal wireless communications.  The penetration of cell-phone technology into the Berkshire foothills heralds further development pressure from commuters moving into Cummington and along Route 9 in general.

 

The population density in Cummington is about 37 people per square mile.  A few residents are seasonal, enjoying summer in the Berkshires, but most live in Cummington year round.  Residential development has been concentrated in its three villages:  Swift River, Cummington Center, and West Cummington.  Landform has shaped human settlement patters in Cummington since the arrival of the colonists in the 18th century.  Villages appeared where access to the River and landforms made building possible.  During its peak population in the early 19th century, Cummington saw other small villages spring up farther away from the River, but they faded over the next 150 years.

 

In 1924, Cummington built it beloved Community House, the only indoor gathering place that belongs to the town.  Municipal government is housed here; this is where the Selectboard and various volunteer town committees meet.  A new addition, which was added in 1997, makes the Community House an ideal spot for town events and celebrations.  Locating the Community House in Cummington Center, the geographic center of town, helped this village preserve it vitality and hence its physical upkeep.  West Cummington and Swift River haven’t fared so well.  Their few restaurants and inns, which formerly catered to vacationers as well as residents, have all closed, and these villages are struggling to maintain their historic character while residential growth spread into new areas of Cummington.

 

Other than the Creamery, a small but popular food store, delicatessen, and gas station on Route 9, and a hardware store, there are no retail businesses in Cummington.  Residents must drive long distances to neighboring towns to do their shopping.  As mentioned earlier, there is no industry in Cummington either.  Essentially, Cummington is free of all commerce, so municipal taxes depend on its residential tax base, which is meager.

 

Transportation

No bus or railroad lines serve Cummington, nor does it have any designated bikeways.  The only way to travel through town is by automobile.  Pedestrian traffic does exist in Cummington Center where the elementary school, Community House, recreational field, and church are accessible on foot for residents living in this village.  The lack of any commercial or retail shopping area in town means that car travel out of town is required.  Children and the elderly are dependent on the good will of their families and neighbors to get around town and to do shopping elsewhere.

 

The principal routes of travel through Cummington are Route 9, which runs alongside the Westfield River bisecting the town, except for the stretch from Swift River into Goshen , and Route 112, which descends into Cummington from Goshen along with Route 9, then veers south at the William Cullen Bryant Library and continues into Worthington.  The travel corridor along Route 9 is well documented for the congestion spreading north along it from Northampton.  Traffic is expected to increase along this pivotal road in Cummington and will continue to affect its natural and cultural environments.  The Westfield River, home to a number of endangered species of fish and insects, is particularly vulnerable to Route 9s growth as a major artery in this region.  So are Cummington’s roadside villages.  West Cummington, built on the narrow banks of the Westfield River between two mountains, has already suffered the loss of a major income-producer and recreation resource, the Snow Basin Skit Area, when Route 9 eradicated its parking lot during the road’s widening and reconstruction.  Swift River also hugs Route 9 closely and was affected by Route 9s expansion.  The smallest and most fragile of Cummington’s villages, Swift River could succumb to pressure from Route 9 in the future.  At the same time, Cummington residents value their proximity to Route 9 because most commute to outlying areas for employment.

 

Maintaining the town’s roads is a major part of its municipal responsibilities.  As of 1999, the Highway department had 49.2 miles of road to plow and repair (see Map 3-1).  Many of these roads are dirt.  According to Cummington’s recent survey of its residents, many of them like it that way.  However, public safety issues have encouraged paving of some dirt roads, including parts of Stage Road, the old Boston-to-Albany road that runs east west across the northern part of town.

 

Cummington has numerous unused and overgrown roads, leftover from the boom days of the 19th century and settlements that later failed.  Residential growth in Cummington is most likely to occur along these old roadways, even though they currently run across open spaces, unless they are removed from the town’s official ledgers as town roads.  Evidence of this can clearly be seen in the southwest corner of town where homes are being built along Powell and Sylvester roads, large portions of which are currently unused.  As development occurs far from the town’s existing village centers, its character will change.  More information about the “build-out” potential in Cummington will be available when the Pioneer Valley Planning commission finishes its build- report and map for the town.

 

Water supply Systems and Sewer Service

 

Outside the villages of West Cummington and Cummington, people depend on private wells for their water supply.  The town maintains two public water-supply systems for these two villages because many of their lots are only on-quarter acre, too small to accommodate both private wells and septic systems.

 

West Cummington’s public water system consists of a single source of supply: a gravel-packed well located off River Road on a 2.5 acre parcel acquired by the town in 1972.  Water is pumped from this well through a main pipe to a storage tank on Bush Road.  Following passage of the Federal Lead and Copper Rule and initial copper and lead samples of the untreated water that were taken in 1993, this system failed to meet Federal standards.  The water’s low pH caused it to corrode the copper pipes, fixtures, and solder joints in the water4 system, which resulted in the higher than acceptable levels of lead and copper in the water.  A new water main and treatment plant has since been installed in West Cummington, and the well was rehabilitated to correct these problems.

 

Cummington Village’s public water system has two supply sources.  The main source is a gravel-packed well located at Pettingill Memorial Field, lying atop the town’s primary aquifer.  Water is pumped from this well, treated, and then delivered through 8-inch mains to storage tanks on Dodwells Road and Route 9.  Treatment consists of adding potassium hydroxide to increase the water’s pH to make it less corrosive to the pipes.  The second water source, Fanny Rodgers Spring, is currently disconnected from the town’s water supply system until proper treatment of the spring’s water brings it into compliance with Federal rules for lead and copper.

 

There is no sewer service in Cummington.  Landowners must maintain on-site septic systems for sewage disposal.  Because the soil constraints for siting septic systems are severe for most of Cummington, the lack of sewer service in town has limited development outside the villages in the past.  However, recent changes to the Title V laws regulating septic systems improvements in sanitary engineering are making septic systems more viable for outlying land in town.  Hence, the lack of town sewer service is no longer a major deterrent to development.

 


Zoning

Summary:  Cummington’s subdivision regulations and zoning by-laws, enacted to preserve the rural character of the town, aren’t effective for protecting open space.  They should be revised after the Pioneer Valley Planning Commission completes its build-out report for Cummington.

 

In 1972, Cummington enacted a set of zoning by-laws to “preserve the rural character of the town and to protect the town’s natural resources, especially the prime water supplies.”  Three main districts were established:  Rural-Residential, Village, and Flood Plain (see Map 3-1).  The latter is an overlay district including all special flood-hazard areas in town as well as the Westfield River Protection District, which covers the entire length of the Westfield River inside Cummington, measured within 100 feet of the riverbank at its seasonal high-water mark.  The Water Supply Protection District is a fourth overlay district, superimposed on the other districts.  Restrictions in this area protect the aquifer and recharge areas from noxious chemicals.  Cummington also has a set of regulation governing the subdivision of land.  These include provisions for “Approval Not Required” development, meaning that landowners can subdivide their roadside properties—provided that the new lots meet current road frontage requirements—without review by the Planning Commission.

 

Most of the town is zoned as rural-residential, the express purpose of which is “to discourage scatteration of development beyond the fringes of developing village centers and thereby to reduce the need for uneconomical extension of roads, utilities, and other community facilities and services.”  Yet the minimum lot size in the rural-residential zone is only 2 acres with 200 feet of public road frontage, putting most of the town at risk for exactly this kind of “scatteration” development.  For example, the southwest area of town is filled with unused roads and unprotected lands, making it ripe for development, even without subdivision.

 

If Cummington doesn’t want to become a suburban community of many 2-acre homes dividing up the landscape, it needs a better strategy than depending on its current zoning bylaws.  When the Pioneer Valley Planning Commission finishes it build-out map for Cummington, the town should revisit its zoning regulations and discuss new options, such as cluster housing or conservation subdivisions, which are more appropriate for protecting open space in rural towns like Cummington.      


 


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Map 3-2.  Roads

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


 

 

 

 

Map 3-3.  Zoning
Section 4 – Environmental Inventory and Analysis

Landscape Character

 

Summary:  A combination of steep, rocky, forested hills adjoining the Westfield River valley and rolling farmlands above the valley characterize the natural landscape of Cummington.  These forested hills and open farmland provide wildlife habitat, opportunities for recreation, and scenic views.  Cummington’s historic villages and buildings are an important part of this landscape.

 

The Wild and Scenic Westfield River and its valley are the most dramatic features of Cummington.  Steep, wooded hills enclose much of the valley and create strong visual images, particularly in the northwest corner of town where Bryant Mountain and Deer Hill face each other across the river.  Cummington has a variety of forest types, and its hills are rich with brooks.  Wetlands are found throughout the town, providing habitat for wildlife and opportunities for recreation.

 

The steep, rocky, forested slopes along the river have kept development at bay.  Beyond these slopes, rolling land supports farms, which were once the mainstay of the local economy.  The visual character of these fields and pastures, as well as the views they provide of the hills beyond them, is what makes Cummington’s landscape distinctive. 

 

Further loss of farms to advancing forest or to development would result in a loss of the scenic views that make Cummington distinctive. Along the Westfield River, areas of unique wildlife habitat, such as brooks and wetlands, have recreational and scenic value that could be lost if development occurs insensitively near these places. 

 

Cummington’s three historic villages provide a counterpoint to the natural landscape, yet it has shaped their evolution and placement within the town.  Their historic buildings characterize the cultural landscape of Cummington and are much loved by its residents.  Preserving the historic integrity of these villages and keeping them alive and vibrant is very important to the community.

 

 


Geology, Topography, and Soils

 

Summary:  The Westfield River Valley bisects Cummington from northwest to southeast, with steep terrain on either side.  Mountains emerged by folding and uplifting millions of years ago, and then glaciers eroded them.  During their retreat the glaciers left the landscape covered with glacial till. Lyman-Tunbridge-Peru and Westminster-Millsite soil associations predominate. Both are very acidic and shallow to bedrock.  Peru and Marlow loams form the town’s prime agricultural land, which should be protected to preserve Cummington’s open space and agricultural heritage.  Severe soil and slope constraints to construction and to siting septic systems may no longer hinder development in Cummington.

 

Cummington lies within a transitional region between the flat land of the Connecticut River Valley and the stronger relief and higher elevations of the Berkshire Highlands.  Cummington's terrain is defined by the Westfield River, the steep slopes enclosing the river valley, and beyond them, rolling hills.

 

Bedrock

The region is underlain by metamorphic rock, mainly granite, gneiss, and schist bedrock.  This bedrock crops out in bands that tend to run north to south, extending from Vermont through Massachusetts into Connecticut.  Through this hard rock the Westfield River cuts its course, bisecting Cummington from northwest to southeast.  The town’s steepest terrain is found along the river, particularly around the village of West Cummington in the northwest corner of town (see Map 4-1).  Bryant Mountain, across from West Cummington, has an elevation of 2,160 feet and is the town's highest point.

 

Landforms

 

Folding, faulting, and uplifting of the earth’s surface during two mountain-building events, the Taconic and Acadian, from 500 to 350 million years ago, built the mountains present in Cummington today.  These mountains were then weathered and eroded for millions of years, resulting in the present landform of undulating hills.

 

During the ice ages, thick sheets of ice covered the area, further shaping the ground.  The most recent glacial advance, the Wisconsin glacial stage, peaked 18,000 years ago and ended 10,000 years ago.  The glaciers scoured the landscape, deepening and widening valleys,


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Map 4-1.  Slopes

 

 


 


 and eroding bedrock and previous glacial deposits.  Upon their retreat, the glaciers covered the land with deposits of glacial till.  Cummington’s soils are formed from these deposits, including prime agricultural soils.  The thickness of the till left by the glaciers varies considerably.  Bedrock may be exposed, or till can be 150 feet thick.  Lakes and ponds were formed in depressions left by "stagnant" glacial ice, and these lakes and ponds became many of the wetlands found in Cummington today.  Shallow depth to bedrock and steep slopes pose constraints to where development can occur in town.

Soils

 

Cummington has more than 60 soil classifications that can be grouped into four meaningful categories (see Map 4-2).  Two major soil associations define Cummington:  the Lyman-Tunbridge-Peru and the Westminster-Millsite associations.  Both were formed in thin deposits of glacial till, derived from schist bedrock, and are very acidic and shallow to bedrock.  Forest covers most of this land.

 

The Lyman-Tunbridge-Peru category is by far the largest association of soils in Cummington.  It comprises 45% Lyman soils, 35% Tunbridge soils, 10% Peru soils, and 10% soils of lesser extent.  The Lyman soils are shallow with bedrock at a depth of about 16 inches.  Typically found on upland slopes, Lyman soils tend to be excessively well drained and have a friable, or easily crumbled, soil.  Tunbridge soils are deeper with bedrock at about 26 inches, are well drained, and occur in less sloped areas than the Lyman soils.  Peru soils are very deep, are moderately well drained, and are found in valleys and on the lower parts of slopes.  Pockets of exposed bedrock form rock outcrops throughout the Lyman-Tunbridge-Peru area. This association of soils includes the best-drained, stoniest land in Cummington.

 

The Westminster-Millsite soils are located along brooks and in the wetter areas of town.  This category includes about 55% Westminster soils, 25% Millsite soils, and 20% other such soils as Shelburne, Ashfield, and Pillsbury.  Like Lyman soils, Westminster soils are shallow, with bedrock at a depth of about 16 inches, and are excessively well drained, while the Millsite soils are deeper to bedrock at about 26 inches.  The Ashfield and Pillsbury soils aren’t as well drained and occur in low areas and wetlands.

 

Cummington’s agricultural heritage stems from its prime agricultural soils, shown in black on Map 4-2.  Although pockets of these soils are scattered about town, they are concentrated south of the Westfield River in the middle of Cummington.  These soils, which are mostly Marlow and Peru loams, have an adequate supply of water, a favorable growing season and temperature, few rocks, and are permeable to water and air.  They aren’t frequently flooded or excessively erodable, and their slopes range up to only 6 %.  This is the best land in Cummington for food, feed, forage, fiber, and oilseed crops and is currently available for those uses.  Adjacent to these prime soils are other agricultural soils that also have statewide importance for farming and pasture.  However, as Map 4-2 shows, most of Cummington is not well suited for farming and is managed for forest instead.

