New group emerges to defend barn swallows

  • A barn swallow Kevin Gutting photo

Staff Writer
Monday, December 31, 2018

AMHERST — A new group advocating for barn swallows is continuing an effort to prevent demolition of a stables building used by the birds at the 260-acre Fort River Division of the Silvio O. Conte National Fish & Wildlife Refuge in Hadley.

Nancy Goodman of Hadley, one of the organizers of Save Our Swallows, said she and others remain concerned about changes being made to the old barn. They see the removal of interior walls, for instance, as a possible violation of the National Environmental Policy Act under which work on the site is being done.

This is unfortunate, Goodman said, as the group worked with a structural engineer and two contractors who provided information that the building is mostly structurally sound and its main need is a new roof.

“If it’s money, we’ll take care of it,” Goodman said. A GoFundMe page has been established to pay for repairs and ongoing upkeep.

The 11,250-square-foot, two-story barn has been popular with the barn swallows, but also has a tarp over a portion of the roof where a hole developed, and vegetation is growing at its edges. This year, the barn featured a combined 70 broods over the two mating seasons for barn swallows.

Taking out walls makes the stables more unsafe, Goodman said, and may make it impossible to fix at an estimated cost of between $90,000 and $150,000.

Andrew French, project leader for the Conte Refuge, has said officials did similar work last winter without compromising or affecting the swallows’ habitat.

Federal officials have also pegged repairs at a much higher cost.

Goodman said the unknown is causing part of the worry. “We don’t know if anything more is going on in the barn,” Goodman said.

In addition, the advocates for the swallows observe that the barn is not on the federal agency’s policy to reduce its buildings footprint reduction policy. Even if it were, the birds are a prioritized habitat that needs better protection.

Bird enthusiasts can stay up to date on the efforts at saveourswallowsma.com or visiting the group’s Facebook page.

Community Participation Team

Three Town Hall employees have been named by Town Manager Paul Bockelman to the Community Participation Team, an important component of the new charter.

Angela Mills, executive assistant to the town manager, Jennifer Moyston, administrative assistant to the town manager, and Brianna Sunryd, town communications manager, will be developing creative steps to increase participation in town government by diverse residents.

One of the initial projects undertaken by the team was re-envisioning what had been called the Citizen Activity Form into the Community Participation Form to make it easier for people to volunteer to serve on municipal boards.

In addition, Sunryd, Moyston and Mills are speaking at school events to spread the word about getting involved in Amherst government.

Seeking Conch Shell honorees

The Amherst Historical Society is looking for nominees of individuals, businesses and organizations who have made contributions to the preservation and awareness of Amherst history so they can earn recognition with the Conch Shell.

The Conch Shell, also known as “ye auld kunk,” was used in the 1700s to call Amherst residents to Town Meeting and worship. The original conch is in the Amherst History Museum’s collection.

Since 2007, the award recognizes those who have demonstrated a commitment to education and interpretation of town history, and used innovative and creative methods to showcase these resources.

Nominations can be sent to info@amhersthistory.org through Jan. 9. The award will be presented during the Founders Day celebration on Feb. 10.

Appeal for parking

Carol Johnson, the executive director of the Amherst Cinema, spoke to the Town Council at a recent meeting about the importance of parking to businesses and nonprofits in downtown Amherst.

The cinema has 275 programs a year at its Amity Street site, and most of its members drive to Amherst, some from Vermont and Connecticut.

Johnson said she hopes the Town Council will keep as many parking spaces as possible when making decisions about projects, and also think about the long-term vitality of the town through its available parking.

“We would love to be a continued part of a vibrant downtown,” Johnson said.

Household recycling

Basics of household recycling in Amherst will be the topic of a presentation Jan. 5 at 3 p.m. in the Woodbury Room at the Jones Library.

Mimi Kaplan, the waste reduction enforcement coordinator for the town, will answer questions and clarify rules.

The event is free and open to the public.

For more information, call Janet Ryan at 259-3223.


WEDNESDAY: Design Review Board, 6 p.m., second floor library, Town Hall.