Seven Franklin County towns receive $574K to fund climate resiliency

  • Whately’s $304,778 grant award will go toward installing solar panels on the Town Offices, pictured. STAFF FILE PHOTO

  • Water surges over Montague City Road in Montague after periods of heavy rainfall in 2018. Montague’s $80,000 grant award will be put toward incorporating climate resiliency into the Montague Comprehensive Plan, with flooding being identified as one of the town’s primary climate-related challenges. Staff File Photo/Dan Little

Published: 9/13/2022 7:06:22 PM
Modified: 9/13/2022 7:02:27 PM

The state has awarded seven Franklin County towns grants totaling more than half a million dollars for projects aimed at building climate change resiliency.

The funding is part of the Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs’ Municipal Vulnerability Preparedness (MVP) program, which awarded $32.8 million in grants statewide in its sixth round. The program has awarded more than $100 million since it began.

Whately’s $304,778 award represents the round’s largest Franklin County allocation, while Montague, Rowe, Heath, Shelburne and Conway were also awarded funding. Additionally, while no grant was awarded to benefit a specific project, Monroe is set to receive $25,000 to complete the MVP planning process.

The grant program “provides communities with funding and technical support to identify climate hazards, develop strategies to improve resilience, and implement priority actions to adapt to climate change,” according to an announcement of the awards.

“We are making a major push forward by funding more climate resilience implementation projects than ever before,” Lt. Gov. Karyn Polito said in a statement. “It has been rewarding to see projects move through the phases from planning to design to construction and implementation over the last five years, and we are starting to see the tangible difference these projects are making in our communities as we prepare for a changing climate.”


Whately’s $304,778 award will go toward installing solar panels on the Town Offices and a green education program for Whately Elementary School’s fourth graders.

“This is a really exciting project where we’re hoping to increase the energy resilience of the town,” Community Development Administrator Hannah Davis said of the solar panels. “This is one step of a much longer effort to do that.”

The solar panel project, Davis said, is planned to be finished by the end of fiscal year 2024, with this year “dedicated toward planning” the project and construction beginning next year.

The electric bill for Whately’s Town Offices hovers around $1,300 every month and Davis anticipates the solar panels will cover that cost entirely. Additionally, the town expects to recoup its 10% grant match within “1.5 years” of installation and is expected to save approximately $390,000 over the 25-year lifespan of the panels.

The grant will also allow Whately Elementary School to partner with the Hitchcock Center for the Environment, an Amherst-based nonprofit. Staff from the Hitchcock Center will visit the school to teach lessons about renewable energy, and students will take a field trip to the center at a later date to see green infrastructure, in what Davis said will be a “well-rounded experience” for the kids.

“Investing in youth capacity for resiliency is so important,” Davis said, adding they are hopeful this project could inspire students. “I still remember some of my fourth grade trips. My hope is that this will plant that seed.”


Montague’s $80,000 award will be put toward “incorporating climate resiliency into the Montague Comprehensive Plan,” with most of the money specifically funding a consultant. Montague is in the process of rewriting its 1999 Comprehensive Plan, which includes chapters addressing areas including climate resiliency, housing, community facilities and services, transportation, economic development and land use.

The grant application project narrative highlighted the town’s climate-related challenges as including “flooding, extreme temperatures, wildfires, invasive species and climate migration.” The narrative also recapped that Montague’s MVP plan found that “the most threatening hazards” include infrastructure and transportation concerns, vacant industrial land, erosion, fire hazards and flood zones.

After Montague’s award was announced, Town Administrator Steve Ellis reiterated its importance, acknowledging that the “unique amount of water flowing through and around this community” is “always a concern” when considering a changing climate. “Fairly catastrophic flooding in Millers Falls” has been one major indication of this, he argued.

“We know what some of our vulnerabilities are and they’re sort of mirrored by other communities,” Ellis said. “We just want to make sure the community is well positioned in reducing the likelihood of those negative impacts.”

Other towns

Funding in the amount of $164,450 was awarded to benefit implementation of the Forest Climate Resilience Program in some of the Mohawk Trail Woodlands Partnership’s member towns. The partnership, formed in 2013, is a grassroots program focused on conserving forests and supporting sustainable management with concert with economic development in rural communities.

While Heath, Shelburne and Conway will benefit from this award, Rowe is the “lead recipient,” according to Lisa Hayden, the partnership’s administrative agent. These towns fell within the grant’s scope because each have properties that received a forest stewardship climate plan within the past year, and each have shown a willingness to pursue implementation, Hayden explained.

“Speaking on behalf of the board as the partnership’s administrative agent, we are excited that this grant has been funded, as it includes several components to benefit Rowe as well as other municipalities in the region,” Hayden said. “Rowe has been a leader in caring for its town forestland, and we are glad that the grant will continue to support those activities.”

The Forest Climate Resilience Program “assists municipalities in planning and implementing practices that help forests cope with climate extremes (adaptation) while also locking away greenhouse gases that cause climate change (mitigation),” according to a Mass Audubon fact sheet.

The Mohawk Trail Woodlands Partnership will put this round’s MVP grant funding toward completion of a climate-resilient Open Space and Recreation Plan in Rowe, according to Hayden. This plan, she explained, “helps a community to plan for the future of its conservation and recreation resources.”

“Forests are struggling to adapt to climate change due to the rate at which it’s occurring and the impacts of past land-use decisions, development, invasive species and deer herbivory,” the Mass Audubon fact sheet continues. “To ensure our communities’ forests are healthy and stewarded for future generations, we need to protect, restore and sustainably manage forests across the commonwealth.”

In addition to funding Rowe’s Open Space and Recreation Plan, the grant “will include planning and launch of a web-based or virtual Forest Center that can help connect local residents and woodland owners to resources and funding opportunities to help them care for their land into the future,” Hayden explained. The partnership has also discussed potentially establishing a physical Forest Center to house services such as a visitor center and offices, and showcase local wood and farm products.

Hayden framed the conceptualized virtual center as “a way to begin identifying needs and developing programs as a first step.”

Reach Julian Mendoza at 413-772-0261, ext. 261 or Chris Larabee can be reached at or 413-930-4081.


Support Local Journalism

Subscribe to the Greenfield Recorder, keeping Franklin County informed since 1792.

Greenfield Recorder

14 Hope Street
Greenfield, MA 01302-1367
Phone: (413) 772-0261


Copyright © 2021 by Newspapers of Massachusetts, Inc.
Terms & Conditions - Privacy Policy