By SCOTT MERZBACH
BELCHERTOWN — Planned improvements to the Scarborough Brook Conservation Area, including the removal of dams and stream restoration, will be the focus of two sessions for gathering public input.
The project, which could lead to taking out both the Lower Scarborough and Upper Scarborough dams, will also feature extensive youth engagement by developing a pilot Youth Climate and Conservation Corps from Belchertown’s six active 4-H clubs.
Residents are encouraged to drop by the Gulf Road conservation area on Saturday, Oct. 29, from 10 a.m. to noon, to learn more about the ongoing climate resilience work, with a walk-and-talk session focused on brainstorming ideas for how the site should be used for recreation and wildlife. Parking for the event is at 454 Gulf Road, with overflow parking nearby.
A second meeting will follow on Wednesday, Nov. 2, from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m., at the Town Hall Auditorium. There, participants are invited to engage in a visioning session with a design team from Fuss & O’Neill for interpreting how the area affected by the project should be used and programmed. Concept designs for the conservation area will be refined with comments that evening.
Scarborough Brook was created in 2006 when the town secured 65 acres on Gulf Road, the former Pelham Country Club. That was a hunting and fishing club formed in the 1920s.
In August, the town received $139,500 from the state’s Municipal Vulnerability Preparedness program. That followed an initial $480,025 grant from the same program to restore the cold-water fishery resource, and to protect the Daigle and Lawrence Swamp aquifers. The idea is to increase habitat and water supply resilience under future climate conditions.
Julianne Busa, project manager for Fuss & O’Neill, said that feasibility studies for the project were completed last year, and that there will likely be another two years of design and permitting before construction could begin on removing the dams and restoring the streams.
Sarah Fortune, interim conservation director of the town, explained that in addition to the public engagement, the components of the project include:
- The conceptual design for the removal of the Lower Scarborough Dam and realignment of the Scarborough brook channel, leading from the existing dam spillway to the North Gulf Road culvert
- developing 75% design site plans and permitting the replacement stream crossing at Gulf Road, designed to meet state stream crossing standards
- conducting further investigation of hydrologic impacts associated with potential removal of the Upper Scarborough Dam impoundment and design for the removal of the Upper Scarborough Dam.
The youth engagement piece includes having the town partner with the Belchertown 4-H Town Council as a community liaison to develop a pilot Youth Climate and Conservation Corps. This will include six meetings of the Youth Corps, with a learning component and a hands-on experiential learning and volunteering effort beginning this fall and concluding next spring, Fortune said.
Youth Corps meetings will occur at locations around town, including the 4-H community garden, and will include an Earth Day town-wide cleanup event, an example culvert analysis, soils evaluation and estimating forest carbon sequestration.
Outreach to youth will be at the trunk-or-treat event in Belchertown and a social media account is being developed to focus on Youth Corps activities.
Questions can be directed to Fortune at 413-323-0405 or email@example.com.
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