Citizens group pursues Northfield Golf Club purchase
Northfield Golf Club clubhouse
Northfield Gol fClub sign
Northfield Golf Club fairways
Recorder file/Paul Franz
The clubhouse sits on the property of the Northfield Mount Hermon School golf course, which the school is hoping to sell. The latest idea would remove the wetlands section of the property that had been packaged for sale with the course in the hopes to make it more marketable.
NORTHFIELD — With the local golf course still up for sale, a group of residents is continuing to come up with ideas for how it can get a hold of it.
The course itself sits on 52 acres of a 154-acre lot being sold by the Northfield Mount Hermon School. The balance is mostly wetlands, and also includes a small clubhouse, four homes, an outdoor pool and pool house, a hay field, and a handful of buildable lots. NMH’s asking price is $1.25 million.
The unnamed group of residents has been working quickly to formulate a plan, to find investors and other sources of money, and to determine who else may be interested in parts of the property.
To go much further, the group will have to formally organize itself. That could come as some form of 501-C nonprofit organization, or a cooperative.
Formulating a business plan is also high on the list. That will give the group something to take to NMH or the bank, to show that it’s serious, and that its plans are viable.
Shirley Keech said group members are talking with the local branch of Greenfield Cooperative Bank.
“I spoke with (branch manager) Shawn Streeter, and he was very intrigued with the idea,” said Keech. “They would be willing to work with us on financing, if our fundraising falls short.”
Keech said the group could open a bank account for donations as soon as it has formally organized and been given a federal tax identification number.
The group has been reaching out to other area residents, NMH alums and seasonal residents of Rustic Ridge, who have long used the golf course and pool during their summers in town. The group also talked about reaching out to celebrities that have ties to NMH, like actress Uma Thurman, Class of 1988; singer Natalie Cole, Class of 1968; and Bill Cosby, whose daughters graduated from the school. The group hopes to secure donations from as many of them as possible.
Land conservation organizations are another possible funding source.
Open Space Committee Chairman Jerrold Wagener told the group Tuesday that the Mount Grace Land Trust has expressed interest in funding a conservation restriction on the wetlands and field portions of the property.
“They’re chomping at the bit to help; they want to protect the wetlands and field,” said Wagener.
Another possibility is to seek help from The Trust for Public Land. Group member Cate Woolner has had preliminary conversations with the trust.
“They’re the go-to organization for communities that want to protect special places,” said Woolner.
If interested, she said, the trust has the financial capacity to act quickly. However, she said, the trust would want to recoup its investment, through the “responsible sale” of properties, often with conservation restrictions attached.
The group decided to invite a representative from the trust to a future meeting.
Though NMH has made it clear that it wants to sell the entire 154-acre lot as a package, the citizens’ group will look into the possibility of selling off parcels to partially recover its investment.
Right off the bat, group members said, the four houses could each be sold, and possibly some buildable lots as well.
They also wouldn’t mind selling the course itself. Their chief intent with the project is not to own and operate a golf course, but to ensure that the course stays put, and isn’t leveled to make way for a large development.
Members feel that, if they were able to buy the land and parcel it off, the golf course alone would be an easier sell to someone interested in running it. With so much land packaged with the golf course, they said, it could be hard to find someone willing to take on the entire property just to run the nine-hole course.
Part of the property could be used for a public park.
“A community park is a major part of our (open space) plan,” said Wagener. The Recreation Commission has also been looking for a place of its own, where it could have softball and soccer fields. Wagener said those features could be included in a plan for a park.
He also mentioned that Northfield’s Community Preservation Act funds could be used to match Mount Grace’s funds, for a total of more than $200,000 toward the wetlands south of the golf course.
An earlier idea to expand the golf course from nine to 18 holes was nixed. Though a study from the University of Massachusetts — Amherst in the 1950s reported that an additional nine holes was feasible, environmental regulations have become much stricter since then, and, due to the extensive wetlands on the property, it would no longer work, said D. William Pratt, the real estate agent handling the golf course and other Northfield properties recently listed by NMH.
Though the links may be locked in at nine holes, some in the group pitched the possibility of using some adjacent land to set up a driving range, which they believe would attract more people to the course.
A clubhouse, pub or restaurant has also been proposed.
Though the property comes with operating and maintenance costs, it also contains some revenue possibilities.
Two of the four houses on the property are currently rented to NMH faculty, and Pratt said that, should the property sell, NMH would seek to lease the two.
Pratt said others have expressed an interest in the property, but are hesitant to make an offer.
“We’ve had people from Colorado that have shown an interest, and others from the Connecticut area, as well as a person from Deerfield,” said Pratt.
NMH plans to operate the course for the time being. It is set to open for the season today.
Those who would like to get involved may contact Annie Chappell at email@example.com.
You can reach David Rainville at:
or 413-772-0261, ext. 279