Leverett says no to CPA money for school track, yes to preserving 91 acres

By SCOTT MERZBACH

Staff Writer

Published: 03-15-2023 11:13 AM

LEVERETT — A request to use Community Preservation Act money to help fund the town’s share of a $4.7 million track and field overhaul at Amherst-Pelham Regional High School will not come before Annual Town Meeting this spring, though an effort to protect 91 acres of mostly wooded land near the town center will be brought for a vote.

The Leverett Community Preservation Committee recently voted unanimously against the $101,400 request to help fund the track and field project submitted by Douglas Slaughter, the finance director for the schools.

Leverett joins Pelham in opting not to use CPA money for the project, in part because of the preferred use of artificial turf for the playing field that would be put inside the eight-lane track. In December, Pelham’s committee nixed spending $53,380 for the project.

The four towns that make up the region, including Shutesbury, have already approved $1.5 million in borrowing, and another $957,500 is coming from Amherst’s CPA account, representing most of the $1.2 million that was being sought from CPA funds.

While the Leverett Community Preservation Committee voted against the spending for the track and field project, Chair Danielle Barshek said the board is recommending using $81,000 so that Kestrel Land Trust can move forward with a Conservation Partnership state grant for what will be known as the Heronemus Forest Conservation Project.

The application from Bridget Likely, conservation manager for Kestrel Land Trust, states the project off Long Hill Road is an “opportunity to protect the area for its important climate resilience and habitat value, and the chance to open the land to the public and provide under-represented recreational opportunities.”

The town’s Conservation Commission would hold a conservation restriction on the property that is within the greater Mount Toby and Joshua Hill forests, and ties into a woodland corridor west of the Quabbin Reservoir.

Other projects

The committee hasn’t decided yet on whether to recommend projects related to the North Leverett Sawmill and the historic Moore’s Corner Schoolhouse. Its next meeting is set for Monday.

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The Friends of the Leverett Sawmill are seeking $82,082. In the application from Friends members Cynthia Baldwin and Sam Black, a Heritage Park and Nature Trail would be on 2.6 acres next to the 18th-century Slarrow sawmill, and would serve as an extension of trails through the neighboring 2 acres of town land that is managed by the Conservation Commission.

Leverett Historical Society President Sara Robinson submitted the application for $187,000 to restore the Moore’s Corner Schoolhouse, which was built in 1810 and was already historically restricted by the Community Preservation Committee in 2014.

The money would go toward exterior renovations and a plan for the interior restoration, with matching funds coming from the Historical Society, grants and donations. The first phase, which could be complete by December, would focus on the roof, the foundation and the chimney, as well as the corner boards and other rotten boards, and replacement of windows in keeping with U.S. Department of Interior standards. The plan also involves replacing the external stairs, execution of Americans with Disabilities Act-compliant access, and upgrades to insulation, heating and electric.

Scott Merzbach can be reached at smerzbach@gazettenet.com.

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