Capped landfill becomes conservation land

  • Amherst Town Hall GAZETTE FILE PHOTO

Staff Writer
Monday, August 09, 2021

AMHERST — A capped landfill on the south side of Belchertown Road will become Amherst’s newest conservation land.

In what town officials say will be a unique conservation restriction held by Kestrel Land Trust, the 53-acre site on which residents once disposed of their household garbage will be permanently protected.

The preservation of the grassed-over property comes as a condition of state and local approvals to have a long-planned solar project placed on the capped landfill on the north side of Belchertown Road. That project is expected to break ground next month.

Cypress Creek Renewals Inc. of Santa Monica, California is overseeing the 3.9-megawatt project, installing the solar panels on the capped landfill next to the town’s transfer station.

Sustainability Coordinator Stephanie Ciccarello told the Town Council last week that having a conservation area on a former dump could be a one-of-a-kind situation.

Kestrel Executive Director Kristin DeBoer said she is unaware of other landfills that have had similar conservation restrictions put on them.

The main purpose of protecting the land is to mitigate the impact of the solar panels, specifically on how they will affect the grasshopper sparrow, a state-listed threatened species.

Assistant Town Manager David Ziomek said the solar project is close after first being proposed in April 2011.

A small section of the now protected land is carved out for the town’s first dog park, a perimeter trail and the Robert Frost Trail, but much of the 53-acre site will be fenced off and have public access prohibited to comply with state and local permits.