The Town Reminder

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Category: South Hadley Public Library

Rising revitalized; Architects offer solutions to bring life back to the Falls

by Town Reminder

    Turley Publications artist rendering courtesy of AIA SDAT
    An artist rendering looking West down Main Street shows the Egg and I on the right with a recommended hotel on the left, overlooking the canal. A walking trail is illustrated behind the hotel.

Rising revitalized
Architects offer solutions to bring life back to the Falls

By Kristin Will
Staff Writer

SOUTH HADLEY – Work with our assets. That’s what a team of architects have suggested South Hadley do in order to revitalize the Falls area downtown, a sort of diamond in the rough.
Through a $15,000 grant and the fundraising of $5,000, the town was able to bring a team of six architects from the Sustainable Design Assessment Team [SDAT] Program of the American Institute of Architects [AIA] to South Hadley to study and reveal ways in which the Falls could rise, revitalized. A public forum was held last Monday for residents to voice what they would like to see happen with the Falls, and again on Wednesday for the architects to present their recommendations and how to move forward with the improvements.
“We were completely thrilled with the turn-out,” said South Hadley AIA SDAT Steering Committee Chair Helen Fantini, of the public forums. “We’re really excited people seem energetic to volunteer.”
Town Planner Richard Harris agreed. “The number of people who attended the Monday and Wednesday night sessions was astounding and speaks volumes as to how important the “Rise of the Falls” is to the neighborhood, businesses, and the larger South Hadley community,” he said.  “The fact to over two dozen people signed up Wednesday night to volunteer to work on implementation speaks loudly about their commitment.”
Wednesday’s public hearing and presentation drew a crowd large enough to fill the entire town hall.
From existing historical structures and streets constructed in a walkable grid to continuous green spaces and easy access to the Connecticut River, South Hadley Falls has “good bones,” said Cheryl Morgan of the AIA and professor of architecture at Auburn University. And with those bones, South Hadley can create an area inviting to both residents and businesses alike. Spaces gain vitality when they become a place where people want to be.
“You want to look at what’s unique about the falls” and build on it, said Nancy Fox, a specialist from Washington, D.C. in redevelopment, affordable housing and public financing. The Falls’ industrial legacy “shouldn’t be ignored or wiped out,” she sad. “That’s what’s going to give it its funky edge.”
In order to restore the Falls, South Hadley must remember its roots, which took hold in the canal.
“You have a unique opportunity here that no one else has,” said architect Wendy Weber Salvati, an environmental planner and specialist in land use from New York. All roads in South Hadley Falls lead to water, and the waterfront is easily accessible. She spoke of the difficulty in regaining access to waterfront once impediments such as highways have been constructed in the area. Reconnecting to the water visually and physically is a must.
So how does South Hadley revitalize its downtown area? For starters, the bridgehead – the area of South Hadley Falls right in front of the South Hadley side of the Veterans’ Bridge – must be beautified. Signs and flowers don’t cut it at what is essentially the gateway to the Falls, said the architects.
Retail space should be created to the left and in front of the Veterans’ Bridge on Main and Bridge streets, whether it be as a small card shop, pizza joint or ice cream parlor. A sporting goods store was said would serve the population using the Beachgrounds quite well.
It was suggested the South Hadley Electric Light Department [SHELD] building be turned into a Youth Commission building, as the historic building is in good enough condition to be repurposed when SHELD expands into a different location. The area on which sheds housing SHELD equipment stand could be turned into an outdoor amphitheater, which would meld well with the Youth Commission next door. The group could then use – and dually monitor – the amphitheater for Youth Commission events and projects.
Constructing a bike lane on the Veterans’ Bridge would allow for other avenues of travel to and from town. Salvati called the bridge a “logical location” for on-street bicycle lanes, which would offer the opportunity to “move people not just in cars.”
Off-road bicycle trails are another option South Hadley could choose to add access to the Falls area. The trails could be located solely in South Hadley or the town could choose to connect to the rail trail which runs from Belchertown to Northampton and beyond.
In terms of other exercise opportunities, walking trails were suggested be created along the waterfront in the Beachgrounds. One long trail running parallel with the Connecticut River could have paths situated vertically from the main trail extending to entry/exit points on Main Street. These trails could loop around themselves or connect with others.. Artist renderings of the trails show benches positions every few feet.
A footbridge over Buttery Brook was another pedestrian improvement offered by the architects.
Specialty lodging built on the side of Main Street near St. Patrick’s church and the Old Firehouse Museum was suggested, as well as a hotel on the edge of Main Street overlooking the canal.
To repurpose the library building on Bardwell Street after the library has moved on to its new location on West Main  and Canal streets, the architects recommended turning the building into a bed-and-breakfast with specialty functions. As for the new library, the architects looked at the plans for it and advised the library be moved to the west nearer the more residential area of that part of the Falls. They also suggested softening the curve of West Main and Canal streets.
Rather than repurpose the Fibermark building into offices or residential units, the architects proposed demolishing it and starting anew.
And to keep with the town’s asset of having accessible green areas in the Falls, creating a public space adjacent to the new library was encouraged. In it, residents could host birthday parties, family reunions or read books from the library.
Altogether, the revitalization suggestions seem daunting. But Bonnie Crockett, an executive director of a successful Main Street program in Baltimore that transformed a local neighborhood, suggested starting small. A “to-do” list should be created listing neighborhood priorities and easiest jobs first. The creation of a Neighborhood Association would allow for one group to be charged with keeping track of the list and current improvements. For starters, adding more street trees along Main Street would be a quick facelift. Taking down the chain link fence around the Beachgrouds, painting fire hydrants and repainting storefronts would be simple feats with large reward, she said.
Moving forward on other tasks such as attracting businesses, South Hadley could offer small business support and incentives or create a Main Street program.
“I know the SDAT Steering Committee, Selectboard, Planning Board, Acting Town Administrator, other commissions and departments are thinking of how to implement ideas – not why they can’t be done,” said Harris. “With the energy of the volunteers coming forward, the creation (I hope in the very future) of a neighborhood-based association, the ideas from the team can be translated into a more vibrant Falls area for the residents and businesses and the community.”
To volunteer on an implementation committee or future Neighborhood Association, email the SDAT at


