The underutilized area of land behind the Williamsburg town offices may soon be turned to good uses by the Recreation Commission.
Reminder Publishing photo by Doc Pruyne

WILLIAMSBURG — It’s solid gold real estate behind the town offices in Haydenville, a brown and green patch of mud and grass that was cleaned up and now looks inviting. For something.

Ben Thompson, chair of the Recreation Commission, had his eye on sprucing up the area, roughly 50 by 80 feet, at the east end of the parking lot behind the town offices. When he raised the issue with town officials, Thompson got the feeling the Board of Selectmen and Nick Caccamo, town administrator, were already talking about doing something useful with the fraction of an acre.

Thompson encouraged and organized a clean up day on April 12. Old raised beds and climbing equipment were torn out and removed.

“It’s a fun little thing we’re doing,” Thompson said. “Children’s playground structures, climbing elements, as well as some raised garden beds, everything was falling apart, starting to rot … so the Rec Commission thought, maybe it would be a good idea for us to … clear that patch of green land and then figure out, down the line, what we might do [with it], that the town would really love.”

Thompson got a good response. Fifteen to 20 people showed up to help with the spring cleaning. They left the swings and monkey bars standing, but removed large stones and an old sandbox. Thompson was most surprised to learn how much the little pocket park was being used. Lots of parents brought their kids to the jungle gym for a break from homework.

The open plot has a history of being used by children. The apparatus and raised beds may have dated from when a daycare center operated in the town offices. Residents who stopped by during the workday told Thompson they attended preschool there. The preschool was called Apple Tree Nursery. The land east of the parking lot was called Apple Tree Park.

Caccamo works in Town Hall. He’d appreciate a better view, but hopes the Recreation Commission and other town bodies can figure out great uses for the outdoor spot.

“The only precipitating idea is that it’s an underutilized space and presents an opportunity for the town to do something that provides value,” Caccamo said. “We’ve been talking about … what are the best uses of the property, the stakeholders to bring in and how to solicit some community feedback.”

Rory Zononi, a local landscaper, volunteered to level the muddy areas and plant grass seed. That effort will be part of phase two of the project. Caccamo and Thompson talked about forming an ad hoc group to gather feedback on uses for the land. Because of the comments by residents and how the land was used in the past, Thompson suspects the area will again be serving children.

A children’s park might be a primary use. Aware of the small size of the square footage, Thompson still thought there was sufficient room for a multi-use layout. A community garden could fit into the area. The one excluded use? No pickleball courts.

The small plot has added significance because of its rarity. Caccamo wasn’t aware of any other open space, owned by the town, that’s available for the use of residents. He noted there’s an open area east of the new public safety complex. That area will be the terminus for the new Greenway multi-use trail and may not be available for any other project.

“Off the top of my head, there’s not a whole lot of open space the town owns. There’s Ames Field, which gets a lot of use,” Caccamo said. Parking and accessibility may limit the burden of use behind the town offices. “Does that serve as a more active piece of property or a more passive piece of property. If so, what are the features of it?”

No timeline was made public for dealing with the plot of land behind the town offices. Thompson and Caccamo will soon begin phase two, when feedback from committees and residents are sought.

dpruyne@thereminder.com | + posts