Friday, June 26, 2015

"The Lot"

Amherst Town Common as designed by Frederick Law Olmsted in 1874

Yes, that swath of green space south of College Street directly in front of Amherst College Converse Memorial Library is part of the original Amherst Town Common.

Click photos to enlarge
Olmsted was invited to town by Austin Dickinson on behalf of Amherst Ornamental Tree Association

Back in 1927 Amherst Town Meeting voted in favor or Article 27:

“To see if the Town will vote to relinquish the care and use of that portion of the common at the center of the town which is southerly from College Street, to the Trustees of Amherst College for their use for park purposes only, and to allow said trustees to construct a crosswalk thereon, and plant suitable shrubbery, it being understood and agreed that the area herein described shall at all times be neatly cared for and maintained or take other action thereon.”
Amherst College is therefor caretaker of the property, but not the owner.

Interestingly enough the original Amherst Town Common extends south all the way down to the railroad tracks (now the Norwottuck Rail Trail) where Amherst Farmers Supply has been located for 70 years.

Common area south and below The Octagon and in front of Memorial Hall is part of the original Town Common
Green in front of AC Alumni Gym is also part of original Town Common
Olmsted originally wanted to level the hill where Octagon now sits so folks in town center could better view Holyoke Mountain Range

Amherst is currently considering much needed basic repairs and improvements to the historic North Common located directly in town center.  Within the next few weeks a $500,000+ proposal will be submitted to the state for possible 70% reimbursement.  

If that grant proposal is turned down (as it was three years ago) maybe Amherst Town Meeting should vote to "relinquish the care and use of that portion of the common" to Amherst College.  

North Common in front of Town Hall and Grace Church is far more forested than the rest of the Town Common


Anonymous said...

How is even possible to spend a half million dollars on that spot of land?

And how could someone consider investing a half million dollars of public funds to improve a park that is in good condition when there are people in town that cannot heat their homes or feed their children?

Shouldn't we always talk about this like it is crazy and unfair?

The issue is not who owns the land now or in the past....the issue is who owned the money that was taken from folks out of town and why is it justified to spend it on Amherst Town common when the common looks just fine and the people the money was taken from need it more than Amherst.

If the town collectively wants a better common, why not start with donations and move on to a local tax or more use fees for the space. Wouldn't either of these be more moral than demanding funds from out of towners, often from other towns that are not as wealthy as this quite fancy town.

Anonymous said...

Great article, thanks.

Larry Kelley said...

Drainage and slope regrading is very expensive.

Anonymous said...

Huh? We pay into these state funds too. And, if we are wealthier, then we pay more.

Larry Kelley said...

And we host three academic institutions -- one of them the flagship of state public higher education -- who are all tax exempt.

Anonymous said...

Does the town still own all parts of the original town commons--including the part new Farmers Supply?

Larry Kelley said...

I believe we do.

But it is, as they say on Facebook, complicated.

Walter Graff said...

Frederick Law Olmsted designed it? What the hell have they done to it. It's nothing now but a shitty field with a couple trees. Sad. And now they want to put spider boxes on it. Real nice. What a mishmosh of a town. No character. No consistency.

Anonymous said...

Any idea what was going on downtown tonight? There was a man drenched in blood in the CVS parking lot, and all of a sudden 4 cop cars showed up. How many cruisers does APD have on duty at any one time?

Larry Kelley said...

Chris Hardy, who was arrested a couple months ago for drive by spraying pedestrians with a squirt gun in the downtown, allegedly assaulted the guy via a punch to the face.

Four vehicles is about it -- three patrol cars and a supervisor.