 

Because prime farmland is scarce yet highly valued in Cummington, all of its agricultural soils should be conserved for farming, which will help preserve the town’s open space and rural character.  At the same time, because Cummington’s soils are highly permeable, the town needs to carefully monitor the agricultural use of pesticides and fertilizers to ensure that farmers aren’t polluting Cummington’s aquifer recharge areas and its water supply.

 

In the past, the difficulty of excavating foundations and siting septic fields has limited building throughout Cummington.  Soils here tend to be very shallow to bedrock, and all pose severe constraints for construction and siting septic tank absorption fields.  However, recent changes in the state’s environmental code that governs septic systems, commonly known as Title V regulations, coupled with improvements in sanitary engineering, mean that these barriers to development are dissolving and can’t be relied upon to protect open space anymore. 

 

 

 

 


 

 

 

 

 

 

Map 4-2.  Soils

 

 

 

 

 


 

 

 

 

 


Water Resources

 

Summary:  All watersheds in Cummington eventually deposit water into the Westfield River.  Bisecting the town, the river runs through one and past several State Forests and Wildlife Management Areas, creating many habitats for wildlife and providing recreational opportunities for people.  More than two thirds of the total area of Cummington’s wetlands border the town’s rivers and brooks, and are protected by the Massachusetts Wetland Protection Act.  Wetlands are valuable for wildlife and recreation, as well as for floodwater storage.  Many isolated wetlands occur throughout town but aren’t protected unless they are certified vernal pools.  Cummington’s flood plains are a crucial buffer zone that prevent the town from flooding and should be vigorously protected.

 

Cummington’s twenty or so brooks, streams, and rivers ultimately empty into the Connecticut River by way of the many-branched Westfield River (once called the Agawam River after the town where it empties into the Connecticut River).  The Westfield River begins northwest of Cummington in the Town of Savoy, passes through Windsor, and sweeps across Cummington down into Chesterfield and beyond.  The river enters town just west of West Cummington Village and flows southeast through Cummington Center to Swift River Village, where the Swift River joins it.  As mentioned earlier, this branch of the Westfield River was the first be designated a National Wild and Scenic River in Massachusetts.  The river continues south through Chesterfield’s gorges into Huntington, where it connects with the Middle and Western Branches of the Westfield River and, united at last, flows into the Connecticut River.

 

The watersheds in Cummington direct the flow of surface water in town.  Water in the northern half of town drains into the ten miles of the Westfield River running through the heart of Cummington.  Its southern watersheds direct water away from the river in Cummington but toward its other tributaries that lie south of Cummington’s border in Worthington.  Surface water deposited by the town’s watersheds recharges Cummington’s water supply in the aquifers located in the center of town.  Cummington’s watersheds not only provide Cummington with its drinking water but also are crucial for maintaining the town’s varied wildlife habitats.

 

Ponds are few in Cummington and are scattered across private lands.  Three small ponds are located 1) south of Stage Road and west of Nash Road, 2) north of Stage Road and east of Nash Road, and 3) north of Porter Hill Road.  The town mainly uses these as fire ponds for water.

 

Some of the recreational activities that take place along the Westfield River are hunting, fishing, canoeing, kayaking, hiking, bird watching, and swimming.  The Westfield River runs through the Gilbert Bliss State Forest, and past the Cummington and the Paul Cuddy Wildlife Management Areas.  Access to the river can be found on both private and public land.  Many public access points are along Route 9:  for example, at the state-owned rest areas across from the Snow Basin Ski Area and near Swift River Village.  Some town-owned lands provide access, too:  for example, the Chalkstone beach off Savoy Road and the town beach near Bryant Library, where swimming is no longer sanctioned by the town because it had to stop dredging the river to make it deep enough.  In the Gilbert Bliss State Forest there are a number of places to approach the river:  for example, off Reed Road and off Howes Hill Road, where hiking, fishing, and horseback riding are permitted.

 

Aquifer and Wetlands

 

Cummington’s main source of drinking water is the medium-yield aquifer located beneath Cummington Center.  The aquifer receives water recharge from the Westfield River’s flood plain and from the main course of the river.  The Water Supply Protection District (see Map 3-2), a zoning overlay district that includes many wetlands as well as the Fanny Springs well site (currently not in operation), protects the town’s aquifer and its larger recharge area.

 

Wetlands occur along the Westfield and Swift Rivers and the adjoining brooks that are associated with the town’s 100-year flood plain. Wetlands provide food, nesting, and general habitat for a variety of species; they also clean pollutants from the water on which all life depends.  Brooks with bordering wetlands include Mill Brook and Meadow Brook north of the Westfield River, and Tower Brook and Powell Brook to its south.  Wetlands also occur throughout the town at higher elevations where bedrock is close to the surface, and they are especially concentrated in the southeastern section of town within the Water Supply Protection District.

 

Wetlands that border brooks and rivers are called “bordering vegetated wetlands.” These are protected by the Massachusetts Wetland Protection Act, which requires a 100’ buffer zone beyond the wetland edge where development is restricted.  The objective of the Wetlands Protection Act, as amended by the 1996 Rivers Protection Act, is to preserve water quality, maintain drinking water quality and quantity, provide recharge through infiltration, retain natural flood storage, sustain fisheries, and protect wildlife habitat.  Any proposed development within the buffer zone or wetland itself can only occur at the discretion of the town Conservation Commission and requires replication of any loss of  wetland greater than 5,000 square feet.  (If the wetland and its buffer zone occur within the 200’ riparian zone of a river or brook, then its greater zone of protection would apply.)

 

Cummington’s largest wetlands are shown on GIS and USGS maps.  However, many smaller wetlands haven’t been mapped and are thus not shown.  Only soil scientists who recognize wetland vegetation and soil types can identify these in the field.  Wetlands not shown on maps are still subject to the same legal provisions under the Wetland Protection Act.

 

Wetlands not associated with brooks and rivers are called “isolated wetlands.” State law doesn’t protect these unless they happen to be certified vernal pools, which fill with water only during the wettest times of the year and provide breeding grounds for salamanders, frogs, and the threatened riffle snaketails, for example.  In Cummington, vernal pools certified by the Massachusetts Division of Fish and Wildlife are located near the junction of Fairground Road and Porter Hill Road, and off Dodwell’s Road (see Map 4-5).  There are likely many more vernal pools in town that have yet to be certified.

 

100-Year Flood Plain

 

In addition to the flood-storage capacity of wetlands, much land is subject to flooding along Cummington’s streams and rivers, particularly along the Westfield and Swift Rivers, and along the Mill, Meadow, and Westfield Brooks.  During floods, having these 100-year flood plains (areas that have a 1% chance of flooding each year) is critical for Cummington because their water-holding capacity limits the intensity of flooding beyond their boundaries and downstream.  If additional fill or sedimentation infiltrates these flood plains and alters their water-holding capacity, overflow could damage roads and buildings and alter the natural course of the rivers, streams, or brooks.

 

Cummington’s zoning ordinance includes a Flood-Plain District (see Map 3-2), in which land use is carefully monitored.  The best uses for flood plains are generally agriculture, recreation, and other activities that minimize pavement and structures that could be damaged during floods.  In addition to its Flood-Plain District, Cummington has a Westfield River Protection District that encompasses the flood-plain areas defined on Flood Rate Insurance Maps, unless the flood plain is less than 100 feet from the river.  Then the protection district defaults to 100 feet from the seasonal high-water mark.  However, the 1996 Massachusetts Rivers Protection Act requires a 200-foot protection zone, divided into an inner riparian zone for the first 100 feet from a river and an outer riparian zone for the second 100 feet.  The inner is generally a no-work zone, while the outer zone, where work may occur if there is no alternative, “may contain areas of alteration of 20% of the area of the parcel or 5,000 square feet, whichever is greater.”  The town should enforce this level of protection in the outer riparian zone even if its zoning laws are no longer up to date with state law.

 

 

 

 

 


 

 

 

 

 

Map 4-3.  Watersheds and Aquifer


 

 

 

 

 

 

Map 4-4.  Wetlands and Flood Plains

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


Vegetation

 

Summary:  Approximately 80% of Cummington is now forested as farmlands decrease.  Mesic northern hardwood forest is the predominant plant community in Cummington.  Rich mesic forest also occurs in smaller areas, and small patches of old growth forest remain.  Hikers, hunters, skiers, and snowmobilers use Cummington’s forests.  The rich variety of habitats provided by Cummington's forestlands should be recognized while the town takes measures to protect its remaining fields and pastures.

 

Farmlands have been on the decrease in Cummington for several decades as unused fields and pastures are being succeeded by forest.  Approximately 80% of Cummington is now woodland.  The loss of fields and pastures affects certain wildlife species, such as the American bittern and the prairie warbler, and reduces the town's scenic resources.  However, forest lands provide a refuge for plants and animals, as well as opportunities for recreation.  Mesic northern hardwood forest is the predominant plant community in Cummington.  Rich mesic forest, a variant of the northern hardwood forest, also occurs throughout town, as well as a transition forest of red oaks and sugar maples, though this forest type is less common.  Large uninterrupted blocks of forest in Cummington include the Paul Cuddy, Powell Brook, and Cummington Wildlife Management Areas, which provide recreational opportunities for hikers, hunters, and cross-country skiers, and the Deer Hill State Reservation, the Bryant Mountain State Forest, and the Gilbert Bliss State Forest, where snowmobilers are also allowed.

 

Mesic northern hardwood forest covers slopes and summits throughout town. Sugar maple, beech, and yellow birch are dominant, occurring in varying proportions.  White ash, black cherry, paper birch, red oak, red maple, and white pine are common, depending on soils and succession from previous disturbances. This plant community includes hemlock trees, ranging from pure stands to deciduous forest with scattered hemlocks.  The shrub layer is fairly open, with scattered clumps of shrub species.  The herbaceous layer is sparse but fairly diverse.  Many birds live in this hardwood forest, including nesting neo-tropical migrant songbirds and a variety of warblers.  Mammals, rodents, amphibians, and reptiles also make their homes here.

 

Rich mesic forest occurs in smaller, discontinuous sites within the mesic hardwood forest and is associated with calcareous bedrock and accompanying alkaline ground water.  This high pH facilitates decomposition of leaf litter, resulting in a highly fertile soil with much humus.  Sugar maple, the dominant tree in rich mesic forests, is commonly associated with white ash and American basswood, as well as beech, black birch, and red oak.  Hophornbeam, pagoda dogwood, and blue beech may also be found in the understory.  Sugar maple leaves are of basic pH, further favoring the rapid decomposition and recycling of nutrients in the soil.  These conditions result in a forest community with a wealth of plant and animal species.  Rich mesic forest can be found in two areas of Cummington: on Deer Hill, and within the newly formed Cummington Wildlife Management Area, east of Cummington Center.  Both locations are home to a number of plants designated as “potentially threatened” by Massachusetts Division of Fisheries and Wildlife (see Appendix E.).

 

Red oak/sugar maple transition forest is found less commonly in Cummington.  This community includes both northern hardwoods (maples) and central hardwoods (oaks), and occurs as mesic forests on mid slopes with moderate nutrient availability.  Some sites are old-field successional, and others have been managed as woodlots, allowing enough light for red oak to become established.  Red oak, sugar maple, beech, black birch, white pine and hemlock dominate the canopy in varying proportions.  Red maple, white ash, and yellow birch are regular associates.  Along with the shrub and herbaceous layers, this plant community provides habitat and forage for many animal species, such as white-tailed deer.  This transition forest may also serve to connect plant communities that are higher and lower on the slope and provide wildlife corridors for their inhabitants.  For example, frogs and salamanders use wetlands for breeding but live in uplands the rest of the year.

 

In addition to Deer Hill and Cummington Wildlife Management Area, places of significant plant habitat with similar listings or unusual plant communities include Westfield Brook, Kearney Brook, and Cummington Ski Basin.  The Gilbert Bliss State Forest near the confluence of the Westfield and Swift Rivers is host to the rare and endangered spurred gentian.  Old-growth forest is found in two locations in town, on Deer Hill and along the Bryant Homestead’s Rivulet trail, maintained for hikers by the Trustees of Reservations.

 

 


Fisheries and Wildlife

 

Summary:  The environmentally sensitive areas that constitute Cummington’s wildlife corridors are only protected on state-owned land and near rivers and streams, which are protected under the Rivers Protection and Wetlands Act.  The majority of upland game habitat and fishing are located on private land and in Wildlife Management Areas.  Some species in these areas have recently been placed in the Rare, Threatened, and Endangered Species Program managed by the Division of Massachusetts Fish and Wildlife.

 

Dense vegetation and forests provide cover for a number of species that are making a comeback after many years of low populations. Wildlife that frequents the area include black bear, moose, red fox, gray fox, white-tailed deer, eastern bobcat, and a wide variety of birds.  The Department of Environmental Management is investigating recent reports of a mountain lion.  All species that make their home in Cummington and the surrounding hill towns are important to the overall ecological food web.

 

Some resident landowners share hunting rights with licensed town residents, but hunting ground is becoming more restricted as second-home landowners continue to purchase and post their properties as off limits to hunters.  Other areas open to hunting and fishing are the Powell Brook Wildlife Management Area, Paul Cuddy Wildlife Management Area, and Cummington Wildlife Management Area.  Because most of the Westfield River runs through private land, fishing access is somewhat limited to state-owned land such as the Deer Hill State Reservation, the Bryant Mountain State Forest, and the Gilbert Bliss State Forest. 

 

Wildlife Habitats and Corridors

 

Many species thrive along Cummington’s rivers, streams, and brooks in the excellent habitat of hardwood and softwood mixed forests.  However, numerous animals and birds require open fields, not woodlands.  Loss of farm fields could potentially reduce the population of the prairie warbler, which makes its home in hayfields and grasslands.  Early mowing of these fields also threatens it, but it thrives where mowing is delayed until its nesting has ceased.

