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A glimpse of Greenfield’s future

Crowd shares ideas during Master Plan session

  • Recorder/Geoff Bluh<br/>David Sheilds and Karen Shapiro-Miller of Greenfield discuss some of the ideas they talked about with Susan Nichols of Vannasse Hangen Brustlin on issues of natural and cultural resources of Greenfield during Saturday’s Master Plan Workshop at the Four Rivers School.

    Recorder/Geoff Bluh
    David Sheilds and Karen Shapiro-Miller of Greenfield discuss some of the ideas they talked about with Susan Nichols of Vannasse Hangen Brustlin on issues of natural and cultural resources of Greenfield during Saturday’s Master Plan Workshop at the Four Rivers School.

  • Recorder/Geoff Bluh<br/>Ralph Willmer of Vannasse Hangen Brustlin Inc. facilitates a discussion of housing and land use at Saturday’s Master Plan Community Workshop event held at the Four Rivers School. At left is Pam Kinsmith, who wrote ideas on the board as people voiced them.

    Recorder/Geoff Bluh
    Ralph Willmer of Vannasse Hangen Brustlin Inc. facilitates a discussion of housing and land use at Saturday’s Master Plan Community Workshop event held at the Four Rivers School. At left is Pam Kinsmith, who wrote ideas on the board as people voiced them.

  • Recorder/Geoff Bluh<br/>David Sheilds and Karen Shapiro-Miller of Greenfield discuss some of the ideas they talked about with Susan Nichols of Vannasse Hangen Brustlin on issues of natural and cultural resources of Greenfield during Saturday’s Master Plan Workshop at the Four Rivers School.
  • Recorder/Geoff Bluh<br/>Ralph Willmer of Vannasse Hangen Brustlin Inc. facilitates a discussion of housing and land use at Saturday’s Master Plan Community Workshop event held at the Four Rivers School. At left is Pam Kinsmith, who wrote ideas on the board as people voiced them.

GREENFIELD — What’s the future of Greenfield, and how do we get there?

A crowd of about 100 convened at Four Rivers Charter Public School on Saturday to share their visions for the community, in a forum to kick off Greenfield’s new 10-year sustainable master plan.

Many of those in attendance will one day inherit the county’s shire town; many there were in their 20s and 30s, and a few children even accompanied their parents.

The day started with an overview of the master plan process, and a quick survey on a few areas that the plan will cover, like housing, economic development, renewable energy, transportation, and environmental issues.

Afterward, people had the option of attending workshops on five different areas of the plan, held in four sessions, or going to broader conversations on the town’s history, possible future and present. The over-arching subject: How can Greenfield thrive?

“I meet a lot of younger people who have so many great ideas, and just need some help to get there,” said Wisty Rorabacher, in a workshop on economic development.

She said she has talked to several 30-to-45-year-olds, who have great entrepreneurial ideas, but just need a bit of help to get the ball rolling. With the right support, she said, those ideas could grow into small businesses, which could grow larger.

Rorabacher said this would create more jobs, rather than having already-established companies, which may not care about the community as much as someone who gets their start here.

The rest of the group agreed that the area is in dire need of jobs. Many feel that more available, well-paying jobs would keep more young people from having to leave home in search of a living.

They also saw room for improvement in all of the town’s vacant lots, empty storefronts, and distressed properties like the First National Bank and Trust and the former Lunt Silversmiths.

Some felt downtown could be revitalized by mixing business and pleasure. The idea of in-filling spots between shops with recreational features like bocce or basketball courts came up.

Several at the forum advocated for a new skateboard park in town, which they said would give teens a positive, safe place to skate, and provide a destination. While parents wait for their skating kids, said Francesca Passiglia, they’re likely to squeeze in some shopping or stop by a local restaurant.

“It would get kids involved, and give them pride and a sense of community,” said Passiglia.

Another attraction could be a children’s museum, said some in a workshop on natural and cultural resources.

“We need more common spaces and annual community events to bring out the spirit of the town,” said Ginevra Bucklin-Lane. “I always feel like I don’t know where to go, or what to do.”

Many at the forum were in favor of large events, as well as a possible performing arts venue. Other ideas were to capitalize on the town’s rivers and forests, focusing on eco-tourism, like fishing and hiking destinations.

Others felt that there’s not enough publicity or communication of the many events that do happen. Often, they said, people miss out on things to do because there’s not a “one-stop shop” where people can find out about all the local happenings.

A workshop on transportation heard from numerous people who want to see more public transit. The prospect of high-speed rail to points east and south was of particular interest.

Others wanted to promote bike and foot travel, with more bike lanes, and connections between area bike paths.

At a renewable energy workshop, some residents wished there were more unbiased informational events on controversial renewables like wind, solar and hydroelectric power.

Town Councilor Mark Wisniewski said he’s proud of the town’s as-of-right siting that allows solar panels to be installed on the roofs of any pre-existing structures.

Large-scale solar, however, is another animal. Wisniewski said ground-mounted solar arrays come with a trade off — they take up open space that could be used for farming. The key, he said, is striking the right balance between the two.

Farm land is a vital resource to the Pioneer Valley, according to the folks at a workshop on land-use and housing.

However, there was some “open space” where they’d like to see some development. Vacant lots and contaminated brownfields could be used for things like community gardens, they said.

Others wanted to re-examine the area’s housing situation. Some were concerned with the “inadaptiblity” of some older homes, which often housed families much larger than today’s. Repurposing those homes into apartments can be costly.

Area resident John Bailey suggested setting up housing that includes studio or work space, for the ambitious entrepreneurs who don’t have the money for an apartment and a workspace.

Once the workshops were done, everyone reconvened to hear what the other groups had come up with.

There will be two more communitywide forums as the plan progresses, where the consultant crew, Vanasse Hangen Brustlin Inc., will share their findings.

Many at the meeting wished there were forums like Saturday’s every weekend, where the community could come together as a whole and discuss their ideas.

For more on the developing master plan, visit www.greenfieldmasterplan.com.

David Rainville can be reached at:
drainville@recorder.com
or 413-772-0261, ext. 279

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