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HATFIELD — The town of Hatfield and the city of Northampton are looking to agree to an MOU, or memorandum of understanding, for a shared-use path between the two communities.

The path, which has already been endorsed by the Northampton City Council and through Hatfield Town Meeting, would link Hatfield to the MassCentral Trail and New Haven and Northampton Canal Greenway.

“This will provide what will soon be a continuous link from Boston to Northampton and down to New Haven,” said Northampton Assistant Planner Sarah LaValley, during a City Council meeting back in early 2023.

Since the MOU was first presented in September, Select Board Chair Diana Szynal has expressed concerns about entering into this MOU because of a lack of detail around plans.

In a meeting in October and during their Jan. 16 Select Board meeting, Szynal suggested remedying the concern by adding language that says the agreement will only be in effect until the 25% design phase is completed.

Once that phase is reached, the hope would be to revisit the MOU, or possibly enter into a new one with more specific plans around parking and other aspects of the design.

“I just don’t want to agree to anything where we haven’t seen the plan,” Szynal said during the Jan. 16 Select Board meeting, of the current MOU. “We’re entering into a memorandum of understanding, but we don’t understand what we’re entering into.”

In October, Richard Abbott, the chair of Hatfield’s Open Space Committee, said that LaValley told him that Hatfield would be involved in all meetings around the project and will have the opportunity along the way for changes or options.
During the Jan. 16 meeting, the Town Administrator said she plans to be in touch with Hatfield’s Open Space Committee about Szynal’s concerns.

Background

The Northampton to Hatfield multi-use trail was first detailed in 2008 and supported by officials in 2010, but there was no funding source at the time.
The majority of the trail will be part of conservation land that Northampton owns. Only a little over 750 feet will run through Hatfield.

According to Abbott, residents at Town Meeting voted in support of Hatfield working with Northampton to obtain funding and eventual construction of the trail, which will extend along the Connecticut River beginning at the River Run Apartments on Damon Road in Northampton and ending at Elm Court in Hatfield. The new trail will be 1.3 miles long, and at times, will follow the existing railroad tracks.

The MOU, which was first read by Hatfield Open Space member Mark Gelotte during the Sept. 19 Select Board meeting, involves the swapping of land between the two communities.

The draft MOU states that Northampton will donate 11.5 acres of land off the southeastern side of Hatfield Road in Northampton, Elm Court in Hatfield, and the westerly side of Little Neponset Road in Hatfield.

“This land, up until the time it will be donated, is owned completely by the city of Northampton,” said Gelotte, who added that the land was previously owned by Skibiski Realty LLC and a conservation group known as Valley Land Fund. “The piece of property is wholly in the town of Hatfield.”

The MOU also states that Hatfield will donate 1.2 acres of land on Elm Court that it owns to the city of Northampton.

rfeyre@thereminder.com | + posts