 

Agricultural land adjoining Cummington’s wetlands provides unique habitat for certain species. The southeastern area of town where wetlands are concentrated also contains some of the town’s best farmland. Near Fairground Road where wetlands and farmland land adjoin is an excellent habitat for the endangered American bittern.

 

Cummington has a pivotal role to play in the statewide effort to preserve a regional corridor for wildlife.  Deer Hill State Reservation abuts the West Mountain Audubon Sanctuary in the town of Plainfield, which is owned by the Massachusetts Audubon Society.  This in turn connects with the Savoy State Forest north of West Mountain, and so on up to Vermont.  The Gilbert Bliss State Forest continues south into Chesterfield along the Westfield River.  Cummington can do its part to protect the natural heritage of Massachusetts by not developing the existing wildlife corridors in town, particularly along the Westfield River, and by connecting them to one another, not only within the town but also with wildlife corridors that lie outside the town’s boundaries.

 

Rare, Threatened, and Endangered Species

 

The Massachusetts Division of Fisheries and Wildlife Natural Heritage and Endangered Species Program has identified seven species of rare wildlife living in Cummington, listed in Table 4-1 below.  These species fall into three categories--endangered, threatened, and of special concern--and have limited protection under the Massachusetts Endangered Species Act and the state’s Wetlands Protection Act.  The importance of protecting them and preserving all other species should be carefully considered as part of Cummington’s open space and recreation plan.

 

Endangered                                  

Botaurus lentiginous           American bittern                    bird

Couesius plumbeus              lake chub                                fish

Threatened

Ophigomphus carolus         riffle snaketail                         odonate

Special Concern

Oporornis philadelphia       morning warbler                    bird

Boyeria grafiana                  ocellated darner                     odonate

Cicendela duodecimguttata  spotted tiger beetle                 beetle

Somatochlora elongata        ski-tailed emerald                   odonate

 

Table 4-1.  Rare Wildlife in Cummington.   Massachusetts Natural

Heritage and Endangered Species Program 2001.    


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Map 4-5.  Endangered Species Habitat

Fisheries

 

According to Massachusetts Department of Fisheries, Wildlife, and Environmental Law Enforcement, the Westfield River in Cummington supports wild populations of brook trout (Salvelinus fontindis) and brown trout (Salmotrutta) that are naturally reproducing.  These trout require extremely cold and clear waters to reproduce and are classified as a “critical resource.”  To augment the wild populations, the state stocks trout in Cummington’s brooks and rivers and throughout the Westfield River basin.  For example, 1,650 brook trout were stocked in the Westfield River in Cummington in 1984.

 

Stocked Trout Waters                              # of Stocking Locations

Childs Brook                                                                      2

Kearney Brook                                                                   2                     

Meadow Brook                                                                  3

Mill Brook                                                                          6

Swift River                                                                         4

North Branch, Swift River                                                            6

Westfield River:                                                                 50

       Cummington, Chesterfield, and Huntington

 

Table 4-2.  Massachusetts Fish Stocking Program in the Westfield River Study Area in 1984.  Division of Fish, Wildlife, and Environmental Law Enforcement.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Scenic and Cultural Resources

 

Summary:  Cummington’s visual character results from its scenic landscapes and its historic buildings and places.  The town’s scenic landscapes include the Westfield River valley, surrounding mountains, and rolling agricultural lands.  Historic buildings throughout town, particularly in the villages, are important to the town’s visual and cultural character.

 

The Westfield River, as it passes through Cummington, affords opportunities for many views of scenic, unspoiled natural landscapes, including close-up views of the river, its gorges and rock outcrops, and vistas of valleys and mountains.  Deer Hill and Bryant Mountain, on opposite sides of Route 9 near West Cummington, are two of the most prominent features of the town and are especially spectacular during the fall foliage season.  Other state-owned land bordering the river includes the Gilbert Bliss State Forest and the Cummington Wildlife Management Area.  The remaining hillsides along the river (more than half) are not protected.  Much of this land may be too steep to build on, but even a single, hilltop building could be a long-distance eyesore.  A unique natural area is located at the confluence of the Swift and Westfield Rivers.  The beautiful section of rocky stream, containing small waterfalls and deep pools, is currently in private ownership and unprotected.

 

Many favorite views in town look out over stone walls, fields, and pastures, often to a distant hilltop or panorama.  Though Cummington is 80% wooded, quite a few town roads afford these views that play an essential role in defining Cummington’s visual character.  Many of these views are across unprotected land.  The past loss of farmland points to the importance of maintaining the open character of these landscapes and of maintaining existing farmland.

 

Another important part of the agricultural landscape are Cummington’s country roads lined with historic sugar maples.  These enormous old trees frame views down roads and across fields; however, many of these sugar maples are aging and in decline.  As an integral part of the town’s historic landscapes, the trees need to be preserved as long as possible and to be incrementally replaced.  At this time the town has no program in place to accomplish this.

 

Cultural Resources

At the public forum held on February 1, 2001, Cummington’s residents identified important historic and cultural places that define the character of their town.  So many were identified that only a selection of most frequently mentioned places is shown on Map 4-6, Scenic and Cultural Resources; these are described individually in Appendix F.  A few of the better-known places are described here.

 

The Cummington Fair, held every year at the Cummington Fairgrounds, is one of the oldest regional agricultural fairs in the country, dating to 1883.  It is a favorite event in the hilltown region.  The William Cullen Bryant Homestead is a well-known historic landmark in town.  Berkshire Village (also known as Shire Village) and Greenwood Music Camp are summer camps drawing youth from New England and beyond.  The Greenwood Music often features internationally known musicians in its public concert programs.

 

Many important, though less well-known historical sites are present throughout town.  The site of the first meeting house and the animal pound on Potash Hill are two examples.  Both are on private land but aren’t permanently protected.  Sites of old mills and whetstone quarries can be found throughout town, though no structures remain.

 

Older homes and public buildings dating to the 18th century are appreciated by the townspeople for their attractive qualities.  Many of these buildings are clustered near historic village centers.  Cummington Center, the largest village located at the center of town, is home to the Community House, where much of the town’s business and social events take place.  The Old Creamery general store provides groceries and a cafe, and Bryant Free Library is a favorite resource for some residents.  West Cummington, which in the past had an inn, a store, a post office and a ski lodge, has no such commerce today, though a residential community is clustered there.  A similar story can be told of Swift River, the third and smallest surviving village.

 

An inventory of Cummington’s historic buildings and structures, taken in the 1970s by the town’s Historic Commission, identified 169 structures predating 1900, 102 predating 1849, and 28 predating 1800.  In 1977 the inventory was submitted to the Massachusetts Historic Commission as the first step in applying for National Register status for historic districts and buildings.  The Commission recommended nominating several historic buildings and two districts, Cummington Center and West Cummington, for National Register status.

 


 

 

 

 

 

Map 4-6.  Scenic and Cultural Resources
Environmental Problems

 

Summary:  Hazardous waste sites are currently not a problem in Cummington.  Erosion, especially along river banks and steep slopes, should be monitored closely as well as other potential problems for town water: agricultural waste, logging, road maintenance, development, and insufficient sanitary facilities along the Westfield River.

 

There are no confirmed hazardous waste sites in Cummington and no businesses that are registered to handle hazardous wastes.  The Old Creamery on Route 9 has the only public gasoline station in town, and it is registered to handle hazardous materials.  Its tanks store up to 2,000 gallons of gasoline, and it sells about 1,000 gallons each week.  The town maintains gas pumps at the Highway Garage to service police, fire, and highway maintenance vehicles.  Many farmers in town also store gasoline on their land to run their farm equipment. 

 

Cummington’s transfer station is located on Fairgrounds Road next to the Highway Garage.  Because it is in full view of the road, many residents are unhappy about its location.  It opened ten years ago when Cummington closed its old dump on West Cummington Road.  The town plans to move the transfer station behind the Highway Garage and would like to add indoor facilities for recycling. 

 

The old dump site on West Cummington Road next to the Westfield River is inoperable.  Although it was capped years ago, the town is working with the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to verify that it has submitted sufficient documentation to prove that Cummington capped the site according to EPA regulations.  This matter should be resolved shortly.

 

Erosion along the Westfield River has been a problem in the past where mowed fields, such as Pettingill Recreation Field, have stretched right down to the river.  A vegetated buffer of native plants must be maintained on the river’s banks to prevent their soil from washing into the water.  Where erosion occurs, sedimentation in the river could potentially harm wildlife habitats.  Land stripping, the result of logging and building construction along Cummington’s brooks and streams, could also release large amounts of sedimentation that alter water patterns.  Removing vegetation along the edges of water bodies increases water temperatures and this can adversely affect water plant and animal species.

 

Happily, chronic flooding hasn’t been a problem in Cummington despite its large water resources.  The town’s wetlands and flood plains are critical for protecting its three villages from flooding, even though they occupy the banks and flood plains of the Westfield River.

 

Ground- and Surface-Water Pollution

 

A contributor to ground water pollution in Cummington is the septic systems on which the townspeople rely.  Septic systems that fail in soils with seasonal high-water tables and high permeability cause contamination that threatens drinking water from both public and private wells.  The Board of Health needs to be vigilant in monitoring all existing and future septic systems in town.

 

In the town’s Open Space Survey many people expressed concern about private landowners dumping garbage on their lands along the Westfield River and about roadside littering on Route 9, which runs parallel with the river.  Potential run-off of such pollution into the Westfield River compromises the overall water quality in Cummington and also deteriorates the recreational value of the Westfield River.

 

De-icing Cummington’s roads with salt and sand create problems for surface and ground water.  Route 9 is heavily salted and sanded in the winter months.  In the spring as the melting snow and salt seeps into the soil, it pollutes drinking-water supplies, and wildlife and plant habitats.  The sand clogs culverts and adds more sediment to the town’s rivers, brooks, and streams.  Cummington’s Highway Department has taken steps to reduce the amount of salt and sand used to de-ice the town’s roads.  For the past two winters it has experimented with a new liquid ice-melting product called “ice ban magic,” which is mixed with calcium chloride and helps salt melt ice at much colder temperatures, making less salt and sand necessary.

 

Other pollutants that indirectly reach Cummington’s rivers, brooks, and aquifer are more difficult to identify.  Leaching from illegal dumps contaminates the groundwater by releasing toxic materials into the land.  Agricultural run-off from fertilizers, pesticides, and organic bacteria from livestock wastes is of concern in Cummington and should be monitored.  Human waste from swimming areas is also reported to be a problem.  Large summertime crowds gather to swim at Crocker Pond, south of Swift River, yet there are no restroom facilities on this state land, resulting in contamination of the Westfield River.    


Section 5 – Conservation and Recreation Lands

Protected Land

 

Summary:  Sixteen percent of Cummington’s land, or 2,397 of its 14,835 acres, is permanently protected as open space.  Massachusetts owns 1,558 acres of State Forest and Wildlife Management Areas in Town.  Another 641 acres are enrolled in the state’s Agricultural Preservation Restriction program (APR), and The Trustees of Reservations own 197 acres of protected land.

 

Cummington is fortunate that half of its total land, or 7,318 acres, enjoys some degree of protection as open space.  However, only 16% or 2,397 acres are permanently protected, meaning that the rest of the Town is susceptible to residential development (see Map 5-1, Protected Land).

 

The east branch of the Westfield River constitutes 1% of Cummington’s landmass.  It provides one of the largest runs for white-water rafting in the state of Massachusetts.  The East Branch is filled with Class II rapids from West Cummington to the river’s confluence with the Swift River at Swift River Village.  Kayaking also takes place on the Westfield along with bird watching, hunting, hiking, and fishing.  The proposed federal classification for this section of the Westfield River is recreational, and it was the first river in Massachusetts to be designated as a National Wild and Scenic River.

 

State Land

 

The Commonwealth of Massachusetts owns 10.5% of the land in Cummington, including two State Forests, a State Reservation, and three Wildlife Management Areas, totaling 1,558 acres. 

 

The Deer Hill State Reservation

This State Reservation lies just north of the village of West Cummington and continues north into Plainfield, where it abuts Audubon’s West Mountain sanctuary.  Above this lies the Savoy State Forest, creating a corridor for wildlife up to Vermont and beyond.  Access to Deer Hill, which is very steep and used primarily by hikers who don’t mind bushwhacking, is from Bush Road.  The state doesn’t maintain a trail system on the 89 acres of the Reservation in Cummington.

 

Bryant Mountain State Forest

South of the Westfield River, Bryant Mountain casts its shadow across the village of West Cummington, serving as a natural barrier to its expansion.  Until the mid 1990s, Bryant Mountain’s northern face was home to the Berkshire Snow Basin, accessible from Route 9.  This popular ski resort was dealt a fatal blow when Route 9 was widened, destroying Snow Basin’s parking lot.  After it failed, Massachusetts bought the ski area and created the Bryant Mountain State Forest from 11 parcels totaling 736 acres south of Route 9.  The state is currently not maintaining the trails on this large property, and it has let the ski area go to ruin, its rusting ski lifts visible from Route 9.

 

The loss of Snow Basin affected West Cummington’s economy--several restaurants and an inn have since closed--and the state’s neglect of this area is depressing to residents.  Some have offered to mow one of Snow Basin’s slopes for cross-country skiing, but the state has refused to let them. 

 

Deer Hill State Reservation and Bryant Mountain State Forest both have peaks ranging over two thousand feet and provide recreational opportunities for snowmobiling, hunting, cross-country skiing, and hiking.  Old hiking trails across this corner of Cummington have grown in so that residents can no longer enjoy this beautiful open-space land as they once did.

 

The Gilbert Bliss State Forest

Named for a former head of the Department of Environmental Management who lived in Cummington, this State Forest is divided in Cummington by the Paul Cuddy Wildlife Management Area (see below).  These three pieces of state land total 211 acres.  The north section of the State Forest lies south of the Westfield River, running along Route 9 up to Whalepond Road.  Below the Wildlife Management Area (WMA), the State Forest continues south around the Westfield River into the Town of Chesterfield, where the river’s scenic gorges are a favorite destination of hikers and swimmers. 

