Amherst Conservation Commission 3/13

I had never been to a Conservation Meeting before as a group of friends and I entered the town hall on March 13th, much earlier than we needed to. After trying to find out where the Town room was, since everything was closed at 6:30, we finally found the room and sat outside on a bench. The Director of Conservation and Development, David Ziomek, came up to us outside and was very helpful as he explained the ins and outs of the meeting and his own knowledge. He even advised us to get some Starbucks since sometimes the meetings tend to run a little long.


From the discussion with him, I learned that 80% of the wetlands in Massachusetts have been lost, and as a biology major from UMass Amherst, Ziomek was dedicated to preserving the last 20% along with six other volunteers on the panel.


After we seated ourselves in the large meeting room, warm coffees in hand, the meeting was commenced with two of the panel absent. It was interesting to see how the panel balanced formality and casualness, as they glossed over the past’s issues and referenced people by first name. They even would address us in the audience, inviting us to come again to a meeting about “Spring ’13 Trails,” as it was titled.


That night there were three main topics being covered. The first was the UMass Campus Pond which had a much higher water level than normal due to their putting in a new object in the water. I am not entirely clear on what the object was, but it was replacing an old one, I believe at sediment trap. The benches on the small island have been flooded and ever since, the walkway across the water has been blocked off. Apparently work should begin on the pond over the summer, during which a landscaper will come in. The representative from UMass stressed that the University will not be responsible during this time, which was interesting since he kept repeating that.


The next topic was on Pratt Field at Amhest College. They are scrapping many of their old sheds to build and add onto a new more useful and sophisticated shed that will house sports and maintenance equipment. Apparently the shed they plan to build is within the buffer zone of the wetlands in that area, and cannot be turned or moved because the drainage would then drain into the buffer zone. There was some confusion on why it simply could not be moved but the panel decided they needed more information and ended the inquisition there. Sometimes it did really seem like an inquisition, especially with one of the women being extremely outspoken, Briony Angus. This was great though because it helped move the meeting forward and not let it drag on.


The last topic was that of Brain Giggey’s Disc Golf Course that he is building at UMass Amherst. Has a Masters of Landscape from 2010 and wished to test out a course around the orchard hill area. One of the holes is near a pond where the land had recently been very damp. The paths were also very close to natural wildlife and vegetation and the panel was worried about careless students stampeding through the area and destroying its beauty. One of the women wanted a sign (that would naturally match with the surroundings) saying ‘Do Not Retrieve Frisbee Beyond This Point’ or something to that affect. They are just concerned that the place would get trashed. Apparently the course is installing its test run this Fall, 2013, with 9 holes, and from there if it is successful, 9 more will be built.


It was very fascinating to attend the meeting because I felt like I was being let in on secret information thatmost people don’t get to hear until the media wants them to hear about it. Now I have a new possible Disc Golf Course that I will be able to try out (hopefully) next semester! 

UMass Amherst Disc Golf


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