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Williamstown Committee Moves Ahead with Spruces Planting
By Stephen Dravis, iBerkshires Staff
05:43AM / Saturday, September 05, 2020
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The bulbs would be planted in this lawn area. 
WILLIAMSTOWN, Mass. — The town will be looking for volunteers next month to help plant thousands of flower bulbs in the south end of the Spruces Park.
 
The Spruces Land Use Committee met Wednesday morning to finalize its plans for a beautification project on the Main Street (Route 2) site and discuss whether it wants to sunset the committee formed in 2013 to help look at how to reuse the former mobile home park property.
 
Because of restrictions placed on the land by the Federal Emergency Management Agency, which funded the town's acquisition of the land and closure of the park in the wake of 2011's Tropical Storm Irene, there are a lot of things the town cannot do on the site — like install ball fields or build public pavilions.
 
But the town has conducted plantings there in the past, and the SLUC believes that planting perennial bulbs where the park meets Main Street will encourage volunteerism and a sense of community in the short term and provide an attractive presence near the eastern entrance to town for years to come.
 
The committee Wednesday was joined by Karen Pellegrini of the Williamstown Garden Club and Aimee Poirier of Williamstown Elementary School's Parent-Teacher Organization.
 
Poirier promised the PTO would put out the word that the town needs volunteers and hopes that youngsters can get involved in the project on a weekend in October.
 
Meanwhile, the Garden Club, which is helping to fund the purchase of the bulbs, will also lend its expertise to the project.
 
"One bulb goes 8 inches down, some soil goes over that, and another bulb goes on top of that," Pellegrini said. "It's kind of a layered planting situation. We can also … they recommend to do the fertilization on top. That alleviates one step for the planters to have to put the fertilizer in the hole. I was happy to hear that. There are different methods [for fertilization], but that's how the nursery suggested, and I have to defer to them as experts on bulbs.
 
"They even said that first year you can skip it. It's the second and subsequent years you need fertilizer, because that will help the blooming to continue."
 
Committee member Andrew Hogeland said a local landscaper has offered to provide an auger to drill the holes where the bulbs will be planted.
 
Pellegrini said the nursery in Connecticut will ship the bulbs via UPS to the town's Department of Public Works facility just before planting. She said she is planning to order two types of bulbs: a narcissus, or daffodil, and a scilla, which has a blue flower resembling an iris.
 
As for the future of the committee, Hogeland asked his colleagues whether it makes sense to transition from an official town body to a less formal "Friends of the Spruces" volunteer organization. 
 
"The only difference [being a town committee] is Open Meeting Law requirements," Hogeland said. "So we can't meet without advance notice. I can't talk to too many of you at one time. I'm restrained from sending you things independently.
 
"I think it's been useful for us for a while, and if you feel strongly about having that status, let's continue. I do feel as though we've evolved enough over the years that that's not necessary and it's a little bit burdensome."
 
Committee members David Rempell and Nicholas Wright raised a couple of potential issues where it might be useful for the panel to have an official status: the bike path that is planned to run from Syndicate Road to the southeast corner of the Spruces property and interaction with FEMA on behalf of the Chenail family, which has grown corn on part of the property going back to its days as a mobile home park.
 
Hogeland said the bike path's design is already established, and a less-formal Friends group would still be able to provide comment if needed. As for the Chenail's use agreement with the town, Hogeland acknowledged that it took a while for FEMA to sign off on arrangement when the town first took possession of the site, but he expected no issues with future renewals.
 
Those issues dealt with, the members seemed in agreement at the committee as currently constitituted had outlived its purpose.
 
"Why don't we get the bulb project done, and this would be an occasion where we'd say: We dissolve ourselves and are reborn as something else?" Hogeland said.
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