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Williamstown Con Comm OKs Trail Along Green River
By Stephen Dravis, iBerkshires Staff
02:05AM / Tuesday, September 08, 2020
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An engineer's diagram of the trail that will run from the southern end of Linear Park in Williamstown to Main Street (Route 2) along the Green River.

WILLIAMSTOWN, Mass. — The Conservation Commission recently gave the go-ahead for a half-mile trail that will allow users to walk along the Green River from the south portion of Linear Park to Main Street (Route 2).
 
The Hoosic River Watershed Association (HooRWA) last year obtained $5,000 in Community Preservation Act funding from town meeting to create the trail, which will essentially link both ends of Linear Park, which continues on the north side of Main Street.
 
John Case represented HooRWA before the commission, which has been involved in the discussion about the project from the beginning. Recently, members of the Con Comm made a site visit to go over the final layout and make suggestions to HooRWA and the engineers at Guntlow & Associates.
 
"Tuesday was the third time the Con Comm has walked that trail," Case said at the Aug. 27 hearing on HooWRA's notice of intent. "The first time, I don't think we'd chosen a route yet. It was really fighting our way through knotweed and brush. We've tried to be cognizant of environmental concerns from the beginning."
 
The commissioners queried Case and Guntlow's Charlie LaBatt on some of those concerns, including how the project will deal with erosion in a 600-foot stretch of steep terrain and how it will deal with the presence of the invasive Japanese knotweed plant along the route of the 3-foot wide trail.
 
The latter will be addressed by cutting and smothering the weed rather than digging it up by the roots in one large patch.
 
"This procedure is essentially a non-excavation," LaBatt said. "It's a covering of the knotweed from the sun and the air for a couple of years. You cover it with tarps and weigh it down. It misses, I think, one or two growing seasons in its ability to come up."
 
As for the cutting that is done, the Con Comm added a special condition to the permit requiring that the vegetatitve material and seeds are bagged and removed from the site for proper disposal.
 
"I think the SCA is a responsible organization that knows what knotweed is and will take action appropriately," town Conservation Agent Andrew Groff said of the Student Conservation Association, which HooRWA is commissioning to cut the trail.
 
The Con Comm received one communication from someone who was concerned about the trail. A resident of Thomas Street, near the southern Linear Park, sent a letter with several arguments, including a reference to Commissioner Hank Art's comments at a July 9 Con Comm meeting about the danger of adding too many trails.
 
Art was among those last Thursday who argued that HooRWA's proposed trail will be a benefit to the town.
 
"I think this is a very reasonable trail," Art said. "I've spoken in the past against certain ad hoc trails not doing much but creating corridors of disturbance. There is an opportunity here to address invasive plant issues and create some recreational opportunities."
 
Commissioner Tim Carr agreed.
 
"In my work on the Parks and Recreation Advisory Committee [one] of the recommendations that emerged from the community … was to try to connect trails that also connected to the downtown area, so people could go directly from the heart of Williamstown proper into a trail system," Carr said. "This seems to fit that bill also."
 
Case said HooRWA, which hoped to build the trail this year before the COVID-19 pandemic hit, plans to break ground in the spring.
 
In other business on Aug. 27, the Con Comm unanimously approved an NOI from the Town of Williamstown to correct a drainage issue that is eroding the property of a homeowner at 985 North Hoosac Road.
 
"The town recognizes it as their problem, picking up town drainage off North Hoosac Road," LaBatt said. "They've taken on this project of redirecting the stream to where it once was, creating a straighter path. Every year, the culvert has been diverted to the south by the growth of a large willow tree. With that pushing the stream to the south and high storm events … it's eroding away the property at 985 North Hoosac.
 
"Our hope with the plans on this was to remove the willow tree and create a channel in a somewhat straighter fashion to get the stream back to where it appears to have been in the past."
 
Earlier in August, the Con Comm issued conditions for a notice of intent for a new garage on the bank of Sweet Brook at 800 Oblong Road. After hearing concerns from the commissioners in early August, the applicant came back with a proposal that reduced the garage size from 30-by-48 to 28-by-44, moved an existing shed 53 feet farther from the stream, left a shrub area behind the proposed garage in tact and added riverfront improvement areas, including the conversion of lawn to low-growing native vegetation.
 
The project as amended was OK'd unanimously.
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