Saturday, March 13, 2010

Even the spotted salamanders know better!

Click photo to enlarge/read

So for those of you new to the People's Republic of Amherst (living here less than 20 years and probably still pronouncing the h in Amherst) this inside joke references one of the first things I experienced as an 'Only in Amherst' event dating back to the late 1980s.

The spotted salamanders crossing bucolic Henry Street in the far reaches of North Amherst during that time of year when they get, umm, horny (early April) were getting squished by the ever-so-occasional auto. The town installed "Salamander tunnels" so the critters could safely cross under the road (Hell, at Hampshire College you would be awarded a degree for that).

But of course nobody told the Salamanders about the tunnel--even in Amherst town officials do not speak or write Salamander and do not have a Star Trek universal translator to communicate with them.

Thus to this day volunteers go out to this site in early April at dusk with flashlights to assist the little critters crossing the street.

Do-gooders herding salamanders into an expensive tunnel: Only in Amherst.

Yes, the NEW YORK TIMES (actually) reported

To this day Henry Street is not exactly "busy". Obviously the NY Times, as they say in journalism, "phoned in" this story.

And of course some of you townies will remember that then Select Board Chair (Umass History Professor) Richard Minear the year before spearheaded the socialistic takeover of the Cherry Hill Golf Course for the most money this town has ever paid out for such a heavy handed taking. And the only time the town used an obscure provision in the law making that taking "referendum proof" by the taxpayers.


Your cat said...

If it was your cat, you would have been all over it, Larry.

LarryK4 said...

Sorry, that statement is "too clever by half."

What the Hell are you talking about?

Your cat said...

Spotted Salamanders have created many jobs in Amherst, draw thousands of visitors and tourist dollars, every year.

The University has supported any number of graduate students with grant money obtained to study energy distribution in the forests via our cold blooded friends, who are efficient distributors of energy.

Not to mention the Grammy Award-winning band, Salamander Crossing.

Why pick on salamander-ers?

You know, if your cat got run over crossing the road...

LarryK4 said...


Thanks for proving my point. Yikes!

(And I live on "busy" Rt 116, so I have lost a cat or two over the past 20 years to autos, and I would not DREAM of asking the town...)

Anonymous said...

The salamanders do find their way through the tunnels. It's just that damage to the fencing (made of a flashing type material) that funnels them in the right direction keeps some from finding their way. It's a wonderful family oriented time participating in salamander rescue and educational too. You should bring the girls by this year. You're right about this being an an example of Only in Amherst, and one of the reasons I love living here and will be voting YES! on the 23rd. See you at the polls (and hopefully at the tunnels too).

Anonymous said...

'No More Overrides' makes it sound like we've had a lot of 'em.
In 30 years, there have been two overrides, right?

LarryK4 said...

Life can be pretty cruel.

You (and town officials) should try living in the real world sometime.

LarryK4 said...

No Anon 4:49 PM

A lot more than that. Pay attention.

Leave your comment said...

So, what does the town do for you, Larry? Like that nice break the assessor gave you for living next to the truck barn?

Amherst GIS Property Search
Property Location: 596 SOUTH PLEASANT ST

Net Total Appraised Parcel Value $233,500

596 S Pleasant St, Amherst, MA
Zestimate $312,500
Beds: 3
Baths: 1.5
Sqft: 1,736
Lot: 33,000
Built: 1890,-ma-01002_rb/

How did you get a deal like that?

You live in an economically depressed neighborhood? Lucky you.

LarryK4 said...

So this makes the THIRD time you have posted that.

At least I pay taxes. And I run a small business in town for over 28 years now.

Although, yes (since you're so good with GIS Property Search, I do not own the building.) BUT, if I fail tomorrow the owners can get a tax abatement until somebody comes in to replace me--and in the People's Republic of Amherst, that could take a while.

I also employ people who spend money in the local community; and for a few years there I had to pay "personal property taxes" on my exercise machines and office equipment--including computer that I used to start this blog.

Anonymous said...


I do live in the real world. It is a real world that includes roads that have been built through endangered amphibian habitats. And I am so thankful to live (and be raising a family) in a community that cares about trying to minimize the negative repercussions of that.

VOTE YES for Amherst!

Anonymous said...

Who does it hurt?


"On the flip side, the passage of an override will do just the opposite. We can say “hey, the taxpayers stepped up; we have to step up too and give our customers what they have now agreed to pay even more for”.

If I am elected, I want that leverage to work with. Sure, we can push for changes without that leverage, but I would rather have it."