Gwendolyn the Pig pliés into public library

by Town Reminder

Mass. Academy of Ballet to bring children’s book to life

By Matthew Couto
Turley Publications Correspondent

SOUTH HADLEY – Families are invited to visit the South Hadley Public Library on Wednesday, April 18 for a free program where local author David Rottenberg will read his children’s book, “Gwendolyn, the Graceful Pig,” while dancers from the Massachusetts Academy of Ballet in Holyoke make the tale come alive.
“This is a one-time program,” said Meg Clancy, the host of the event and youth services librarian at the library. “Mr. Rottenberg has never worked with the Massachusetts Academy of Ballet although he has worked with several other ballet studios.”
“Gwendolyn, the Graceful Pig” tells the story of two best friends, Gwendolyn and Omar, who both have big aspirations to do what they love. Gwendolyn dreams of being a ballet dancer while Omar wants to join a football team and show off his skills. However, being pigs, they are unsure of what they are capable of doing.
The story has inspired many children who have experienced the tale of Gwendolyn at their local library or at special events such as birthday parties. Both girls and boys will be thrilled to learn about the tale of how two best friends followed their dreams to do what they love. Children will become inspired as they hear the uplifting journey of the two pigs, while ballet dancers interpret the story into movement, miming different parts of the tale.
Books will be available at the library for a price of $10 after the book reading and ballet performance is over. After the program, Rottenberg will be available to sign the inspirational, beautifully illustrated book.
“We have never had this type of performance at our library,” said Clancy. “We are looking forward to it – it should be a fabulous program that families will enjoy.”
Rottenberg, a graduate of Columbia University and Natick resident, has published a novel, a book of poetry and has co-authored three business books. In addition to these achievements, Rottenberg has also written for publications such as Boston Magazine and the Boston Globe, along with many other poetry magazines throughout the United States.
“Gwendolyn, the Graceful Pig” is Rottenberg’s first attempt at a children’s book, and it has received great praise from book reviewers and parents alike. The forty-page, hardcover children’s book was illustrated by the talented Lesley Anderson who grew up in Rockport where art galleries and inspiration can be found all over. A sequel to “Gwendolyn, the Graceful Pig” came out in October of 2011 and is titled, “Gwendolyn Goes Hollywood.”
Families are encouraged to come early in order to snag good seats, as there is no pre-registration necessary. The program is free. It will begin at 11:30 a.m.

