The Town Reminder

South Hadley's number one source for local community news.

Category: Youth Commission

Falls Neighborhood Association celebrates summer

by Town Reminder

Hosts community-wide block party July 28
By Kristin Will
Staff Writer

SOUTH HADLEY – A community-wide block party will be held Saturday, July 28 at the Beachgrounds Park hosted by the newly formed South Hadley Falls Neighborhood Association, Youth Commission and the Neighbors Helping Neighbors Food Pantry Food, fun and games will draw residents closer together as they get to know their neighbors and better acquaint themselves with South Hadley Falls.
Dually, the block party will celebrate the day’s official dedication of the mural painted by the Youth Commission on the Beachgrounds’ restroom building.
“It’s just a chance for people in the community to come hang out, eat some food, meet their neighbors and other people in the community,” said event co-organizer Gillian Woldorf.
The event is free and held from 4 to 7 p.m. Hot dogs, hamburgers and veggie burgers will be barbequed and refreshments served from 4 to 6 p.m. The official mural dedication begins at 6 p.m.
Children can visit a face painting and temporary tattoo booth manned by the Youth Commission. Youngsters can doodle with provided chalk on the sidewalk and teens can play a couple rounds of basketball on the nearby courts.
Residents are encouraged to bring their own lawn chairs or picnic blanket.
The United Methodist Church will host some children’s activities, such as a penny hunt, as well as a fundraiser for the Neighbors Helping neighbors Food Pantry.
The pantry itself will be accepting donations of canned and non-perishable food items. Supplies have run low this summer and pantry administrators are struggling to stock their shelves. A donation box will available in which residents can place their donations.
Local organizations and businesses will set up informational booths through which residents can peruse. Those interested in setting up a table can contact Woldorf at 413-437-0405 or should email HYPERLINK “mailto:falls.neighbors@gmail.com”falls.neighbors@gmail.com.
Woldorf emphasized the event is not specific to South Hadley Falls residents. “We want people from all over town to come, even those who don’t live in South Hadley,” she said. “We don’t want this notion there are two separate South Hadleys. We are a portion of the larger community.”
The South Hadley Falls Neighborhood Association was formed following a visit by a Sustainable Design Assessment Team in April. The group has met several times since then and consists of 10 regular members and a handful of occasional meeting attendees.
“We invite anybody in town to come to our meetings whether or not they live or operate a business in the Falls,” said Woldorf. The Association’s next meeting is Saturday, July 21 at 10 a.m. in the South Hadley Public Library.
A rain date for the South Hadley Falls Neighborhood Association Block party is Sunday, July 29.
For up-to-date information about the block party, visit http://www.facebook.com/FallsNeighbors.

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Promoting positivity through paint

by Town Reminder

Youth Commission creates mural at Beachgrounds

By Kristin Will
Staff Writer

SOUTH HADLEY – The Youth Commission plans to focus on the positives – with paint.
This week, the group received approval from the Recreation Commission and the Selectboard to create a mural on the restroom building at the Beachgrounds park. Themed “Above the Influence,” the Youth Commission’s mural will depict various scenarios in which youths rise above negativity – be it gossip, racism, peer pressure drugs or bullying.
“We hope the mural will provide a conversation piece,” said Youth Commission Director Adam Roberts.
Working in conjunction with the South Hadley High School Peer Leaders, the SPIFFY Coalition of Easthampton and the Recreation Commission, the Youth Commission has hired a muralist – Heather Berlin of Hadley – to bring their ideas to fruition.
Berlin will put into paint the message the Youth Commission wants to convey. She will create a paint-by-number type of layout which will allow the Youth Commission and any interested youths to assist in the painting of the mural.
Selectboard Member Frank DeToma expressed apprehension about the content of the mural. “I’m a little concerned about what this would look like,” he said.
Roberts assured DeToma there would not be anything controversial. Symbols the design team are interested in adding are trees and bridges, he said. Roberts promised sketches of the mural would be sent to the Selectboard for their review.
Recreation Director Andrew Rogers said he too had reservations when the idea was initially presented to him, specifically about tagging. But, he said, “It sounds like they’ve got a really good plan. We’re hoping it will add to the park and make it look nice.”
Products like “Graffiti Gone” and special sealants to prime the wall before painting have been researched by Roberts and the design team to prevent destruction of the mural by taggers.
“I think the more youths who take ownership of the piece will do a good job of policing it,” said Roberts.
This is not the first mural to ever be painted at the Beachgrounds. Ten years ago, a mural was painted on a door of the white restroom facility, which was then painted over when the building and park were renovated.
The Youth Commission will be responsible for the costs of the painting project and is receiving assistance from SPIFFY.
Tentatively, a painting day has been scheduled for June 10. The mural would require an additional day of painting. Roberts hopes to unveil the mural on the day the spray park at the Beachgrounds will be open to the public- typically the last day of school. This day would be Thursday, June 21.
Interested youths and residents are more than welcome to attend the painting days as well as give input as to what they think would work with the “Above the Influence” theme. Email Roberts at aroberts@southhadleyma.gov or call 538-5017 ext. 140 for more information.