 

Crocker Pond, a large area of the river on Cummington’s side of the State Forest, was once a swimming hole frequented by town residents.  This is the only place along the Westfield River in Cummington that is currently deep enough for swimming.  However, over the last twenty years, Crocker Pond has become a nude bathing spot known for sexually explicit acts, and Cummington families regret its loss as a safe place to cool off during the summer.  The state owns several parking areas along Route 9 to serve as public access to its land but doesn’t maintain its extant hiking trails, which are disappearing.  The town has been disappointed by the state’s loss of control and/or interest in this once valued recreation area.

 

From the Swift River confluence, the Westfield River flows through a four-mile section called the “Pork Barrel” in reference to the large numbers of trout used to be found in its deep pools.  Sheer cliffs and forested banks make this steep, narrow, twisting valley a Mecca for fishermen and canoeists seeking Class III and IV rapids.  Except for the old trail to Crocker pond, the Pork Barrel is so undeveloped that it has been described as a wilderness area.  However, according to the Westfield River Watershed Association, its wilderness quality could be altered by the potential for logging operations on private land nearby or by construction of a flood-control dam, two possibilities for the state to continue to monitor.

 

The Paul Cuddy Wildlife Management Area (WMA)

This WMA on the west shore of the Westfield River abuts the Gilbert Bliss State Forest to its north and south.  Gifted to the state by the Hampshire Sportsmen’s Club in 1969, the Paul Cuddy Wildlife Management Area provides both the public and wildlife with access to the river and is home to wetlands and some rare species, including the riffle snaketail and Maine snaketail dragonflies.

 

The Powell Brook Wildlife Management Area

Nestled between Powell and Kearney Brooks, this 196-acre WMA has public access off Powell and Trouble Roads.  Hiking, cross-country skiing, bird watching, hunting, fishing and non-motorized sports are permitted here.  The area is home to several wetlands and such endangered species as the spring salamander and the dwarf horsetail.

 

The Cummington Wildlife Management Area

Blanche Beyer sold this 180-acre parcel to the Department of Fisheries, Wildlife, and Environmental Law Enforcement in the year 2000.  The rich mesic forest was acquired by the state to protect rare plant species, such as barren strawberry, wild millet grass, showy orchis, and a bird of special concern, the mourning warbler.  Public access to the area is from Route 9, where cars are permitted to park along the road. 

 

 

The Trustees of Reservation Land

 

The William Cullen Bryant Homestead is the only National Historic Landmark in town.  The Trustees of Reservations (TTOR) own its eight parcels, totaling 197 acres of permanently protected land near the famous Five Corners intersection, south of Route 9 on Route 112.  The poet bought his house and its various farmlands in 1866 and spent summers there until his death in 1878.  TTOR acquired these properties in 1927 upon the death of his granddaughter, Minna Godwin Goddard, who willed them to TTOR.  The house is open to visitors during summer months, and its lands are leased to local farmers for agriculture.  The Trustees of Reservation maintain several short trails for hiking on these properties, including the Rivulet Trail, which provides a half-hour hike along the Rivulet Brook down to the Westfield River.  The surrounding hemlock, pine, and cherry forest is home to the wood turtle, a species of special concern to the state.

 

                                                       Degree of

Ownership                        Use                 Protection                   Acreage

 

Massachusetts       c&r*                permanent                  1,558

Private (APR)        agriculture      permanent                     641

Private (TTOR)      c&r*                permanent                     197

Cummington         municipal       moderate                       144

Private                    agriculture,     low                              4,771

  (Chapter 61)        forestry, &

                                recreation                                                     

 

 

Table 5-1. Land with Various Levels of Protection in Cummington. 

*c&r = conservation & recreation use.   Figures from the Town of Cummington Assessor’s Office

 

 

Agricultural Preservation Restriction Land

 

Under the Massachusetts Agricultural Preservation Restriction (APR) program, the Department of Food and Agriculture purchases development rights to farms.  Farmers retain ownership of their land, but the restriction permanently prohibits all future non-agricultural development, such as residential subdivision.  Cummington is fortunate to have 641 acres of farmland already participating in this program, creating a significant swath of permanently protected open space running north/south through the heart of Cummington.


 

 

 

 

Map 5-1.  Protected Land

Unprotected and Non-profit Land

 

Summary: The Federal Government and the town own less than 1% of Cummington.  Other than the William Cullen Bryant Homestead, non-profit land in Cummington is unprotected.  Tax-abated lands in the state’s Chapter 61 program offer some protection for 32% of Cummington’s land but could be developed within 120 days of departure from the program.  A number of other lands of recreational interest to the town are unprotected.

 

Federal Land

 

The US Government owns 400 square feet of land on the south face of Bryant Mountain, where the Federal Aviation Authority operates an air-control tower that monitors flights between Chicago and Boston.  A long private driveway from Powell Road leads up to the FAA tower.

 

Municipal Land

 

Cummington owns very little of its municipality: only 144.46 acres, or less than 1% of the town’s land.  Because the tax base depends on a small population, little revenue exists to maintain town-owned land, so not owning much land has been cost effective.  Important municipal properties include the Bryant Free Library, a small building on two parcels of land totaling 24 acres at the intersection of Routes 9 and 112.  Parking for the library is minimal; however, the town would like to build a new library, with the idea that the historic library would then house William Cullen Bryant’s archives.  The Community House, described in Section 3, is on one acre off Main Street in Cummington Village.  The town has six public cemeteries that require legislative approval for any change of use, so they have a high level of protection.

 

Streeter Cemetery              0.72 acre

Bryant Cemetery               0.80 acre

Harlow Cemetery              0.80 acre

Dawes Cemetery               1.50 acres

Cobb Cemetery                  0.25 acre

Village Cemetery               1.00 acre

 

Public Cemetery Acreage:            5.07 acres

 

Table 5-2.  Public Cemeteries in Cummington, MA.  Figures from the Town

Assessor’s Office

 

Pettingill Memorial Field--given to the town in 1923 in memory of Lewis Pettingill, who died in World War I--contains the town’s ball fields on 7.4 acres adjacent to Berkshire Trail Elementary School.  The town’s recreational field is also on Main Street, next to the elementary school, and is used as a ball field, for picnicking, and as a playground.

 

The town used to maintain a swimming area on the Westfield River below the Bryant Free Library.  However, the practice of dredging this piece of the river to keep it deep enough for swimming had to be discontinued because it was adversely affecting the river downstream.  Currently, there is no official town operated swimming beach on the Westfield River although some people still use the old swimming hole.  It is generally believed that no area deep enough for swimming exists elsewhere on the Westfield River.  The town should investigate this more thoroughly to determine if another swimming area could, in fact, be dredged or used--for example, the Chalkstone swimming hole on town property off Savoy Road--because an easily accessible swimming hole is sorely missed by Cummington’s residents.

 

The town’s largest property is 80 acres off Fairgrounds Road, where Cummington’s Highway Garage is located on a small flat section beneath steep slopes to the west.  The rest of the town’s land consists of small, scattered parcels that protect well sites for the town’s water supply.  Although the town has a vested interest in protecting its property, it could sell any of its parcels (other than its cemeteries) at any time, so town land cannot be considered as protected.

 

Non-profit Parcels

 

Private summer camps, totaling 407 acres in town, include Greenwood Music Camp and Shire Village, both described above in Section 3.  Although these non-profit camps have recreational tax abatements under Chapter 61 law (see below), they could be sold for residential development.

 

Warner Farms Conference and Retreat Center, owned by the United Church of Christ, is a 131-acre property on Porter Hill Road.  It includes a large designated wetland that is a breeding ground for the American bittern, a bird on the state’s endangered-species list.  These swamps are also home to a variety of wildlife, including the prairie warbler, and are protected to some degree under the Massachusetts Wetlands Protection Act; however, Warner Farms has no other land protection.

Across Fairgrounds Road from Warner Farms is the Cummington Fairgrounds, 15 acres described in Section 3 and owned by the non-profit Hillside Agricultural Society.  This historic home to the state’s oldest agricultural fair has no protection other than its Chapter 61 status as recreational land.  The Fairgrounds are open to the public for only a few weeks a year during the various cultural events that are held there.  If Cummington decides to expand the number of ball fields in town, it might consider the undeveloped recreational opportunities offered by the open space at the Fairgrounds.  They could also be used for a Cummington Art Fair, celebrating Cummington’s continuing tradition as home to many fine artists.

 

Land in Chapter 61, 61A, and 61B

 

Eighty-four parcels, totaling 4,771 acres of Cummington’s land, have been placed in Massachusetts Chapter 61, 61A, and 61B tax-abatement program.  Chapter 61 laws provide for reductions in property taxes on lands active in forest, agriculture, and recreation.  This incentive for landowners not to develop their land doesn’t permanently protect it.  All a landowner has to do to remove property from Chapter 61 is to pay “roll back” taxes for up to the previous four years and to notify the town of the land use conversion.  Cummington then has 120 days to meet any purchase price offered for the property, or if it isn’t being sold, to purchase it for fair market value.  Thirty-two percent of Cummington’s land is presently in Chapter 61 and could thus be sold for residential development unless it also happens to be in the Agricultural Preservation Restriction program, which is true for only 13.4% of the town’s Chapter 61 lands.

 

Other Lands of Recreation and Conservation Interest

 

The Deer Hill Rod and Gun Club on Porter Hill Road is a 26-acre private hunting and fishing club bordering the neighboring Town of Worthington is Chapter 61 recreation land.  The Mountain View Campground, located in West Cummington, is open seasonally to the public for camping near the Westfield River.  Private landowners have developed a system of trails across the town for hiking, cross-country skiing, and snowmobiling, but these trails are not currently mapped.  Cummington needs to decide whether mapping these trails for its residents is something it wants to do.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


 

 

 

 

 

 

Map 5-2.  Recreational Resources

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


 

Section 6 – Community Goals

Description of Process

 

Summary:  Meetings were held with Cummington’s Open Space Committee and town residents, including two public forums, to gather information on the community’s priorities and concerns.  Early survey returns proved helpful.  At the second forum, the Conway School of Landscape Design team presented its findings and preliminary recommendations.

 

Because of growing population pressure, in the year 2000 the Town of Cummington formed an Open Space Committee with the objective of developing an Open space and Recreation Plan (OSRP) to help direct the town’s future growth.  Three students from the Conway School of Landscape Design (CLSD) were enlisted to assist this project.  On January 11, 2001, the CSLD team met with members of the Open Space Committee to gather background information on the town, its resources, and its aspirations.  A survey prepared by the Committee was distributed to approximately 450 households in Cummington.

 

The first of two public forums was held February 1, 2001, to identify community goals and interests relating to open space and recreation.  A lively session ensued, in which a range of opinions was expressed as townspeople named the places in and qualities of Cummington that are dear to them and voiced their hopes for the twon’s future.  Working with the ideas reaised at this meeting and with early survey returns, the CSLD team identified four areas of community consensus.

 

At the second forum held on February 22, 2001, the CSLD team presented these areas of consensus, along with suggestions for actions the town could take towards achieving these broadly defined goals.  Citizen response at this meeting further refined the goals and objectives presented in this Open Space and Recreation Plan.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Community Goals for Open Space and Recreation

 

Summary:  Through the process described above, the Town of Cummington has developed and endorsed four broadly defined goals that serve as the basis for the specific goals and objectives contained in this plan.

 

1.         Cummington’s well-planned growth has protected its open spaces and natural resources.

2.         The quality of all ground and surface water in Cummington is excellent.

3.         Cummington’s historic integrity and unique rural character are preserved.

4.         Recreational opportunities exist for residents of all ages.

 

A more detailed Proposed Action Plan in Section 9 supports these four broadly defined goals.

 

 


Section 7 – Analysis of Needs

Summary of Resource Protection Needs

 

Summary:  Though 16% of Cummington’s total land is permanently protected open space, the remainder of the town is susceptible to residential development. Resource protection needs include protecting all the town’s waters, preserving critical wildlife habitat such as vernal pools, and creating permanent wildlife corridors, or greenways, especially along the Westfield River, that connect with existing regional corridors.

 

Water Resources

Population growth in Cummington poses potential threats to the purity of Cummington’s water resources.  Development of Cummington’s steep slopes could cause environmental problems jeopardizing the town’s brooks and rivers.  Another threat to water resources from development is contamination from septic systems.  Most of Cummington’s land is rated as poor for septic systems, due to seasonally high water tables and soils with high permeability.  Groundwater contamination could affect private and public wells if systems aren’t sited with care.  Salt runoff from roads is another potential source of water contamination; however,  Cummington’s Highway Department has been experimenting with new de-icing techniques that are less polluting.  Many of the town’s wetlands are concentrated in the southeastern part of town and lie within the town’s Water Supply Protection District, adjacent to farms.  The potential for agricultural fertilizers and pesticides to infiltrate groundwater is a community concern.  Residents would like to find methods to monitor these pollutants and ensure the purity of Cummington’s water resources into the future. 

 

 

Critical Habitat

Cummington is home to a number of plant and animal species whose decline is of concern to the State of Massachusetts.  Unprotected habitats include uncertified vernal pools and areas estimated to be habitat for state-listed rare and endangered species (see Appendix E).  For example, the wetland adjacent to the open land behind the Post Office has been identified as habitat for the endangered American bittern.  The entire Westfield River  corridor has been identified as habitat for several species that are listed as endangered, threatened, or of special concern.  In the Open Space and Recreation Surveys residents consistently rated protection of wildlife habitat as a very high priority.

 

 

Greenway Corridors

 

Cummington is fortunate to have several existing corridors for wildlife and passive recreation.  However, outside of state-owned land, much of these corridors is unprotected.  Priority should be given to targeting these lands for conservation easements or acquisition by land trusts or the town.

 

The largest corridor is the band of unprotected land along the Westfield River, extending south from its headwaters in northwest Cummington to the southeast corner of town and beyond into Chesterfield.  This corridor connects with Bryant Mountain State Forest and Deer Hill State Reservation in the northwest corner of town, thus extending north into Plainfield and clear into Vermont via a network of land trusts and state-owned lands.  At present, there are few barriers to wildlife movement along the open spaces next to the Westfield River except for Route 9. 

