Editorial: Welcome recreation projects in Amherst and Sunderland

  • An ariel view of Sunderland. RECORDER FILE PHOTO

Thursday, June 22, 2017

Amherst and Sunderland have made commendable commitments to improving recreational opportunities in those communities.

A partnership between a neighborhood group and the town resulted in reviving Markert’s Pond, which is part of the 5-acre Pondview Conservation Area  in the Orchard Valley section of South Amherst. The pond was built in 1930 on private property and for years attracted residents as a popular place to ice skate, watch birds and catch frogs.

The pond later was given to the town by KV Realty, developer of the surrounding subdivision. In recent years, the area had become more of a swamp, as an earthen dam cracked and invasive species reduced the size of the pond, which was covered with lily pads. 

In 2014, neighborhood residents formed Friends of Markert’s Pond to work with the town to restore it as an attractive recreational area for the 200 or so families who live there.

Among the group’s leaders is Adrienne Terrizzi, who moved with her family to Pondview Drive in the late 1960. At that time, she recalls, “Markert’s was an oasis, the pride, joy and frequent site of activity during all seasons for neighborhood children and families.”  

The pond’s restoration was done in stages, starting with a work day three years ago involving neighbors and town employees who cleared brush and put fresh mulch on a trail surrounding the pond.

The most complicated aspect of the project was making repairs to keep water in the pond, and that work was completed in recent weeks. The dam was rebuilt, and the old structure that controlled water flow was removed. A new 9,000-pound concrete flow system was assembled and installed with the help of a crane.

Terrizzi already is hearing more frogs at the pond, and she hopes that many families in the neighborhood will appreciate the opportunities to enjoy nature there. “The important story is Markert’s Pond is on the move,” she says.

That’s a welcome result of combining leadership by neighbors with commitment by town employees to see the project through.

Meanwhile, Sunderland officials have big plans to parlay 9.5 acres of town-owned property near the Connecticut River into a recreational attraction — one that would especially interest wildlife enthusiasts, the elderly and handicapped people.

Sunderland’s planners have spent the past year working with a landscape architect to develop a long-range master plan for the entire School Street property on which the library and town offices are located.

Immediate plans include rehabilitating a small-boat launch for fishermen to make it fully accessible. The project, estimated to cost around $80,000, will be funded and designed by the U.S. Department of Fish and Wildlife and is expected to be done this fall.

Connecting to the proposed launch is a separate riverfront pathway project that’s also expected to receive outside funding. If approved, the fully accessible walk will circumnavigate the entire site, and contain a scenic view of Mount Sugarloaf across the river. The path — useful for people using walkers, strollers and wheelchairs — will be a block away from planned senior housing on North Main Street.

At last year’s annual Town Meeting, voters approved $36,631 in Community Preservation Act money to acquire riverfront land, create the master recreation plan and apply for grants.

All that has paid off, it would seem. Improvements like these will enhance the quality of life in town for everyone, but especially seniors living nearby.

Those projects are part of a larger vision to turn Sunderland into a recreational destination in the region.

The master plan outlines future renovations behind the town office building to the soccer and baseball fields, including a picnic area, concession stand, playground and bathrooms, along with volleyball and basketball courts. The result will be an inviting park serving residents of all ages and all abilities. Those improvements could cost up to $2 million, and may have to wait until the town can find grants.

We are confident that Sunderland will be able to pull off this municipal project. Whether it’s going to make Sunderland a destination is yet to be seen, but the plan has great merit for the people who should matter the most, the residents of the town who have imagined the project and kick-started it with their tax dollars.