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Williamstown Committee Discusses Planting Bulbs at Spruces
By Stephen Dravis, iBerkshires Staff
04:06PM / Sunday, May 10, 2020
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The west side of the Spruces entrance along Main Street. The park's advisory council is considering creating a field of daffodils there.


Naturalization efforts at the Spruces already include a butterfly garden on the east side. 
WILLIAMSTOWN, Mass. — The panel charged with finding uses for the Spruces Community Park sees potential for planting a field of flowers on the south end of the Main Street property.
 
Andrew Hogeland pitched the project to his colleagues on the Spruces Land Use Committee during a Thursday morning video conference.
 
In addition to beautifying the portion of the park seen from the road, a bulb planting project could be a rallying point for the community after months of social isolation necessitated to combat the COVID-19 pandemic, Hogeland said.
 
"It fulfills a couple of different goals," he said. "It gets the community together this fall and planting something that gives you some hope to look forward to in the spring. It seems like something that could be uplifting if done safely."
 
Elizabeth Bartels likened the idea to a different planting project from the early years of the 21st century.
 
"Some little part of it was on Water Street as you're going past the Methodist Church on the corner," she said. "It was done after 9/11. The feeling was: We'd survived. Let's celebrate."
 
The committee members agreed that planting hundreds of perennial bulbs in the field west of the park's main access road would be a good way to engage community volunteers -- perhaps even young volunteers -- as well as enhancing a town property that is an increasingly popular destination for "passive recreation," walks, bird watching, etc.
 
But there are a number of logistical concerns to overcome, starting with whether the town can commit to purchasing the bulbs when it does not know whether group endeavors like a community planting will be possible in the fall.
 
"It's tricky," Bartels said. "You'd really have to run it like an army operation -- not getting too many people out there at once and making sure there's social distancing.
 
"And it could be right when we're hit with a second wave [of the novel coronavirus] or something and no one wants to go out there. I'm wondering if we could do some investigating about the ordering of the bulbs, deciding on a timeline."
 
Bartels, a landscape architect, told the committee that it needs to plan for a sizable number of bulbs to avoid a "spotty effect" in such a large field and recommended that it think about 1,000 bulbs as a baseline, though she said it could go up to 2,000.
 
The committee talked a lot about the logistics of how it would go about planting the bulbs.
 
Hogeland said he had discussed the proposal with members of the Williamstown Garden Club, who said they would be happy to consult on the project and help educate volunteers but would not necessarily be able to dig the hundreds of holes the project would require.
 
The panel also agreed that it should reach out to local landscape companies for advice about whether a small power auger could be employed.
 
As for the flowers, Hogeland and Bartels both said daffodils will be the most likely choice.
 
"No one had a real appetite for tulips," Hogeland said. "They're short-lived and often eaten by animals. The narcissus family seemed to be the flower of choice. We want to make sure the pollinators are happy."
 
"They'll be happy with daffodils," Bartels said. "Narcissus bulbs lend themselves to natural planting. You can order those in bulk specifically for this type of meadow situation. Deer don't like them. Rodents don't dig them up. And they'll spread. They'll increase."
 
Bartels said she was concerned about the fact that daffodils don't like wet, soggy soil. But after looking at the area under consideration, she found that it is not overly wet.
 
Hogeland said he expects some combination of town funding and private donations to support the project, which prompted a cautionary note from David Rempell.
 
"I'm hesitating because of the unique circumstances we're in today," said Rempell, who was overall in favor of the idea. "Everyone is reaching out to help with the food pantry and such. Personally, I would not as readily contribute [to the bulbs] because of other pressing issues in our community, never mind there's kind of an important election coming up that people will want to contribute to."
 
Bartels agreed Rempell had a point but said endeavors like the bulb plan can be important.
 
"I know what you're saying, David, about the food pantries," Bartels said. "If someone approached me [for a donation], that would be my first thing. But at a symbolic, spiritual level, I've found that bulb planting and renewal also has its place."
 
The committee agreed to continue looking into the idea, including the conversations with nurseries and local landscapers, and it decided to try to schedule a site visit for the panel to look at where it might make sense to do the planting.
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