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Northfield continues adding to ‘wish list’

  • Recorder/David Rainville<br/>Judy Phillips, center, picks priorities from one of several lists of ideas generated at a town-wide forum on Norhtfield's master plan in Northfield Elementary School Thursday. Each yellow sticky note contains an idea, comment, or concern generated by residents at the forum. At the end, participants were asked to place colored stickers next to items they considered priorities.

    Recorder/David Rainville
    Judy Phillips, center, picks priorities from one of several lists of ideas generated at a town-wide forum on Norhtfield's master plan in Northfield Elementary School Thursday. Each yellow sticky note contains an idea, comment, or concern generated by residents at the forum. At the end, participants were asked to place colored stickers next to items they considered priorities.

  • Recorder/David Rainville<br/>Judy Phillips, center, picks priorities from one of several lists of ideas generated at a town-wide forum on Norhtfield's master plan in Northfield Elementary School Thursday. Each yellow sticky note contains an idea, comment, or concern generated by residents at the forum. At the end, participants were asked to place colored stickers next to items they considered priorities.

    Recorder/David Rainville
    Judy Phillips, center, picks priorities from one of several lists of ideas generated at a town-wide forum on Norhtfield's master plan in Northfield Elementary School Thursday. Each yellow sticky note contains an idea, comment, or concern generated by residents at the forum. At the end, participants were asked to place colored stickers next to items they considered priorities.

  • Recorder/David Rainville<br/>Judy Phillips, center, picks priorities from one of several lists of ideas generated at a town-wide forum on Norhtfield's master plan in Northfield Elementary School Thursday. Each yellow sticky note contains an idea, comment, or concern generated by residents at the forum. At the end, participants were asked to place colored stickers next to items they considered priorities.
  • Recorder/David Rainville<br/>Judy Phillips, center, picks priorities from one of several lists of ideas generated at a town-wide forum on Norhtfield's master plan in Northfield Elementary School Thursday. Each yellow sticky note contains an idea, comment, or concern generated by residents at the forum. At the end, participants were asked to place colored stickers next to items they considered priorities.

NORTHFIELD — The town’s 20-year wish list is coming right along, as residents continue to contribute their visions to Northfield’s new master plan.

If you haven’t added your own ideas yet, there’s still time.

The plan is about at the halfway point, said Richard Fitzgerald, chairman of the Master Plan Steering Committee. Hired consultant Martha Lyon and her team have compiled a lengthy inventory of the town, through research, meetings with town officials, forums, and correspondence with residents and community groups.

In the second townwide forum on the master plan, more than 50 participants busily jotted ideas on little yellow notes, which they stuck to posters that posed questions about 10 different aspects of the town Thursday.

Most at the forum agreed that the town needs a town common, community park, or other common space, where residents from the town’s five areas could come together.

“We need a place people feel welcome to use,” said Stephen Roberto. “Maybe the town’s senior pavilion could be more of a community pavilion. Or we could have a town park; a place for concerts, picnics, and outdoor events.”

Perhaps it should be no surprise that “expand community gathering opportunities” was the theme of workstation number one.

Residents had several ideas for how to do so. From “permanent solutions” like town parks, picnic areas and a band shell, to special events like a local food festival, annual town picnic, and sports tournaments and chili cook-offs to foster some friendly competition. The establishment of a pub was also a popular idea, with several residents adding an enthusiastic “yes!” underneath it.

According to tally-marks and “priority stickers” on the poster, town-wide events were a close runner-up to “passive recreation” parks, with “active recreation” parks with amenities like tennis or basketball courts tying with an arts and culture center for third.

While fun and games are important for community building, business is important, too. Another popular workstation asked how Northfield could increase its economic activity.

Many of those ideas focused on farms, from starting a local food cooperative, to farm-to-table restaurants, and holding a winter farmers market.

A gas station was also a popular idea. Once home to seven stations, Northfield has been without gasoline since the Mobil station’s pumps were ripped out in 2008. A service station could give drivers flying by on Route 10, also known as Main Street, a reason to stop and spend some money in town.

Some suggested attracting a couple “destination” stores as downtown anchors, with overflow customers trickling into smaller shops. Many felt the town should be more pro-active, seeking out businesses that would fit and rolling out the red carpet. This could be helped with the formation of an economic development committee or business association, they added.

Others felt that the town’s businesses would be helped by capitalizing on Northfield’s recreational opportunities.

Increased access to the Connecticut River, promotion of the New England National Scenic Trail and other hiking routes, and creating new bikeways could foster “eco-tourism,” which could help the town’s shops, restaurants, and bed and breakfasts.

“We should take advantage of the town’s recreational opportunities,” said Liza Hussey. “As long as it doesn’t get too commercial.”

Hussey, 26, said she hopes the town can find a way to keep its rural character without “dying out.” She said she would also like to see more opportunities for young people, so they don’t feel that they have to move away to make a living.

The Master Plan Roundtable Committee hopes to get more young people like Hussey involved.

“We really want to reach out to the 16- to 30-year-old demographic,” said Brian Brault, Roundtable member.

Another common comment, from committee members and forum participants, was that the town needs more public participation, from a broader base of people.

Mini-forums at the Northfield Elementary School and Pioneer Valley Regional School were held to gather young folks’ ideas, and hopefully reach their parents, as well.

Residents at the forum were also asked to share their ideas to preserve the town’s natural beauty, keep Northfield’s historic character, maintaining town facilities and improving communication in town, how to address the future reuse of the former Northfield Mount Hermon School campus, how to increase river access, how to increase recreational opportunities, and how to improve transportation and circulation in town.

The last master plan for Northfield was written in 1977, and updated in 1997.

More to come

A third communitywide forum will be held in the fall, as the plan nears completion.

To add your input to the master plan, you can email northfieldmasterplan@comcast.net.

To see draft chapters of the master plan inventory, summaries, and the results of the first townwide forum, visit www.northfield.ma.us/?id=1154. Hard copies are available at Town Hall and the library.

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