Have you ever wondered about the origins of the large white lions on Route 2? This local monument that marks the entrance to Williamstown from North Adams was the grand entrance to The Spruces Mobile Home Park. Built over several years in the 1950s this mobile home park was an integral part of the Williamstown community. A neighborhood of seniors that provided many with an ability to live an affordable happy retirement. Unfortunately Hurricane Irene flooded the park in 2011 and rendered nearly the entirety of the park uninhabitable. Using funds from FEMA the Town was able to purchase the park, relocate residents to safe housing, and turn the land into a community park. Now it is time for the Town to plan for the future of this important piece of land.
Over the past 4 years since the property was opened to the public residents have slowly begun to use the land in their own ways. The old roadways are available for walking, many folks enjoy taking their dogs on the land, and a bike path will be under construction this summer connecting the property back to Cole Avenue and the Williams campus. The Town would like to have a student take a comprehensive look at how residents have organically programmed the park space, and an inventory of current plantings and ecological communities. This baseline work is critical to getting a planning process underway for the future of the park. The Town will also be partnering with an ecologically minded design consultant to lead the planning process. It is anticipated the the intern will lead this baseline work and also collaborate with the designers by doing other field work as necessary to support planning for the park’s future. The Town’s goals for the eventual park plan are that the Spruces becomes a place for passive outdoor recreation for a variety of users, within an environment that provides ecological resources such as pollinator friendly meadows, floodplain forest restoration, and community scale agriculture.
What’s the Scope of Work for this Internship?
At the beginning of the summer the most important task for this position will be being present at the park and gathering information. The Town currently has no hard data on how the property is actively used. The property has been open to the public under a set of simple safety rules since September of 2016. Since that time it has essentially been organically programed. We would like to begin by observing patters, behaviors, types of use, and then tabling and conversations can be added to fill in and get an idea of how folks are using the property. Other data sources such as Strava’s Global Heatmap can also be used to help establish use patterns for the land.
The second phase of the summer will involve working with the consultant hired by the town to complete the plan to round out whatever additional baseline information they need in terms of human behavior patters on the property but also to assist them as needed on their ecological evaluation of the property. Assessing tree health, identifying plant species including invasives, looking at soil conditions, etc.
What’s a typical day in the life of the Internship?
Since field work is so important to completing this project most days will probably be spent at the park collecting data in some form. Bad weather days will likely be used to record data digitally in various formats including GIS and checking in with folks from Town Hall’s Community Development Office and the Town’s yet to be selected consultant. Probably a 80% outdoor 20% indoor time split.
The Williams College Center for Environmental Studies would fund this summer internship. If you are offered this position, you will need to apply to CES for funding. Information can be found at: http://ces.williams.edu/summer-opportunities/funding-research. Lastly vehicular transportation is not required but would likely be helpful. The selected student will have to spend significant time at the park. At least a bicycle is recommended.