28 Feb 2017

Public Input on Conceptual Designs Sought for Study Areas in Chicopee and Holyoke

The Cities of Chicopee and Holyoke and their partners – Pioneer Valley Planning Commission, Valley Opportunity Council and Nuestras Raices - will be hosting the final set of public workshops to promote green streets in those communities to integrate more urban trees and green infrastructure into planned city road reconstruction projects. These final workshops will include conceptual designs of three study areas in each city for consideration by the public.

The final public workshop in Chicopee will be held at the Chicopee Public Library on Wednesday, March 1, from 6-8 PM, while the last public workshop in Holyoke will be held on Thursday, March 2, from 6-8 PM at the Holyoke Public Library.

The  workshops will be led by students of the Conway School of Design, who seek input from residents and participants on conceptual designs for street trees and other green infrastructure installations in the following study areas: 

·         Holyoke:  Center Street (Ely to Samosett); Newton Street (Cabot to Appleton); and High Street (bordered by Appleton/Essex/Newton)

·         Chicopee:   Dwight Street (between Front and Cabot Streets; Perkins Street (Front and School Streets; and Exchange Street (between Dwight and Perkins)

The project has a goal of planting more street trees in three cities, Springfield, Chicopee and Holyoke, to reduce combined sewer overflows and stormwater runoff into the Connecticut River. Urban trees and other green infrastructure installations divert stormwater runoff away from rivers and streams and also reduce stormwater burdens on wastewater treatment plants, where storms can cause combined sewer overflows to pour into the Connecticut River.

Funded by a grant from the U.S.D.A. Forest Service, project partners also include the Massachusetts Department of Conservation and Recreation (DCR) and the Conway School of Design. DCR will be contributing trees for planting, while students from the Conway School are leading interactive public workshops to identify and design appropriate locations for the installation of street trees and green infrastructure into upcoming road reconstruction projects.

In Holyoke and Chicopee, three two-block study areas were selected based on their location in an area with combined sewer systems and planned upcoming roadwork. Once feedback from the public is incorporated, designs created by the Conway School of Design students will then be furthered by an engineering firm in order to have specifications ready for installation once roadwork begins. Residents living in designated neighborhoods within Holyoke and Chicopee may also be eligible for free tree plantings on their property by DCR personnel later in the project timeframe.

“One of PVPC’s major areas of work is reducing combined sewer overflow discharges into the Connecticut River, which is the region's most significant natural resource,” said Chris Curtis, Chief Planner at PVPC. “Street trees planted in urban areas offer a low-cost way to address this issue, while at the same time providing more attractive neighborhoods environments for walking and biking, and thus reducing car use and improving property values. We are enthusiastic about the multiple benefits that will come out of this project for the region.”

“Nuestras Raices is pleased to be a part of this project that will bring more street trees to Holyoke’s downtown neighborhoods, providing shade to pedestrians and helping to reduce stormwater pollution of the Connecticut River,” said Felix Machuca, Director of Operations at Nuestras Raices. “Making Holyoke greener will make it a more attractive place to live and visit, and we are excited that residents will have the opportunity to learn how to care for urban trees and provide input on the design of green streets for areas in downtown Holyoke.”

“Valley Opportunity Council is excited to connect Chicopee residents with the opportunity to learn about the importance of urban street trees and how to care for them in their neighborhoods,” said Jamie Chazan, Director of Programs at Valley Opportunity Council. “Chicopee is dealing with the very expensive task of remediating all of its combined sewer system. Increasing the amount of street trees in Chicopee will help reduce the costs of pollution and beautify neighborhoods at the same time.”    

“The Conway School is excited to have our students involved in designing green streets for Holyoke and Chicopee,” said Kristin Thomas, Project Manager of the Conway School. “Not only does this present an opportunity for our students to get hands-on experience in the field, but it also will result in tangible outcomes. New street trees, when installed, will provide shade, improved water quality, and beautification to Holyoke and Chicopee residents and neighborhoods for years to come.”

Last year, a similar set of workshops and design work led to the creation of new green streets landscape plans for the "X" neighborhood in Springfield.  In Springfield, an engineering consultant is currently preparing final engineering plans for green streets this neighborhood, which will be constructed by the city as part of other roadway improvements.