Potholes plan would renew tourism for geologic wonder
Water flowing over pothole in Shelburne Falls
Recorder file photo/Paul Franz The Glacial Potholes as seen from below the present observation deck at the former Mole Hollow Candle Co. in Shelburne Falls
Goldthread Herbal Apothecary in old Mole Hollow Candle Co building at Glacial Potholes in Shelburne Falls.
The Glacial Potholes are a beautiful natural attraction in Shelburne Falls.
SHELBURNE FALLS — Shelburne Selectman Joseph Judd wants to push past talking about revitalizing the Glacial Potholes with a new observation deck located closer to the waterfalls and, eventually, a heritage museum that chronicles the village’s history.
This week, he said selectmen should form a Glacial Potholes committee to explore options for restoring the landmark as a major visitor attraction.
“One or two people have taken this as far as it can go,” Judd told Selectmen’s Chairman Robert Manners. “Next month, I would like to bring names forward (of people) who would like to work on this.”
“I’m hoping this board will approve a 10-minute slot at annual town meeting, for an informational presentation,” he added.
In December, Judd said he met with a Conservation Commissioner and a Department of Environmental Protection official for a walk-through of the area where the new observation deck may be built, which is on a lower level, behind the former Mole Hollow Candle building.
In 2008, through a grant received with the help of the Shelburne Falls Area Business Association, Guntlow & Associates of Williamstown was hired to create a preliminary design of a new walkway/observation area above the Deerfield River.
The idea of building a more spacious, lower walkway is to bring people closer to the rushing water and striking rock formations, but without the dangers of swimming or slipping on wet rocks.
Judd said the site looks good for an observation area, although building there will require consideration for two endangered species of butterfly and one tree species. He said the high-water marks from Tropical Storm Irene and from the floods of 1938 show that such a structure could withstand a 100-year flood.
“There are no road blocks in front of us, in relation to the environment,” he said.
Judd said he has spoken to planner Peggy Sloan of the Franklin Regional Council of Governments about the potential project, and that engineer Dan Lawrence of Weston & Sampson Engineering has offered to assist.
Judd said he is hoping to have a committee of about five to seven members, which would be a smaller committee than past groups that were formed to discuss the Glacial Potholes’ future, as a tourist attraction.
The Glacial Potholes and the Bridge of Flowers have been Shelburne Falls’ top attractions, but the Potholes has lost some of its cachet over the years, when action was taken to discourage swimming there. Too many swimmers in the relatively small area raised safety concerns. There were questions regarding land ownership and liability risks. At one point, the town was threatened with a multi-million-dollar lawsuit concerning a youth who had hit his head on a rock while diving. And when someone was injured while climbing down a rock stairway leading to the Potholes, selectmen closed off the stairway access, based on legal advice.
When Mole Hollow moved out of the old grist mill building next to the Potholes, the number of visitors seemed to shrink even more.
However, in November, the Mole Hollow building was sold to Edith and Erika Meheil, who help run Goldthread Farm and Apothecary. The Conway farm specializes in growing medicinal herbs, and the Mole Hollow building now sports a sign that reads the “Goldthread Apothecary.”
Manners remarked that he met the building’s new owners, and that they are excited about plans for expansion of the new Glacial Potholes viewing area.
You can reach Diane Broncaccio at:
or 413-772-0261, ext. 277