'bach said...

let's not forget that the salamanders inspired john sendelbach's series of 3 public art pieces in town.

crossroads salamander

mill canal newt

minuteman crossing

let's try to forget that those pieces led to mr sendelbach being led astray by the 250th anniversary committee's mysteriously abandoned legacy piece.

LarryK4 said...

My God,
How could I ever forget that.

Anonymous said...

A reminder to all those that help the salamanders... (from the Mass Live forum)
"I am all for helping the little guys (and gals) but when ya'll are parked on the side of the road, could you PLEASE turn your headlights off???? Your hazard lights will do just fine and if you use a flashlight, we wont be blinded driving by and possibly prevent us hitting somebody on the side of the road"

My Pet Sally said...

And, don't forget the song, by Blink 182 --

My Pet Sally

Cause I have the time and the liberty
To play with my pet sally
Please don't go away, sally please

No more lonely showers and uneaten foods
My salamander has hygiene too
And he thinks of me the way I think of you
The only next step is for him to say I do

Anonymous said...


Anonymous said...

"Spotted Salamanders have created many jobs in Amherst, draw thousands of visitors and tourist dollars, every year."

Hate to break it to you, but nobody makes a special trip to Amherst for the salamanders. The salamander tunnel is just one little stone in the giant silly mosaic that is Amherst's reputation in the rest of the world.

It's just one more example of why we are in such crappy shape, financially. Spending money on stuff like this (and on lots of town salaries at or near $100K) starts to add up over a couple of decades. I won't vote to permanently raise my property taxes to encourage more of the same.

Vote "NO" folks, and send a message that the party is over. And stop paying for Larry Schaffer's cell phone-- he makes over ten grand a month!

Anonymous said...

These are the occasions when the true misanthropic nastiness of the LarryK blog audience really shines through.

Anonymous said...

Is Sally friends with Gerry Mander?

Anonymous said...

Just say no. You know they will try again, so when in doubt, say NO OVERRIDE!

LarryK4 said...

Yeah, it's a safe bet when this 3/23 Override goes down in flames Town Meeting will pass line item budgets that are "contingent on an Override."

So the signs will come in handy later this Spring early Summer.

Anonymous said...

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Phoebe Prince said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Phoebe Prince said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Anonymous said...

I can't believe you would stoop so low as to use Phoebe's name! What on earth is your problem? If you can't make your argument without such sensational lenths maybe you shouldn't post.

LarryK4 said...

Thanks Anon 11:28 AM

As I think I have said before, posting as someone else (alive or deceased) will get it deleted.

You're right, that was pretty crass--even by Anon Internet standards.

maryd said...

Thank you for removing that. I know you aren't fond of censorship or moderating but maybe you should go back to at least requiring an identity. It isn't difficult to get one and we could at least keep track of the conversations easier.

LarryK4 said...

Hey Mary,
Yeah, I'm considering that.

Catherine Sanderson recently switched and "enabled moderation." Although, I do notice her hits are down today.

Anonymous said...

Her hits are down because she is on vacation and so there have been no new posts on her blog since Saturday night...since she is away she cannot review posts and, hence, nothing gets posted.

This is a good will help wean me of my addiction to her blog. I have had to quit cold turkey!

ellis bell said...

These tunnels were quite effective once upon a time. I am actually an ecologist studying salamander use of the first under-road tunnels in Canada, and the work done by Scott Jackson at the Amherst Henry Street tunnel is always shown as a shining example of tunnels being effective. In the late 1980s, soon after the tunnels were constructed, Jackson and Tyning (1989) reported 68% tunnel effectiveness (i.e. 68% of salamanders found along the fence were seen exiting the tunnel). This success was attributed to the directional fencing that angles towards tunnel entrances, which history has taught us is VITAL to tunnel use.

If the salamanders are no longer using the tunnels, I am suspect that something has changed. As many people aptly suggest, humans cannot communicate with salamanders. They are not smart creatures. They need to be pointed in the right direction. If fencing is either no longer present, or runs parallel to the road, or has breaches through which a salmander can get onto the road, some maintenance is required.

Until we start researching what animals may be affected by constructing new roads (which is common practice in Europe), be prepared for more post-hoc, expensive mitigation measures. To quote someone posting on this board: "I do live in the real world. It is a real world that includes roads that have been built through endangered amphibian habitats. And I am so thankful to live (and be raising a family) in a community that cares about trying to minimize the negative repercussions of that." Agreed.