 

Another corridor of open space, protected by Agricultural Preservation Restrictions, exists in the middle of town.  This swath of farmland connects with Bryant Mountain to the northwest.  A third corridor that connects with the others extends south from Bryant Mountain to the Powell Brook Wildlife Management Area; the band of open space between them is unprotected.  All of these greenway corridors should be considered for permanent protection because they serve the overarching goals and needs expressed by the community: protection of water resources, provision for recreation, preservation of scenic landscapes, and sound planning for the future.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Summary of Community Needs

 

Summary:  To maintain Cummington’s rural and historic heritage while providing recreation and new places to live, the town needs tools to preserve open space and to direct development in ways that vitalize its village centers.

 

Cummington’s farmland is particularly vulnerable to development because it doesn’t cost as much to build subdivisions on already cleared land.  Loss of farmland means the loss of locally raised farm products, the loss of scenic views across fields and pastures, the loss of significant wildlife habitat, and the loss of the town’s living agricultural heritage.  Cummington’s residents have expressed a strong interest in preserving its remaining working farms for future generations to enjoy.

 

Farmland is Cummington’s favorite scenic resource.  The community’s most frequently mentioned favorite views are of fields and pastures, over stonewalls to distant hills.  These viewing places frequently border farmland, some of which is permanently protected.  Most is not, which underscores the need to permanently protect Cummington’s remaining farms.  Another favorite scenic resource are the town’s heritage sugar maples that line the roads.  Many are of a similar age and beginning to decline.  Planning to maintain and replace these trees would be an important investment in the town’s rural character.

 

The integrity of Cummington’s village centers is also an important issue.  Cummington Center is the town’s hub for community life.  In days gone by, all three villages were important social hubs.  The town has expressed a desire to see all its villages regain their vitality by concentrating local businesses and services within them.  This is especially important to village residents who don’t drive, including children and some elders.  One way to do this is to site new town facilities in its village districts.

 

The town has outgrown the historic Bryant Free Library and needs an expanded facility.  The old library is dearly loved and serves an important function in the town’s social fabric as a place for small gatherings and for visiting with neighbors.  Townspeople would like to see this role continue.

 

 

 

In the Open Space and Recreation Surveys, residents expressed a need to increase recreation opportunities both indoors and outdoors.  Many would like to see an indoor recreation facility that would serve youths, adults, and the elderly.  Others felt there is a need for more ball fields, and others, for more trails.

 

Trails on state lands, including Bryant Mountain and Deer Hill, aren’t marked or maintained, yet residents would like to use them.  Bryant Mountain, accessed from Route 9 along the abandoned ski lift, has spectacular views overlooking the Westfield River and mountains to the north, though the forest is beginning to reclaim the once cleared slopes.  From the summit, a trail used to extend south all the way down into the town of Worthington.  Hikers would like to be able to use the town’s old trails across state lands again.

 

In the surveys, many residents responded favorably to a question about connecting places in town with walking trails.  Others felt that there are enough beautiful places to walk in town and that the expense would not be warranted.  Some expressed concern about potential abuse and overuse of any trails by outsiders.  There were also concerns expressed about conflicting uses of trails by different user groups, the primary examples being snowmobiles versus cross- country skiers, and hikers versus off-road bikers.  Despite these varying opinions, residents are united in expressing their desire for more recreation opportunities, both indoors and out. 

 

The town currently has no swimming area suitable for family swimming but would like to reclaim Crocker Pond, its favorite swimming hole for generations.  Currently it is a mecca for nude bathers, drawing huge crowds beyond the state’s parking capacity for them in the summertime.  If the state would address this problem of public nudity, the town would have a great place to swim.  Meanwhile, it needs to continue its search for a new area deep enough to swim off public land on the Westfield River. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Summary of Management Needs

 

Summary:  New planning tools are needed for Cummington to manage its future growth.  Better communication with the state can improve Cummington’s recreation opportunities.  The town’s success in planning its future depends on the involvement of its enthusiastic citizens, who are needed to protect the town’s abundant resources for future generations.

                               

Present zoning strategies don’t serve Cummington’s long-term goals.  In developing a growth management plan that works for the town, Cummington must explore new strategies for planning.  It doesn’t have a clear picture of the build-out potential allowed by its current zoning and is waiting for this report from the Pioneer Valley Planning Commission (PVPC). The town also doesn’t know what the cost of community services will be as a result of residential expansion in Cummington.  The town currently must access GIS information through the Pioneer Valley Planning Commission, or other agencies, and would benefit from having direct access to GIS software at the Community House.  The town doesn’t maintain easily accessible records of Chapter 61, 61A and 61B lands and doesn’t have a clear picture of which open-space lands it wants or needs to target for permanent protection.  Currently, landowners aren’t fully aware of conservation options available to them.  Cummington residents would like this information to be more readily available.

 

Better communication between the town and the state’s Department of Environmental Management is needed.  The state seems unaware or unconcerned about the loss of recreation opportunities in Cummington as the result of state acquisition of formerly accessible lands, such as the Berkshire Snow Basin Ski Area and Crocker Pond.  This breakdown in the town’s ability to use its open space is disheartening to its citizens.

 

Cummington is a town of volunteers!  Good coordination between its boards and committees continues to be necessary to keep the town’s goals on track.  Cummington doesn’t have a sufficient tax base to fund many of the projects it hopes to undertake, but it may be able to make use of grant programs to realize them.  Citizen involvement is imperative for Cummington to reach its goals.  The town is at a crossroads in its development and has the opportunity to preserve what is special about it for future generations.  A number of ideas discussed at the public forums could become projects spearheaded by citizens.

 

 

 

 

 


Section 8 – Goals and Objectives

Goals and Objectives

 

The goals and objectives for this draft plan were developed through the Open Space Committee’s public survey and at two public community meetings held for this purpose in Cummington.  These draft goals were then debated over the course of a year by the Open Space Committee to achieve consensus.  Town residents have many hopes and visions for the future and want to do whatever is necessary so that these goals become a matter-of-fact description of life in Cummington.

 

-    Goal:  Cummington’s well-planned growth has protected its    open spaces and natural resources.

       Objectives:

1.      Based on the town’s zoning by-laws, the build-out potential of unchecked development and its cost to Cummington are analyzed and understood.

2.      New strategies for preserving and maintaining open space are adopted.

3.      A greenway along the Westfield River and between Bryant Mountain and the Powell Brook Wildlife Management Area protects wildlife corridors in Cummington and connects it with the regional Westfield River Greenway.

4.      Acquisition of Chapter 61A and 61B rights

 

h   Goal:  The quality of all ground and surface water is excellent.          

       Objectives:

5.      Cummington’s water supply and the Westfield River are protected from pollution.

6.      Erosion along the Westfield River is monitored and evaluated.

7.      Cummington’s wetlands are healthy and protected.

8.      Vernal pools are surveyed

 

(    Goal:  Cummington’s historic integrity and unique rural           character are preserved.

Objectives:

9.      Scenic and historic resources are protected.

10. Local agriculture is encouraged.

11. The town supports its cultural and artistic communities.

      

b    Goal:  Recreational opportunities exist for residents of all ages.          Objectives:

12.  Use the State land in Cummington.

13.  A regional indoor recreation center that serves the entire region.

14.  Outdoor recreation that coexists with the preservation of natural resources.

 

 

 

 


Section 9 – Five-Year Action Plan

Five-Year Action Plan

 

Summary:  In order to achieve the goals and objectives voiced by town residents for open space and recreation in Cummington, this proposed five-year plan lists specific actions for shaping the town’s future.  The town needs to review this plan carefully, revise it where appropriate, and then allocate the necessary time and volunteers to bring this vision to life.

Town residents’ vision of Cummington’s future includes protected open space and natural resources, sparkling clean waters, a strong community identity, and expanded recreational opportunities.  Whether or not residents achieve this reality depends on their willingness to think “out of the box” and take pro-active steps to direct growth in Cummington before it is overrun by conventional development. 

This section proposes a series of actions to be taken over the next five years in order to meet the goals and objectives set forth in Section 8.  The Proposed Action Plan Map 9-1 graphically depicts some of these suggestions.  Most important, it illustrates a proposed band of protected land, or greenway, along the Westfield River and between Bryant Mountain and the Powell Brook Wildlife Management Area.  By creating this greenway, Cummington plays a stewardship role in its pivotal protection of the Westfield River and the regional wildlife corridors extending north and south of its own borders.

 A number of well-documented options exist for municipal protection of open space (see Appendix C: Community Planning):

·         Cummington can develop funds to purchase land

·         In partnership with the town, other organizations can purchase land

·         Individuals can voluntarily donate or protect lands with conservation easements

·         Land can be protected by legislation

·         Cummington can “trade” with landowners, allowing increased development in certain areas, in exchange for maintaining large areas of protected open space

Various ways to develop and combine these options are incorporated in the following action plan.  The town has debated, refined and prioritized these actions.  Various subcommittees, volunteers, and task forces have been assigned to oversee their implementation. The symbols appearing next to the actions signify the goals and objectives they address, which are keyed with the same symbols that appeared in Section 8.  The goals are:

-    Cummington’s well-planned growth has protected its open      spaces and natural resources.

h   The quality of all ground and surface water is excellent.

(    Cummington’s historic integrity and unique rural character are           preserved.

b    Recreational opportunities exist for residents of all ages.

Completion dates in the left-hand margin are for the actions listed beneath them.  The Open Space Committee will meet bi-monthly to track the progress of the action plan.  The Open Space Committee will meet annually to evaluate the previous year’s actions and revise the rest of the Action Plan accordingly. 

 

June 2002-June 2003

-1.  Use the build-out map and report, expected from the Pioneer Valley Planning Commission in June 2001, to assess the current zoning by-law.  Research a flexible zoning by-law.

(Difficult/Very Important.    Planning Board, Zoning Bylaw Subcommittee of the Open Space Committee, Select Board) 

Complete the research in 2003. Because conventional zoning encourages sprawling suburban development rather than village or town patterns, many towns nationwide are adopting flexible zoning to promote the preservation of open space, working farms, and lands for recreation and conservation.  Flexible zoning might allow landowners to develop densely in some areas in exchange for protecting the rest of their land as open space.  Information on creative zoning alternatives is included in Appendix C.

 

  -2. Do a cost-of-community-services study to determine the price of residential development to the town.

(Moderately Difficult/Very Important.  EO418 planning funds and process, Open Space Committee, Select Board) 

Complete in one year.  The American Farmland Trust publishes an excellent handbook called “Does Farmland Protection Pay?” (see Section 11 References) that gives an overview of this method of evaluating a town’s cost of development.  In their study of three Massachusetts towns, they found that the average ratio of dollars generated by residential development to the services required for it was $1 to $1.12--for every dollar raised by residential tax revenues, the towns spent an extra 12 cents in direct services, for example, education, public health and safety, road maintenance and public works.  On the other hand, the average ratio for farm, forest, and open land was $1 to 33 cents--for every dollar raised after the towns provided services, 67 cents remained.  Analyzing Cummington’s cost of development will help the town evolve good growth-management strategies.

 

-3.  Network with local land trusts and identify ways to cooperate more closely with them.

(Not Difficult/Very Important. Land Preservation Subcommittee of the Open Space Committee)

Land trusts make good partners for protecting open space important to a community.  When a window of opportunity, such as the 120 days after a property leaves Chapter 61, opens up for Cummington to acquire such a property, strong financial partners can make all the difference.  Land trusts are also good educators, providing information to the public about conservation easements and mixed development opportunities for their land.  Develop the means and methods to identify and track 61A & 61B filings and sales.

 

-4.  Hold discussion seminars or workshops for landowners to promote the protection of open space and encourage them to place conservation restrictions on their land.

(Not Difficult/Important. Conservation Commission, Land Preservation Subcommittee of the Open Space Committee)

Most large landowners have already placed some development restrictions on their land.  Determine if there is a need for these seminars and if there is then hold them within a year. Invite speakers to address such issues as conservation easements, financial planning, and the Agricultural Preservation Restriction Program.  Develop and mail a handout to new landowners.  Develop the means and methods to facilitate the filing of 61A, 61B, and Land Trust Preservation. Encourage local farmers to participate in the Agricultural Preservation Program to protect their land in perpetuity.  Other options include conservation easements that allow limited development, and mixed-use zoning that maintains the appearance of a farm yet permits other kinds of business to operate on agricultural land.

 

-5. Identify and monitor status of unprotected parcels at risk for development within the proposed Greenway corridors.

(Not Difficult/Very Important. Town Assessor, Land Preservation Subcommittee of the Open Space Subcommittee)

Using Map 5-1 Protected Land and Map 9-1 Proposed Action Plan, identify the unprotected parcels of targeted interest to the town and closely monitor their status.  Devise strategies for their protection should they become available.

 

h 6. Work with the Westfield River Watershed Association (WRWA) to monitor the health of the Westfield River and to implement the Westfield River Greenway Plan.

(Not Difficult/Important.  Water Preservation Subcommittee of the Open Space Committee)

Cummington can share information with the WRWA and vice versa regarding targeted land for protection along the Westfield River.

 

h 7. Pair children and adults in Stream Teams that adopt waterways in Cummington and test their waters for pollutants.

(Not Difficult/Very Important.  Conservation Commission, Water Preservation Subcommittee of the Open Space Committee, Cub Scouts, Berkshire Trail Elementary School, and other youth groups) 

Getting children involved in testing Cummington’s brooks and the Westfield River raises public awareness about the town’s water supply and provides a valuable learning experience for everyone.  One of the Stream Teams’ goals could be to assess the environmental effect of the town’s road de-icing program.  See Appendix I.

 

h 8. Enforce Wetland and River Protection Regulations.

(Not Difficult/Very Important.  Conservation Commission, Open Water Preservation Subcommittee of the Open Space Committee) 

The importance of enforcing these regulations cannot be overstated. Develop an educational brochure and a seminar on conservation regulations for the residents of Cummington.

 

 (9. Enlist an arborist’s help to care for and replace the historic sugar maples and/or a viable mix of native trees around the Five Corners, along Route 112, and along Main Street and West Main Street.

