New park for Erving; Gill kicks off 225th events

  • The Connecticut River and French King Bridge at dusk as seen from Montague looking towards Gill and Erving on a recent evening. November 28, 2017. Recorder Staff/Paul Franz

Recorder Staff
Friday, December 29, 2017

Leading a slew of ongoing projects in Erving that moved toward completion this past year, Riverfront Park celebrated its grand opening on June 24.

“The new park features environmental and cultural informational displays, an environmentally themed play area, a picnic pavilion, and a band shell with a great lawn,” said Bryan Smith, Erving’s administrative coordinator.

Riverfront Park’s completion checks off the first of three phases town officials have planned for the Usher Mill and its surrounding area. The Usher Mill Reuse Committee, created in 2011, has been meeting for over six years determining how the town would redevelop the area.

The next two phases that could see progress in 2018 include adding an additional seven acres of trails along the Millers River to the park, and redeveloping a mill building there.

Library on the horizon

Elsewhere in Erving, “the town was notified that the grant submission for the planning and construction of a new public library had been accepted. The town was listed as number seven on the waiting list out of 32 projects,” Smith said. “We expect to receive an update from the state in 2018 allowing the project to proceed.”

Green Community

And, for the first time, Erving was designated a “Green Community” by the state, which came with a $142,905 grant for efficiency projects.

The Fire Department went from having “a part-time chief and an all-call volunteer staff, to a department with a full-time chief and two full-time firefighters to work day shifts to complement the call force,” Smith said.

Leading up to that decision, officials held public meetings and reviewed data extensively.

Looking ahead, Smith said all town-owned streetlights will be converted to LED lights. Officials will also hold public forums to put together priorities for a senior housing development.

Gill’s 225th birthday

There are many reasons for Gill residents to be excited about the coming year. When the clock’s hands strike midnight on New Year’s Eve, it will mark Gill’s 225th year as an incorporated town.

“Events throughout the year are still being planned, but will include a contra dance, puzzle swap, community skating and a summertime pig roast,” said Gill Administrative Assistant Ray Purington.

Kicking the celebratory year off, there will be a singing event at the town hall on New Year’s Day, from 2 to 3 p.m.

“Another thing we’re looking forward to is the expansion of Comcast’s cable network in Gill, making cable and high-speed internet available to an additional 63 homes and businesses. Once the expansion is complete, Gill will be 96-percent served for high speed internet,” Purington continued.

In 2018, research on the Battle of Great Falls, a bloody 1676 battle between Native Americans and English settlers that’s being funded by a National Park Service Battlefield Protection Program grant, will continue through August.

What happened this year

This year, Gill’s longtime police chief, David Hastings, retired after being placed on administrative leave because of pending legal matters. Veteran police Sgt. Christopher Redmond was named police chief in his stead.

Also in 2017, the Gill Mobil gas station on Route 2 was demolished. An early 2018 opening of a new 4,000-square-foot convenience store is expected.

Several miles of recreational trails were opened at the town forest on Hoe Shop Road, and Gill’s first large-scale 1.9-megawatt solar project on more than 11 acres of land owned by Northfield Mount Hermon School was also completed. The electricity will be sold to other customers, not the town or school, Purington clarified.

Elsewhere, surveillance cameras were installed on both ends of the French King Bridge, the site of many suicides, and the Riverside Village Historic District was listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

You can reach Andy Castillo

at: acastillo@recorder.com

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On Twitter: @AndyCCastillo