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StoryWalk Planned for Williamstown's Margaret Lindley Park
By Stephen Dravis, iBerkshires Staff
05:37AM / Sunday, February 04, 2024
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Williams College senior Sean Morrissey shows how a StoryWalk placard could be positioned on a tree on a trail at Margaret Lindley Park in Williamstown.

WILLIAMSTOWN, Mass. — The town's swimming hole soon could have a new attraction for youngsters on dry land.
The Conservation Commission, which controls Margaret Lindley Park, recently gave its blessing to a plan to create a StoryWalk on trails within the town-owned park.
Williamstown Rural Lands Foundation Program Director Dana Williams and Sean Morrissey, a Williams College senior doing an internship with Rural Lands, appeared before the commission to present their proposal.
Morrissey explained that they hope to create the StoryWalk on a quarter-mile trail using child-friendly books with themes appropriate to the park and the commission's mission.
"The idea is we're going to choose a children's book, take the pages out, laminate them and put two pages on each panel and put the panels on the trees using this strap," Morrissey said, showing the commissioners an example of the tree-friendly hanging mechanism.
"We looked at a bunch of books with nature themes. They're very digestible for kids."
The pair said they hope to be able to switch out the books a couple of times during the summer, giving returning visitors new stories to explore in the woods. Williams said the Margaret Lindley Park story walk could be the start of an even bigger endeavor.
"We're hoping to include, eventually, community projects from local artists or poets," she said. "In coming years, we would like to work with Williamstown Elementary School students on a classroom unity to make their own story or their own interpretive walk and have that displayed as well."
The commissioners all were supportive of the idea but had a few questions for the applicants, including how the StoryWalk will be maintained and how WRLF planned to deal with copyright issues.
Williams said volunteers from the non-profit will be the ones to maintain the walk and that the commission was encouraged to let WRLF know if there are any issues. She also explained that the StoryWalk project has streamlined the process for groups to create their own versions of the learning tool.
"StoryWalks originated in Vermont as a way to get families out to both experience nature and promote literacy," Williams said in a meeting telecast on the town's community access television station, Willinet. "The copyright part has been worked out in general. You don't have to reach out to a publisher or author to specifically ask for rights."
The pair told the commissioners that they had not finalized the choice of books but offered to show examples of the kinds of books they were considering.
Commissioner Philip McKnight asked whether there was a reason to think anyone would object to the content of the books.
"Given the crazy world we live in, are any of these books likely to cause controversy?" McKnight asked.
"Hopefully not," Williams replied. "We have looked through all the books. They're pretty innocuous — just nature themes. One is about how rocks formed, which hopefully isn't too controversial."
"Run that by Florida," quipped a member of the commission.
The Con Comm gave the go-ahead to proceed with the StoryWalk project on the condition that WRLF submit some more details in writing.
In other business at its Jan. 25 meeting, the commission extended an order of conditions for the control of invasive species in a private pond at 870 Henderson Road.
Homeowner Margot Moomaw told the commission that what began as a one-time treatment has evolved into an ongoing maintenance plan for the 1.5-acre pond.
"I think we've learned a lot the last couple of years," Moomaw said. "We're particularly learning on a microlevel what climate change means to our environment. We had a year of extreme drought, another year of extreme wetness. We've had the introduction of species that were more common in the mid-Atlantic states. Bur-reed, for the first time, was in Williamstown in our pond and several other ponds.
"We now are resigned to the fact that we need ongoing monitoring, and, year-by-year, we need to make an assessment and decide what the treatment priorities will be for the year."
Moomaw said she was fortunate to connect with a responsive pond maintenance firm, The Brookfield, Conn.,-based Pond and Lake Connection, to help manage the pond.
"We pledged, and we believe, we should not use broad spectrum herbicides to get rid of everything," Moomaw said, referring to the original notice of intent she and her husband filed for the pond. "We want to maintain a living ecosystem. And we're happy to say we see the bird species, we see the fish species, we see the frogs, the salamanders, the turtles. None of them have left our pond.
"But we get a different crop of weeds that are predominant each year. And we'd like to be able to treat them as they occur."
The commissioners approved the extension and thanked the Moomaws for their maintenance of the pond.
"There are a lot of ponds in Williamstown with similar issues, and I think we're lucky to have your experience, painful as it may be at times, to help with something that's on other people's minds," Con Comm Chair Lauren Stevens said.
Finally, the Con Comm discussed its plans for outreach to spread the word about a warrant article it drafted for May's annual town meeting to place the Spruces Park under the commission's control, similar to how it manages Margaret Lindley Park and other properties in town.
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