Millers Falls development plan nears final stages

  • The village of Millers Falls in Montague. Staff Photo/PAUL FRANZ

Staff Writer
Published: 11/7/2019 6:40:51 PM
Modified: 11/7/2019 6:40:37 PM

MILLERS FALLS — A strategic development plan for Millers Falls is expected to be finalized later this month, and then submitted to the Selectboard soon after.

The volunteer group that has been working with the town Planning Department is reviewing an almost-final draft of the document, and plans to discuss the final product at a meeting later this month. The meeting will not be open to the public, but any future discussions with the Selectboard will be.

This caps off a series of community surveys and forums, which began in June, intended to determine what Millers Falls residents see as priorities for improvement and development.

The project has been coordinated by the Montague Planning Department, and is now culminating in a document of its findings. Ultimately, the document will serve as a reference for the Planning Department. A similar project was undertaken in Turners Falls in 2013 and is still referenced regularly, according to Town Planner Walter Ramsey.

The major priorities identified in the Millers Falls meetings this summer and fall mostly had to do with improving the atmosphere of downtown Millers Falls, creating a stronger sense of community, expanding the outdoor recreation spaces and attracting more businesses to the area.

Already some of those ideas are coming into reality. A new riverfront recreation area, with a walking path about 300 or 400 feet long and a gravel ramp for canoes and kayaks to enter the river, is scheduled to be built this spring, Ramsey said. The project is entirely funded by a state grant of $25,525. The funding was secured in the summer of 2018, but the project coincides with ideas discussed in this summer’s meetings.

In a similar vein, Ramsey said a petition to rebuild the stairs to Highland Park was recently sent to the Planning Department with about 30 signatures. Ramsey said he has looked into cost estimates for the project, but did not want to publicize the specifics before formally discussing the idea with the Selectboard.

Community-building efforts are also already starting, specifically in stronger coordination of the Millers Falls Community Improvement Association. Until now the group has been run by residents, with no official connection to the town government. Town Cultural Coordinator Suzanne LoManto has discussed taking the Community Improvement Association under the umbrella of RiverCulture, the town’s office for organizing cultural programming. The logistics of the arrangement will probably be figured out this winter, LoManto said.

Other projects that have been identified in the meetings, like infrastructural work and the strengthening of the business community, will take longer, and may come down to seizing opportunities for state funding, Ramsey said. A community-directed planning document, like what the town is developing now, can help the town’s chances in grant applications, he said.

A date for the final meeting with the Selectboard, when the board will be asked to accept the development plan, has not yet been determined. But Ramsey said he expects the simpler projects in the document to be achievable in the first half of 2020.

Reach Max Marcus at mmarcus@recorder.com or 413-772-0261, ext. 261.




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