(Not difficult/Important. Tree Planning Subcommittee of the Open Space Committee, Tree Warden)

These sugar maples are all about the same age and are in decline.  Some are becoming road hazards and need to be removed and replaced.  In the past citizens have volunteered time, labor, and equipment to plant trees paid for by the town along Main Street.  Contact the Stockbridge School or other educational institutions for consultations regarding the care and replacement of these important emblems of Cummington’s rural history.  See Appendix I for information about the Heritage Tree Care Grant Program. Ensure that tree plantings are set back behind the right of way boundary lines.  Develop an overall town plan in 2002 to be implemented over the next four years.

 

(10. Develop an educational program on the human and natural history of Cummington.

(Not difficult/Important. Historical Commission, Cultural Council, Education Subcommittee of the Open Space Committee)  

Develop a video series.  Develop brochures and texts for use in the elementary school.

 

b11. Solicit regional public input for designing a regional indoor recreation center.

(Not Difficult/Important.  Recreation Committee, Select Board, Indoor Recreation Subcommittee of the Open Space Committee) 

Many regional residents support the idea of building an indoor recreation center that would serve all ages.  Before funding or siting the center, some questions must be answered: How large should it be and what sports should it house?  Should it include a swimming pool?  Locating it on existing town land would be cost effective, but on which parcel?  The town can hold a community meeting to address these questions and ensure public support exists for such an ambitious undertaking.

 

-12. Set up a GIS map-viewing system at the Community House.

(Moderately Difficult/Important.  Planning Board, Select Board, GIS Subcommittee of the Open Space Committee) 

In order to access the wealth of information about Cummington available from Massachusetts as mapped GIS data, a GIS map-viewing system should be installed on the computer at the Community House.  This will greatly enhance all future town-planning efforts by reducing Cummington’s need for outside agencies to interpret the town’s information about itself.

 

June 2003-June 2004

-1. Develop and maintain Cummington’s existing recreational facilities.

(Not Difficult/Important. Conservation Commission, Recreation Committee)

Town-owned land is currently underutilized.  The Creamery Swimming Area should be revitalized and maintained.  Develop plans for the use of the Expanded Pettingill field.

 

-2. Hold a design charrette to present the town’s research on flexible zoning options and the cost-of-community-services study and to increase public participation in the planning process.

(Not Difficult/Very Important.  Planning Board, Select Board, Zoning Bylaw Subcommittee of the Open Space Committee)

This planning session should be organized to work with a large group of people, both as a means of education and as a way to get feedback on the town’s research on planning thus far.  Information about design charrettes is included in Appendix C.

 

h 3. Certify Cummington’s vernal pools.

(Difficult/Very Important.  Conservation Commission, Water Preservation Subcommittee of the Open Space Committee) 

There are many vernal pools in Cummington, but only one is certified.  Those lying outside wetland resource areas have no protection.  Vernal pools provide habitat for rare and endangered species living in Cummington.  Obtain Landowners permissions prior to implementing the survey.

 

(4.  Plan a Cummington Art Fair for the Cummington Fairgrounds.

(Very Difficult/Important.  Cultural Council, Culture Subcommittee of the Open Space Committee) 

Many artists live in Cummington, which has a rich tradition of supporting the arts.  A Cummington Art Fair will showcase both local and regional artists, taking advantage of the existing infrastructure at the Fairgrounds. Develop plans for a Hilltown film festival.

(5. Apply for a grant to build a new Regional Hilltown Historical Document Repository.

(Not Difficult/Important. Select Board, Trustees of the Library, Historical Commission, Document Repository Committee of the Open Space Committee) 

Although the Bryant Free Library is much loved, it is not an appropriate building for the storage of historical documents and texts.  Once a new library is built, the Bryant Free Library will continue to serve the library needs of the community.  The new facility can be used to house William Cullen Bryant’s personal archives as well as other historical documents and texts from Cummington and the surrounding Hilltowns in a temperature and humidity controlled environment.  This will increase the shelf space available in the Bryant Free Library for contemporary works and reference material.  The new facility can become a focal point for individuals doing research on the history of the Hilltowns.

 

b 6. Organize a “Friends of Cummington’s Trails” to coordinate and maintain a trail system for the town.  (Difficult/Important.  Trails Subcommittee of the Open Space Committee) 

This group will work closely with the state and private landowners to develop a system of trails for town use, including a trail from the Bryant Homestead to Bryant Mountain and then south to the Powell Brook Wildlife Management Area.  Becky Barnes, who is Trail Coordinator for Region 5 of the Dept. of Environmental Management, wants to help Cummington resurrect trails on state land.  She can be reached at (413) 442-8928 ext. 16.

b 7. Apply for a grant to build a regional indoor recreation center.

(Difficult/Important.  Select Board, Recreation Committee, Indoor Recreation Subcommittee of the Open Space Committee)

Apply for grants as appropriate given the public input received at prior hearings etc. 

 

June 2004-June 2005

h 1. Assess erosion along the Westfield River.

(Difficult/Important.  Conservation Committee, Water Preservation Subcommittee of the Open Space Committee) 

Doing an inventory of the Westfield River’s banks will help the town spot places where they are eroding and contaminating the river.  Special attention should be paid to any farmland that hugs the river as well as Pettingill Recreation Field, which has been a source of trouble in the past.

 

(2. Identify important scenic views, monitor their stability, and apply for scenic byway status to protect their roadside access.

(Not Difficult/Important.  Zoning Bylaw Subcommittee of the Open Space Committee) 

Many of the residents’ favorite roadside views are across farmland that should be protected in order for the views to survive. Evaluate the pros and cons of designating one or more of the roads in Cummington as “Scenic Roads” A measure affording some protection of scenic roads involves official designation under the Scenic Road Act.  Massachusetts General Law authorizes towns to pass local by-laws designating particular roads, determined by the town, as scenic.  Once designated, the planning board must give approval of any activity that would involve the cutting or removal of trees, or removing stonewalls.  Protection only applies within a limited distance from the road.  Research and propose additional bylaws to protect Cummington’s scenic views.

 

(3.  Establish local historic districts to protect the town’s villages and apply for National Registration of the districts and of historic buildings such as the Bryant Library and the Community House.

(Not difficult/Important. Historical Commission) 

Establishing local historic districts is another tool for historic preservation that Cummington could pursue.  Recognized by Massachusetts General Law, historic districts can be created at Town Meeting and allow the town to impose restrictions within the historic district that preserve its setting and visual character.  A National Registry listing would protect the historic districts from the adverse affects of federally funded projects such as sewer or highway construction.  National registration of historic buildings entitles owners to apply for 50% matching grants for historic preservation projects.  Though National Register listings don’t afford much protection, they are an honor and a tool for public education.  Currently, there is one National Register Property in Cummington, the William Cullen Bryant Homestead. 

 

 (4.  Site and design a new Regional Hilltown Historical Document Repository.

(Difficult/Very Important.  Select Board, Trustees of the Library, Historical Commission, Document Repository Subcommittee of the Open Space Committee)

Implement any plans that have emerged from the public hearings and given successful grant applications.

 

(5. Launch the Cummington Art Fair and film festival.

(Very Difficult/Important.  Cultural Council, Culture Subcommittee of the Open Space Committee)

See above.

 

b6. Build the indoor recreation center.

(Very Difficult/Important. Recreation Committee, Select Board, Indoor Recreation Subcommittee of the Open Space Committee) 

See above.

 

June 2005-June 2006

(1. Build the new Regional Hilltown Historical Document Repository.

(Difficult/Very Important.  Select Board, Trustees of the Library, Historical Commission, Document Repository Subcommittee of the Open Space Committee) 

See above.

 

 

June 2006-June 2007

-1. Revise the Open Space and Recreation Plan (OSRP).

(Not Difficult/Very Important.  Open Space Committee)

The OSRP is good for five years and then it needs to be revised and resubmitted to the state.

 

Implementation Subcommittees

The following subcommittees have been designated to execute the various action items of the Five-Year Action Plan.  Listed are the initial volunteers who have agreed to participate in the successful completion of this plan.  These subcommittees are open to any Cummington resident who wishes to participate.

·         Zoning Bylaw Subcommittee – Judy Bogart, Merrie Bergmann, Judy Moore

·         Land Preservation SubcommitteeSteven Howes, Judy Moore

·         Water Preservation SubcommitteeAudrey Marcoux, Ted Lynds, Nancy Childs

·         Tree Planning Subcommittee – Kevin Martin, Jay Dwight

·         Education SubcommitteeLucy Fandel, Nancy Childs, Wynne Busby, Alex Hoechstedder

·         Indoor Recreation SubcommitteeJim Drawe

·         GIS SubcommitteeJim Drawe, Merrie Bergmann, Daniel Lomax

·         Culture Subcommittee – Laura Streeter

·         Document Repository Subcommittee – Merrie Bergmann, Steven Howes

·         Trails Subcommittee – Eileen West, Richard Sheppard

·         Grant Writing SubcommitteeJudy Moore

 

 

 


Section 10 – Public Comments

Meeting Minutes

 

 

 

 

Date: Saturday, September 21, 2002 10:42 AM
Subject: open space/rec developments

Open Space/Rec met on 9-5-02, will meet next on 10-17-02, 7:30p, Comm. Hs.  This week--Thursday, Sept. 26 at 7:30, Comm. Hs.--there'll be a meeting to suggest types of information for the GIS data base being planned by one of the OSR subgroups.  So far these have included typographical material like wetlands and vernal pools, condition of roadways and trees bordering them, fire ponds, property lines, overlay districts, cellar holes and other historic points.  All are invited to bring in ideas.

 

Present Sept. 5:  Merrie Bergmann, Nancy Childs, Jim Drawe, Matthew Grallert, Ted Lynds, Audrey Marcoux, Judy Moore, Laura Streeter.

 

Notes from Sept. 5--and 6:  Thanks to Steve Howes, we now know better what it's about.  At the Sept. 5 meeting, Audrey Marcoux and Nancy Childs mentioned that Steve had proposed walking, the next afternoon, from the Chesterfield point where Mount Road's southern spur peters out to the Cummington point above "The Nude Beach" where the Westfield River borders Route 9.  For Audrey and Nancy it would be an outgrowth of their summer-long Westfield River survey (see below), while for Steve it was a way to reach "Durkee's Cave," a venture he'd wanted for 64 years to try.   Bunny and Jim Drawe joined in, as did two staff from the Wild & Scenic Rivers program.  

 

The story of Durkee and his cave is one of those often somber tales from Cummington's past which Steve collects and shares so well:  a young man named Durkee took autumn refuge from the World War I draft in a cavernous hollow under a ledge, making it almost through a bitter January before his smoke plume led to jail.  

 

Steve seemed tough as Durkee, scrambling over riverside rocks hidden in thick grass and entangling vines, hopping back and forth dry-booted across the river as others fell on slippery boulders, hour after hour.  Wild and beautiful country, State land called "The Pork Barrel" for what you could once fill in a day's fishing.  As Steve had figured, he spotted purple Bottle Gentians, and later Nancy confirmed the presence of an endangered species on a bank.  Punishing country, though...for some of us--well, especially this writer--the ruling passion became avoidance of a sprained ankle.  As farmers around here know, Mother Nature does not tolerate fools gladly.

 

We all made it off the river without assistance from the EMTs, emerging onto Route 9 beyond the famous "Nude Beach," devoid of nudes by that time.  And devoid, we were pleased to see, of trash or any visible evidence of human use--except for fanciful stone minarets piled to clear a small gravel "beach."  

 

Also discussed on Sept. 5:  more on Water Quality--As noted above, Nancy and Audrey surveyed the entire Cummington length of the Westfield over the summer, documenting plants and animal signs.  They plan a slide show.  Little erosion was seen, but they did wonder about stretches of brown and green algae towards the Windsor end, results of agricultural run-off or of a recent rock slide?

 

Possible public forums:  1) Wetlands Protection Act--implications for Hilltowners

2) vernal pools--identifying them, caring for them.

 

There is a State-funded Wellhead Protection Plan for the Town's water. 

 

Trails--Eileen West, embarked on a new job in Adams, finds herself unable to take this on.  There is considerable overlap with work of the Wild and Scenic River project--maybe this concern can fold into work of other subgroups?

 

GIS:  As noted, there'll be a Sept. 26 meeting on this (see above), planning now getting serious as result of a $30,000 Community Development grant under Executive Order 418, whose bottom-line concern is communities' making room for more affordable housing, desperately needed Statewide.  Jim said GIS data will be copied for ArcView viewing; Ted, Audrey, Laura and Matthew expressed interest in the copies.

 

Web site:  Such data will go on the Web site.  The Town now has a domain reserved, thanks to David Owen.  Content to be developed.

 

More on 418 (see GIS):  The 418-mandated Community Development Plan, developed with State funds obtained through the Pioneer Valley Planning Commission, is to include sections on open space--met already through our Open Space/Recreation Plan; economic development, to be based on the plan done by local business and crafts people in 1997; transportation, to involve the data base on roads and especially any hazardous areas; and ways to develop more affordable housing.  It's not clear just how Cummington is to respond to this last, as 85% of our current stock is already "affordable" when defined, per 418, as valued at less than 2.5 times average local income.  Local programs for first-time home buyers, revolving loans for septic and other repair will count towards "418 Certification," which has become necessary to a variety of State funds.  Jim is exploring use of "tax title" land for a small cluster of "affordable" houses, land which the town could take via Town Meeting decision after an owner has had six months to pay back taxes.  Laura mentioned Habitat for Humanity, always on the lookout for sites on which to build.

 

Jim is pulling together a Consulting Committee from various boards and groups.  

 

Ball field and ADA certification:  Recommendations for accessibility have been received, and HCDC is at work on a grant to implement these.  With a remediation plan accepted by ADA, the Open Space and Recreation Plan will be officially complete. 

 

Zoning Options:  With its reorganization of current Zoning Bylaw almost complete, the Planning Board can consider useful enhancements.  Merrie will meet with them regarding her study of the Bylaw.

 

Historic Landscape Preservation Grant Program:  Merrie is working on this.