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 shsdat@hotmail.com.

Youth Commission seeks space

by Town Reminder

Youth Commission seeks space
Local businesses, offices encouraged to reach out

By Kristin Will
Staff Writer, kwill@turley.com

SOUTH HADLEY – The Youth Commission is looking for a place to call home outside of school.
Having since established itself within the past year, the Youth Commission has gown into a substantial group of nearly 20 youths. Currently, the Commission can meet in the South Hadley High School Library where Youth Commission Director Adam Roberts’ office is located. But the school is not generally open for long after the end of school, on weekends or even at all during the summer. For Youth Commission members looking to congregate in order to work on projects or brainstorm, they have been turning to one another’s homes as meeting places.
“We’re really lucky to have the high school,” said Roberts. “That’s definitely a space to see a lot of people. We’re just trying to start a conversation,” he said of other location options.
When polled, students said they would like a space of which they can take ownership, a space that is safe and free.
Within this wanted space, members would like to be able to collaborate on Youth Commission projects and plans. But they would also like to share the space, offering movie nights for students of all ages, perhaps certain classes, a health and wellness program, open mic nights and even homework help. The space would be bustling with positive, safe activities. It would become a destination for youths looking to connect with one another in healthy, constructive ways.
“It’s something that a number of Youth Commission members have been really interested in,” said Roberts. “We’re just starting the process of talking about it and envisioning what it could look like. It wouldn’t have to be a permanent solution.”
In conversations with the members about the sought after-space, Roberts found the youths are interested in taking responsibility over the space and fostering positive youth development with empowering activities. The Youth Commission members would like to offer specific programming regarding health and wellness and provide connections to other community resources.
“This could also look like a community center, if a few groups in town want to collaborate, ” said Roberts. South Hadley once had a similar center, called the Teen Center, which was located at St. Patrick’s Church. The Youth Commission would be interested in bringing something like that back.
“In terms of what we’re looking for is a free space, a safe space, a space that is for, and with, youth,” said Roberts. “I think there are definitely spaces around town, but very few that fit those three criteria.”
The Youth Commission is asking interested businesses or individuals with surplus retail space to get in contact with them. “We’re just interested right now in exploring possibilities for more youth spaces in town that fit those criteria. We’d love to work with a business or local organization that wants to help make this a reality,” he said.
South Hadley Police Chief David LaBrie and member of the Adult Task Force for the Youth Commission said “it might be advantageous for business owners to donate some vacant space for the Youth Commission to utilize,” as it has been suggested to the Youth Commission they gain non-profit 5013C status. “There are a few places around town that could be used,” he said. Any agreements between a donating space owner and the Youth Commission would require adult agreement, which would most likely fall upon the Adult Task Force.
For now, the Youth Commission has been allotted a space in town hall, where there is more access during the day following the end of school. At the very least, they can plan projects in that area.
Interested space owners can contact Roberts at aroberts@southhadleyma.gov or the Selectboard via email at selectboard@southhadleyma.gov or by phone at (413) 538-5017 ext. 135.
The Youth Commission meets once every two weeks, currently at Mount Holyoke College. The Youth Commission Adult Task Force holds meetings once a month in the South Hadley Police Station Community Room. Their next meeting is March 21 a t 7 p.m.