WHO: Author David Rottenberg, Mass. Academy of Balley
WHAT: Reading of “Gwendolyn, the Graceful Pig” with ballet performance.
WHEN: Wednesday, April 18 at 11:30 a.m.
WHERE: South Hadley Public Library, 27 Bardwell St., South Hadley.

Bigfoot sightings discussed at library

by Town Reminder

A hair-raising account
Bigfoot sightings discussed at library

By Matthew Couto
Turley Publications Correspondent

SOUTH HADLEY – A group of young and old Bigfoot enthusiasts alike gathered at the South Hadley Public Library on Wednesday night to share ideas and learn about the history behind the hairy subject.
“We’ll never know for sure if a Bigfoot exists until one is tagged,” said Adult Services Librarian and Bigfoot hobbyist Desiree ‘Desi’ Smelcer. “But I believe there are many people who have seen them throughout the world, especially because of my encounters.”
Smelcer, who grew up in northern California, has had two encounters with the humanoid Bigfoot, both at very different times in her life. The first encounter happened was when she was just five years old and on a camping trip with her family.
Peeking from her tent, Smelcer noticed a dark image by their campfire. Upon closer inspection it was hairy ape-looking figure with a human face playing with a stick.
“I didn’t think twice before falling asleep that night,” said Smelcer. “For some reason it did not strike me as odd at the time.”
The second encounter came in 2010, exactly two years ago, on a remote highway in northern California. According to Smelcer, there was a large figure in her lane up ahead that darted off to the side of the highway. Smelcer, being an ever-curious Sasquatch lover, slowed down and looked toward the breakdown lane to where she saw the being move.
When she turned her head, a Bigfoot was squatting within ten feet or so from her car. Despite wanting to get out and try to interact with the oddly human-like ape, Smelcer stayed in her car and waved without showing her teeth, nor her excitement, in order to not spook the Bigfoot.
“Even while squatting on the side of the highway, its head was still above the top of my car,” said Smelcer. “It noticed me staring at it and kind of tilted its head to the side as if it was thinking about what I was.”
But the presentation was not only about her experiences with the hairy humanoid. Smelcer briefly outlined some of the earliest information concerning the rare species that is said to be part human and part animal.
The packed library full of intrigued Bigfoot enthusiasts learned there are hundreds of different names for the abnormal being. Some of the names are Yeti, Sasquatch, Hig-a-bon, Mondo-grande, Nadi Bear, Di-Di, Yeren, and Almas.
According to Smelcer, who holds an Anthropology degree from Wheaton College, a Bigfoot is usually spotted in wooded areas. In the United States, there are more than 747 million acres of forest, 33 million of which are in California where Smelcer has had her two encounters.
“Many people don’t realize that one-third of California is the forest,” said Smelcer. “That leaves a lot of room for a Bigfoot to go undetected.”
Questions were taken after the hour-long presentation in order to relieve audience members of their curiosity. Some things learned from the questions are Bigfoots are not always friendly. They have been said to wear clothes sometimes, not all look the same – sizes vary some five to eight feet tall – and there have been sightings all throughout the world but never any picture captured.

“It has been said that Bigfoots are blurry in nature,” said Smelcer. “Which makes it tough or near impossible to capture one on a camera.”