 

Land Preservation:  With help from the GIS project, it may be possible to target concern.  Already the Open Space/Rec Plan, and results of the all-households survey, give some guidelines.  It was noted that the APR program pays very well and is attractive to some local owners. 

http.//mass.gov/ offers into on legislation.  Land Conservation Options is a very useful guide available through Trustees of Reservations, 978-921-1944. 

 

Arts:  Matt Grallert has just joined this group, which is looking into the idea of the documentary film festival--no decision yet.  Jim noted the possibility of using some portion of the Fairground along with some other event, like the Berkshire Cruisers classic car meet--cost of facilities could be shared.  Cliff Thayer notes that facilities must be reserved a yr. ahead. 

Grant-writing:  The Hampshire Council of Governments no longer maintains a grants consultant, but the Pioneer Valley Planning Commission can be helpful. 

Document Repository:  The historical document repository has been incorporated into the Five-Year Plan of the Library Commissioners.  It won't be regional as towns all want archives close at hand.  They will inventory materials to be stored, determine area needed--might include Bryant Homestead materials threatened by that bldg's lack of climate control, also perhaps some family archives, church?

 

Trees:  Kevin got Rob Dextrase as Tree Warden onto this subcommittee--at moment they're preoccupied with "dead stuff."

 

Zoning:  Kevin notes need for some sort of definition within Zoning By-law about owner/town responsibility for roadside trees.  There is danger of some falling onto roads; clearer roadsides do melt faster in winter.  Finds it burdensome that Stage Rd. as a scenic way requires hearing for the cutting of any tree over 6" diameter.

 

Judy reported inquiry from Merrie Bergmann about resources for studying model by-law.

Good examples at back of Op Space/Rec Plan.  Re: clustering detailed there, Lynds points out there would be complications for water, waste disposal in widely-scattered clusters

 

Trails:  Senator Nuciforo's office has info on grants for development, maintenance, per Jim.

  

Judy Moore, ad hoc secretary

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Date: Monday, August 19, 2002 1:12 PM
Subject: Sept. 5 next open space/recreation meeting!

THURSDAY SEPTEMBER 5 AT 7:30P THE OPEN SPACE AND RECREATION GROUP, WORKING ON GOALS OF THE TOWN'S NEWLY-ADOPTED OPEN SPACE/REC PLAN, WILL MEET in the Community House.  Anybody interested should come; areas of work are below (and Jim Drawe hopes to have copies of the whole Plan made soon--just waiting on Accessibility Certification for the rec field, verbally approved months ago by an ADA rep) , along with notes from the last meeting, June 27.  Hopefully there'll be somebody at the Sept. 5 meeting familiar with each area of work!

 

Present on June 27:  Wynne Busby, Lucy Fandel, charlie Handfield, Melinda Handfield, Conrad Liebenow, Michelle Liebenow, Judy Moore

 

Recreation:  A major goal emerging for the Plan was the building of a Regional Recreation Center, in concert with neighboring towns.  The Handfields and the Liebenows, as neighbors of the ball field, want to be sure potential abutters' input will be fully absorbed, since they note there are noise, light pollution and other developments associated.

 

NEEDED--PEOPLE TO WORK ON REGISTERS OF HISTORIC PLACES--State, National.  Such registration is a great aid to funding for maintenance, as in the case of cemeteries, and done site by site need not entail burdensome restrictions.  

 

Education:  Lucy & Wynne are active with this group, which is considering video production centered around Cummington's natural history and around its more strictly human history, perhaps using old photos interspersed with narration or interviews.  Hoping for more participants!

 

GIS software for Town data:  Jim Drawe distributed at a previous meeting a detailed plan for researching software that processes Global Positioning data, installing it, training people to use it.  Needed from everybody--help in defining data that could be entered, such as info on wells and septic systems, material on land use and any protective measures in place, location of certified vernal pools and seasonal streams, old roads and trails.  What else?

 

Grants:  This effort focusses on collecting info about money available.  For example, there's been recent local publicity on the Berkshire Taconic Community Foundation, which makes grants for "quality-of-life projects" involved with education, arts, environment, recreation. 

 

Water Quality:  Nancy Childs and Audrey Marcoux launched a survey this summer of the entire Cummington length of the Westfield R.--its flora and fauna, condition of banks and wetlands,  maybe possible swimming holes! etc.

 

Per Conrad Liebenow:  Under the Interim Wellhead Protection Act, land is being acquired along the Westfield Wild & Scenic River.  There is to be no development there, which has impact on any use made of the ball field.

 

Trails:  Per Jim, there is a Westfield College teacher, Bob Thompson, whose students can help with GPS mapping.  Steve Howes knows of many old trails in town, in varying states of passability. 

 

Land Preservation:  Judi Bogart, Nancy Childs, Audrey Marcoux and Judy Moore plan to survey status of properties in detail--what's in Chapter 61, 61A, 61B, Conservation Easement, APR, etc.  This needs to be coordinated with the above GIS project.

 

A recent Trustees of Reservations booklet gives wonderful clear detail on just how to protect land, with what tax advantages and what implications for the future.  Call 978-921-1944, fax 978-921-1948, www.thetrustees.org

 

Arts:  Goals that emerged for the Plan involved an art fair, a documentary film festival, and video production--perhaps with the help of graduate students.  The Arts Council has taken on pursuit of these possibilities.

 

Historical Archives:  The Library Commissioners have taken over research on developing a climate-controlled repository for perishable historical materials, perhaps linked somehow to the Bryant Library.

 

 

Judy Moore, Ad Hoc Secretary

 

 

 

Date: Tuesday, June 11, 2002 5:10 PM
Subject: open space/rec notes from May 9, meeting June 27

The Open Space and Recreation Plan, whole book, gets voted on at the June 24 Town Meeting, followed by OSR Committee meeting Thursday, June 27, 7:30 in Comm. House.

 

May 9 bulletins from Subcommittees:  (note that aim is to have at June 27 meeting a detailed list of steps for each Action Plan objective)--

 

Arts Council taking on art, film festivals, video production objectives from the Five-Year Action Plan;  Jim Drawe met with them.  They will check into a recent Northampton film festival which didn't attract enough audience for viability--any lessons to be learned?  Estimate of $20K to make video--could attract grad student(s) to this project?  

 

Education submitted minutes from an April 26 meeting at which they discussed video production, especially oriented twds. schools but also useful to adults--could involve kids in collecting info?  Two broad strands of interest identified--1) Cummington's natural history 2) more strictly human history.  Plan to divide the group accordingly.

 

GIS software for Town data:  Jim Drawe passed out a 31-step plan for achieving objectives here--surveying potential uses, products and vendors, installing equipment, training users.  Needed from everybody is help in defining data layers to go on maps, such as material on land use and any protective legal measures in effect, or location of certified vernal pools, or seasonal streams to be delineated with dotted lines, and old roads/trails (Jim notes he had detailed maps of these which he lent to somebody--may be available from Hampshire Council of Governments--Moore to check)...  What else??

 

Grants:  Moore will collect info on sources of funds--handed out a sheet summarizing what's come into Town mail recently.  Can put flyers and notices in a central location in Select Board office...

 

Historical archives building:  The Library Commissioners have taken on this objective, and are considering how a new facility might be somehow joined to the existing Bryant Library.  They are mulling needs of various types of material, such as clothing.  Merrie Bergmann and Jim Drawe will take over liaison on this, as Steve Howes finds himself swamped with commission and committee duties and states he must cut back on OSR.

 

Land Preservation:  Further discussion of best to implement this concern, without causing unnecessary anxiety to land owners. A third or so of Cummington land is in Chapter 61A, as documented by Steve (see map in the OSR Plan)--perhaps a good starting point is the future of this land, whose status must be continually resubstantiated to assessors, with the land possibly coming out of this protection after some years and vulnerable to development.  It would be helpful to get an overview of local ownership, using assessor records--Judi Bogart, Audrey Marcoux & Judy Moore are prepared to work on the project.  As noted above, Steve finds he is just too busy to continue activity here but will, as representative of an old Cummington family holding a lot of land, serve as consultant.

 

Registers of Historic Places--State & National--WE NEED A SUBCOMM. TO LOOK INTO THIS FOR CUMMINGTON SPOTS!  An objective listed in the Five-Year plan, such registration can be a great aid to funding for maintenance, as in the case of cemeteries.

 

Trails:  Relayed word from Eileen West that she thinks she'll be able to dig into this soon.  Per Jim, a Westfield College teacher, Bob Thompson, has two students poised to map trails with GPS units.  Possible routes:  1) one on old Byer property near Westfield R. which is well signed, per Steve, though little used 2) one from Lloyd Mougin property along westerly side of River, south of red highway bridge--recently walked by Nancy Childs, Lucy Fandel, Audrey and Judy--found to be in fair shape 3) old road from West Cummington to East Windsor 4) perhaps others on a map Nancy thinks she may have, showing detail on Cummington.

 

Water quality:  Per Ted Lynds and Audrey, the Westfield Wild & Scenic River overseers will work with Cub Scouts on a June 1 survey of water quality.  Nancy and Audrey plan to walk the entire Cummington length of the River this summer, surveying flora and fauna along it, possibly chemical composition samples, also collecting info on wetlands, possible swimming holes.  This to be followed by dissemination of info to public.  Jim asks if GPS recorder to be used?

 

Ted reported that he's checked with WMECO about private wells near power line rights-of-way cleared with herbicides, finds that only wells within 10' are listed by them.  

 

Nancy and Audrey went searching for a vernal pool reportedly on Brooke Lynes' property, unable to find it--will check with her when she returns from vacation.

 

Zoning issues:  Merrie has been poring over current Bylaw and notes a number of lacks--such as requirement for berms against spread of agricultural pesticides into wetlands.  Regulation of signs and structures interfering with special views.  Etc.  Would be really helpful to Planning Board if she could list these needs.    

 

Cummington Bylaw should be on the web page being developed by Jim--Merrie says she could help with getting it there.

 

Re:  "Build-out" maps developed by PVPC for area towns, showing what they'd look like if all land were "developed" as allowed by Bylaw, Jim finds they are not genuinely helpful, since they simply show everything filled in with roads and structures.  But he notes the cautionary thing is developers can put in their own roads, to be donated to the Town.

 

 

 

Judy Moore, Ad Hoc Secretary

 

 

 


 

Date: Tuesday, April 23, 2002 9:06 AM
Subject: notes from April 4, NEXT OP SPACE/REC MTG MAY 9

The next Open Space/Recreation meeting will be on May 9, 7:30p, Comm. Hs.  We're switching to meeting every month or six weeks, freeing time for subcommittees.  Goal: each sub to have a general plan of action by May 9.

 

present April 4--Jim Drawe, Steve Howes, Ted Lynds, Kevin Martin, Judy Moore, Laura Streeter

 

Land Preservation:  At the March 22 hearing, Steve had expressed doubt about the usefulness of attempting to publicize for local owners the various means of preserving open land while reducing property taxes.  Holders of extensive land would already have come up with info on trusts and so on, if they were at all inclined.   We here continued discussion of what this subcommittee can most effectively do.

 

Steve feels there can be resentment of the very idea of a "Land Preservation Subcommittee," implying as it does a broad community interest in what happens to individual holdings, traditionally regarded as their owners' private reserves to handle as they see fit and necessary.  Such holdings can be a matter of survival--not only for working farmers, but for those who have inherited tracts counted upon to finance an education, a retirement, a "rainy day," something to leave the kids...  If little money is in the bank, at least it is on the ground...

 

There is to be sure the occasional speculator, just waiting for land values to rise, with perhaps no knowledge of or interest in Cummington the historic and cultural place.

 

While oldtimers with large holdings can resent the interest newer arrivals take in what becomes of the land as a whole--"They just want to settle down on their few acres and then close everything down for the next people who might want to come in"--such recent arrivals do tend to feel they have bought into a community with certain characteristics, which they hope can endure.

 

If that community is not to fragment into angry camps, as had happened elsewhere under intense development pressure, common ground must be searched out.  Could this subcommittee host a series of small, informal "coffees" with those who do have large holdings, family by family, to talk about the land, their needs?  Jim visualized a video documentary on the history of these lands.

 

There should be an account of status of lands in the Town's Annual Report.  As property values rise, accompanied by rising cost for schools and other infrastructure, holders of many acres can find themselves simply forced by their tax vulnerability to sell off.

 

Jim cautioned that where owners do seek shelter from taxes thru State programs, the State compensation to towns which undergirds such programs can be cut back in lean times.

 

Steve notes that Trustees of Resevations is interested in acquiring lands necessary to keep views from Bryant Homestead true to Bryant's time--this the Subcommittee could learn more about.  Also he notes that about one third of Cummington acerage is in Chapter 61A protection, which as he said indicates some interest in land preservation.  Currently there is no recourse once such land is out of 61A--could land trusts become relevant here?  Perhaps the subcomm. could concentrate on that issue?

 

Water Quality:  DEP has drinking water protection grants--Robin Simmons, who worked on the Cumm. OSR Plan while at Conway School, now administers these for PVPC.  Ted Lynds took the info from Jim.

 

Ted also took copy of e-mail from Bernie Forgea suggesting contact with two specific WMECO employees about question of private wells possibly affected by pesticides on power line grounds.

 

Also rec'd info on surplus stereo microscopes available from State for $50--useful to Stream Teams.  Jim had talked to Jeoff Rodgers about this.

 

WMECO has "partnership" grants for water quality--no match required.  Judy will review flyer.

 

How wide a shoreline is affected by legal restrictions on activities near a stream, Steve urgently wants to know.  Ted took a copy of the Rivers Protection Act for research.  It was noted that the Conservation Commission can issue variances.  Bud Huntley as an Assessor is also researching impact of such restrictions on property values.

 

Recreation:  ADA's Stavros has made visit and certification, necessary to the Open Space/Rec Plan, should be easy to achieve with a few minor modifactions of signage, etc. at Pettingill Field.

 

WMECO grant might be a possibility for lighting at the Field?  Judy to review flyer as above.

 

Document Repository:  The historical document repository has been incorporated into the Five-Year Plan of the Library Commissioners.  It won't be regional as towns all want archives close at hand.  They will inventory materials to be stored, determine area needed--might include Bryant Homestead materials threatened by that bldg's lack of climate control, also perhaps some family archives, church?

 

Trees:  Kevin got Rob Dextrase as Tree Warden onto this subcommittee--at moment they're preoccupied with "dead stuff."

 

Zoning:  Kevin notes need for some sort of definition within Zoning By-law about owner/town responsibility for roadside trees.  There is danger of some falling onto roads; clearer roadsides do melt faster in winter.  Finds it burdensome that Stage Rd. as a scenic way requires hearing for the cutting of any tree over 6" diameter.

 

Judy reported inquiry from Merrie Bergmann about resources for studying model by-law.

Good examples at back of Op Space/Rec Plan.  Re: clustering detailed there, Lynds points out there would be complications for water, waste disposal in widely-scattered clusters

 

Trails:  Senator Nuciforo's office has info on grants for development, maintenance, per Jim.

 

 

 

 

Judy Moore, ad hoc secretary

 

 

 

 

Date: Monday, April 01, 2002 5:56 PM
Subject: update for April 4 meeting

Scheduled tri-weekly meeting of Open Space/Rec Committee this Thursday, April 4, 7:30p in the back room of the Comm. House!  At this meeting we can decide how often to meet in the future, since subcommittees are up and running, and the final Town Meeting vote on the Five-Year Action Plan won't be for some weeks.

 

Sixteen people attended the March 22 hearing on the Five-Year Action Plan, where contact people for each of 12 subcommittees spoke of relevant items in the Plan.  (The final draft of the Plan had been made available at The Creamery, the Post Office, Bryant Library, and Comm. Hs.)  These people are:

 

    Cemetery Restoration--Steve Howes, 634-8828

    Culture--Laura Streeter, 634-5328--to work w. Culture Council on art fair, film festival

    Document Repository--Steve Howes, 634-8828--to plan structure w. controlled climate for safeguarding old documents and other historical artifacts

    Education--Lucy Fandel, 634-5576--video on Cumm. history, materials for schools, introductory flyer on Town policies and practices for land-buyers, speakers for Space/Rec meetings.  Looking into Berkshire Regional Fund twds. funding a film or video

    Grant-Writing--Judy Moore, 634-8816--will relate flyers on grants to implementing Plan

    GIS--Jim Drawe, 634-5447--set up map-viewing system on Comm. Hs. computer

    Indoor Recreation--Jim Drawe, 634-5447--research feasibility of regional rec center

    Land Preservation--Steve Howes, 634-8828, or Judy Moore, 634-8816--collect and disseminate info on land trusts, other legal safeguards entailing reduced property taxes (tho' at the hearing Steve said his review of Open Space/Rec Plan data indicates about 3500 acres currently under no protection; he feels these "will probably not be protected, for one reason and another.")

    Options in Zoning--Merrie Bergmann, 634-5335--will review by-laws drafted in other small  towns of Northeast, feed info to Planning Board

    Trails--Eileen West, 634-5717--to look into revitalizing some State trails, developing new ones

    Trees--Kevin Martin, 634-5098--will work w. Tree Warden, currently surveying roadside trees, to plan and plant replacements where they are aging out

    Water Protection--Audrey Marcoux, 634-2137--will work on Westfield River bank erosion  where it is polluting, develop Greenway along banks, vernal pools' certification as  requested, publicize Wetland regs, create Stream Team for monitoring water qual., to include Cub Scouts w. their leader Ted Lynds, 634-5759

 

Jim Drawe emphasized that all subcommittees must follow rules for open meetings, posting notices of meeting times two days ahead, at least on the Comm. House bulletin board to left of front door.  They are to keep written minutes.

       

Also of note--At the last regular Open Space/Rec Committee meeting, Jim related concerns about herbicide spraying of power line rights-of-way--it's impossible to know where private wells may be in harm's way!  Presumably this would involve those close to the WMECO transmission line to Chesterfield.

 

He also noted possible need for by-law about drought conditions--limiting lawn watering, car washing, etc.  Or at least publicity.  Audrey Marcoux said she would pick up a Hitchcock Ctr. flyer on this.  Esp. important to safeguard woods from fire!!  currently, must burn brush, etc. only on weekend days preceded by precipitation the day before. 

 

Date: Wednesday, January 23, 2002 7:39 PM
Subject: notes from
1-10-02, Open Space/Rec

Tri-weekly meetings coming up:  Jan. 31, Feb. 21, March 14, 7:30p, back room of Comm. Hs.  (somebody pls. tape note to front door re: back room location--I'll be in Chicago Jan 31, got a conflict with Feb. 21 so will be there for part only....             JMM)

 

present on Jan. 10, '02:  Merrie Bergman, Jim Drawe, Steve Howes, Ted Lynds, Audrey Marcoux, Judy moore

 

Involvement?  Who's to carry out the goals, objectives now set into the Open Space & Recreation Plan?  Some discouragement expressed re: ultimate usefulness of this process.  BUT:  once task forces are identified, with at least one person willing to help carry the ball, that person(s) can enlist others they know to be generally sympathetic for selected, specific parts of the task.  Something doable!

 

Jim working on proposal for Pioneer Valley Planning Commission to participate in "charrette" process, whereby a Town plans how to channel growth--$30,000  available from State, under "418" legislation promoting affordable housing.  "Scope of Work" will include:  1)the Economic Development Plan worked up five years ago by a Cummington/Plainfield commission of local business people--it specifies no substantial changes 2) action on housing:  since a Hilltown like Cummington really is not appropriate for low-income housing for those who work miles away--no public transportation--Jim will ask PVPC help in drafting sample legislation that would define criteria for exemption from the present requirements for "418 Certification"--such certification leads to preferential treatment in obtaining State funds.

3) The Open Space/Rec Plan now being completed--added tonight was the June 2002 goal of "a cost-of-community-services study to determine price of residential development"--should become part of this charrette process. 

 

Completion of discussion on Five-Year Action Plan from Op Space/Rec draft:  The revised Five-Year Plan distributed by Jim dropped item on dirt roads--he states severe shrinkage of road money now available in this state guarantees no paving in foreseeable future, which would be consistent with results of Survey.  

 

June '04 item on Historic Districts: restore broader exploration of its relevance for the Town, since no restrictions are actually inherent for individual home owners--municipal projects would have to be planned with such designation in mind, however.  Reference will be made to Bryant Library and the Community House as possible objects for such designation.

 

Exploration of Zoning By-Law--finish by June 2003:  Audrey draws attention to a "Flexible By-law" which entails swapping credits that allow some growth while maintaining open space...

 

Steve:  What's supposed to happen to all that open space, left over when a land-owner sells a small portion for a "development"?  Can become a "commons" for owners of homes within the development.

 

Planning Board had too many responsibilities--was removed from cost-of-community-services study (see above PVPC charrette process), also from networking with local land trusts and holding seminars/workshops on conservation restrictions.   Judy agreed to develop a task force along these lines--tracking consultants, etc.  Steve remembers a seminar on 61A.  Will look for his material.  It'd be possible to target owners of 15acres plus, using Assessor's records.  (this incorporates a later item re: workshop on preserving farmland)

 

Also removing Pl. Brd. from monitoring unprotected parcels on proposed Greenways.

 

Westfield RiverAudrey is at work already on health of River thru the Watershed Associaiton--pursuing Greenway there.  Question:  how wide a shoreline is by Statute open to public?  And does this apply to seasonal streams?  She will look into these questions.

 

Enforcing wetland regs--main thing is everybody's vigilance!  Audrey will look into a talk by a State authority.  Add sentence about education of citizens to this item. 

 

Also discussed salting of roads as a worrisome source of pollution to rivers, wetlands.

 

Tree replacement:  will aim at developing plan by June 2002 for replacing roadside maples, implement that plan over the five years.

 

Making video of distinctive features--add Cultural Council to those responsible.  Steve currently has list of appropriate historic sites.  Might include mention of flora and fauna, tho' without being too specific re: location of certain ones that are fairly rare.

 

Regional recreation center:  Eliminate Planning Brd. from those responsible.  Audrey checked on availability of school facilities, a question raised at last meeting.  She found that BTES will rent athletic facils. for $35/hour, with clean-up by renters, and often waives the fee if the clean-up turns out to be thorough.  Some groups have been using the school.

 

GIS map-viewing system for Community House:  new arrival on Potash Hill, Daniel  (?) eager to help with this.  See Judy. 

 

Date: Tuesday, December 18, 2001 7:05 PM
Subject: Dec. 20 meeting! & notes from Nov. 29

Open Space/Recreation Group will have its tri-weekly meeting on Thursday, Dec. 20, 7:30pm, Community House--complete with eggnog!  We'll complete discussion of the Open Space and Recreation Plan, of which Jim Drawe has made copies available for $15.  (Sorry Jim--I neglected to get that into GWM release last week--well, there's always a New Year)  

 

 

Present on Nov. 29:  Wynne Busby, Nancy Childs, Jim Drawe, Lucy Fandel, Steve Howes, Bud Huntley, Sondra Huntley, Ted Linds, Audrey Marcoux, Kevin Martin, Judy Moore

 

Discussion of "Goals and Objectives, p.57 of Open Space/Rec Plan draft:  To the first goal, re: protection of open spaces through well-planned growth, a sentence was added aiming at formation of a trust oriented twds. acquisition of 61A rights as agricultural properties are withdrawn from that protection.

 

In the second goal, regarding ground water, the words "monitored and evaluated" were substituted for "prevented" concerning erosion along the Westfield, since no river is ever completely static.  A sentence was added about identification and survey of vernal pools.

 

In the fourth goal, regarding recreational opportunities, objective #11 became "A recreation center serves the region," reflecting the fact that it is unrealistic for a town this size to build one alone.

 

Discussion of Five-Year Action Plan, p. 59:  June 2002--assess zoning by-law:  Pioneer Valley Planning Commission still prep'ng "Build-out," demonstrating how Cummington would look if all allowable property built upon acc. to current Zoning By-law.  "Zoning News" article at back of Open Space/Rec Plan, by Joel Russell, gives excellent view of innovative zoning options for rural areas--recom'd reading per Drawe.

 

June 2002--promote local land trusts, disseminate info on protection of open land:  Vermont towns distribute a flyer for new land-owners re: municipal structure and proceedings; a similar thing here could include this kind of information.  Ways of facilitating filing for 61A (and B?) should be developed--help with forest-cutting plans, surveys...

 

A movie available at Bryant Library highlights historic stone walls.

 

June 2002--Westfield River Greenway--Marcoux notes that the W. River Watershed Assoc. is now gearing its efforts as appropriate to the "Wild & Scenic River" designation and program.

 

June 2002--sugar maples:  Add reference to "West Main Street," re: citizen plantings in past. It was noted that maples are seeding themselves as Nature provided; perhaps this could be helped along by culling?  Wording was added providing for replacement of the aging maples by "a viable mix of native species."  

 

June 2002--abandon "brush hog":  After much discussion, this item was dropped, in view of the fact that the fifteen-foot swath at roadsides must be clear, and much of the initial clearing, which results in mutilated foliage, has already been done; annual revisitation will be less damaging.  This only affordable way to meet roadside-clearance requirement, per Drawe.         

 

June 2002--workshop on preserving farmland:  Credibility will be important here.  Could an owner of extensive agricultural land be a chief organizer?

 

June 2002--public input on indoor rec ctr.:  add the word "regional," as mentioned above.

 

June 2002--GIS map-viewing:  Childs noted that she has a disc containing Cum;'tn maps, which she will pass along to Drawe.  He envisions loading all the Assessor maps from Cum'tn and surrounding towns; an employee could be trained to incorporate ongoing data such as that on vernal pools.

 

June 2003--protection of town-owned land:  Cum'tn owns so little this item is pointless--was dropped.

 

June 2003--charrette process re: zoning options, relation to cost of community services:  Drawe noted that a $30K grant through PVPC will support the planning process.  EO 418 provides for this as part of encouraging communities to develop "affordable" (defined as 3x a town's median income) housing, built by the State or State-certified contractors.  "418 Certification" facilitates funding for various municipal needs such as roads; this requires 10% affordable housing in a town; Cum'tn has 4% thru its senior units, might qualify for exemption...

 

June 2003:  "Stream Teams" to adopt waterways, monitor pollutants:  Much enthusiasm for Linds' suggestion that Cub Scouts participate; Marcoux notes booklet for kids on testing water.  Could start this spring 2002, perhaps with the length of some Westfield tributary.

 

June 2003:  Certification of vernal pools:  It was strongly noted that land-owners must give permission for the inventorying of their property!

 

June 2003: maintenance of dirt roads:  Much discussion.  Without careful attention to base and to drainage ditches at sides, these roads work down to ledge, become close to impassable.  $500K 10 years ago provided 5 miles of Lyman Flats Rd. with such underpinnings--considerably cheaper than paving, Drawe allows.  State money may be deployed as towns see fit--dirt or paving--but all roads money is in doubt at moment due to State budget crisis.  It was finally decided to omit the last sentence of this objective, regarding planning to maintain these roads, but with recognition retained for the fact that a large majority of Survey respondents weighed in for dirt roads.

 

June 2003:  Cum'tn Art Fair--a sentence was added re: a festival of films like the documentary on stone walls mentioned above--works with special local relevance.

 

June 2003:  new library?  This item was reworded to remove any doubt re: continued existence of Bryant Library!  New item will emphasize "evaluating use of Bryant Library."  It was noted that archives require special storage space, special conditions; thus the last phrase re: storage of Bryant's personal archives was eliminated.

 

June 2003:  Crocker Pond item eliminated as it was deemed too inaccessible to serve as an officially-sanctioned Town swimming hole.

 

June 2003:  trail system development/maintenance will require a clear organizational structure, perhaps coordinated with Snowmobilers' Assoc.  Signs forbidding wheeled vehicles?  Martin noted that new legislation protects from liability suits.

 

June 2003:  indoor recreational center--as noted above, specify "regional." 


Survey Results