----- Taylor's History (1952-2002) -----
| 1952-1976 | 1977-2002 |
(1952 THROUGH 2002)
Compiled by J. Kenneth Taylor mainly from articles located in copies of the Westfield News Advertiser from these years.
The following is a yearly listing of a few accomplishments for each of the above years that has been prepared for distribution at the Symposium in April 2002 during the 50th anniversary year. A continuation through the more recent twenty five years (1977 through 2001) is presently being compiled and should be ready for the Annual Meeting in June.
These summaries are taken from a more detailed history being written for the entire fifty years that the group has been in existence that should also be completed by the annual meeting in June 2002. Due to the fact that much of the historical material is missing in the files of the Association, I would greatly appreciate looking over any items distributed over the years that you may still have in your possession. This will be of major assistance in making the history more complete. Please send them to:
J. Kenneth Taylor
P.O. Box 1764
Westfield, MA 01086-1764
Now, let's get started on our journey through these years:
1952: Recently fromed CT River Watershed Council Director met with select group at paper mill in West Springfield to explore starting a branch of the organization on the Westfield River, a tributary of the Connecticut River.
1953: Westfield River Valley Association at a meeting in Woronoco attended by seventy-five people was formed to protect, improve and restore the resources of the valley with twelve men and two women elected as the first officers and board of directors. First President: Larry Shattuck.
1954: Westfield Rotary Club votes to cooperate with WRWA. The first major event of the WRWA and one that continued for many years, occurred when it took over continuance of Laurel Week and Tour from the City of Westfield. Warren McGranahan named first Executive Director.
1955: Directors voted to oppose a federal bill providing sewage treatment plant construction as being too costly. First award to WRWA: silver bowl awarded by CRWC in honor of outstanding work, 1954-1955. Watershed concept of planning for large areas presented. Annual meeting speaker stressed that pollution only costly to manufacturer. Floods of 1955 led WRWA to stress the need for working together to get flood being limited by the posting of access land and the fear that the new "toll road" being built would cause overuse of our natural resources.
1956: For the first time "inc" appears after WRWA meaning that the group was now incorporated with the state. Yellow card issued as first membership card, but dues amount was left up to member with $1.00 being acceptable! Enclosed with the membership card was a pink card for information on the member to complete and return in the business envelope provided for the records. There is also an unexplained line on the bottom of this card calling for "Membership Type". This mailing also contained a half page mimeographed letter from Warren McGranahan and an enclosed first brochure dealing with "Flood Facts of the Westfield Valley" denoting both the flood conditions of 1955 and the drought conditions of 1954. The letter also announced the annual meeting of WRWA and had a tear-off form at the bottom to send in your $1.00 as cost of the smorgasbord supper before the meeting. This year saw the first support by the Association of Littleville Dam. The directors also made the first endorsement, the Westfield River Canoe Race now in its third year. Flood control was the theme of the annual meeting where 200 residents were present. A telephone Flood Warning System connected to the U.S. Weather Bureau in Windsor Locks, CT was a major accomplishment this year. There are now 1000 members. First Fund Raiser: Watershed dinner-dance held at Westfield Elks Club. First Auction held which included the auctioning of a calf donated by an upcountry farmer.
1957: President of Texon, Inc. stated that industry could do its part in the overall aims and objectives of WRWA. First large scale development plan: A report of the Executive Secretary noting a blueprint for development of entire watershed area in the future was forwarded to MA Dept. of Natural Resources. There is no need of new state or private recreational sites in this area nor do eyesores in the watershed need addressing by the state as local communities can do this! More scenic automobile routes through scenic areas that have these spots well marked. At the annual meeting the first special awards made to landowners practicing good forest conservation. Highlight: First receipt of trophy from the Rod and Gun Club of Springfield for outstanding education work. First regular newspaper article: This was published in the newspaper weekly for a few months. This column ended abruptly with the first resignation of the Executive Director who remained a member of the board of directors.
1958: This brought Richard A. Waite into the picture as Executive Director of WRWA, a position he would hold for a number of years until retiring. It also brought the opening of a WRWA first office in a storefront on Main Street in Huntington. The speaker at the annual meeting addressed recreational needs of the Westfield River area. First award made: A Tree Farm Award was given to Kenneth Ripley for good forest management on his property in Granville.
1959: Annual meeting: The first afternoon and evening outdoor annual meeting had the presentation of a new brochure by WRWA that dealt with forestry and was tri-colored. It also was the first publication entirely sponsored by an outside group, in this case donations from lumber interests in the valley. This forest brochure was introduced with six pages, graphs and charts leading to the fact that most land on the watershed is privately owned. It is also amazing that this small brochure was able to garner 19 sponsors ...
1960: Committees reduced to just 3: Water Resources, Pollution Abatement and Forestry. Howard Mason received a Tree Farm Award for his work on his land in Russell. After the meeting, the first meeting entertainment took place, with square dancers from Russell dancing for the group. The first outdoor festival, a chicken barbecue, was held in the fall with a forestry tour following - displays, demonstrations, games and closing with square dancing at Strathmore Park pavilion. There were displays present of forest fire equipment, wood preservation and its uses, a new mechanical tree planter, as well as a model of the not-yet-funded Littleville Dam by the Corps of Engineers. Later in the year the directors filed a bill in the legislature seeking the first authorization of a water resource inventory for the Westfield River system. Discussion began in earnest on the Littleville Dam project and the legislation allowing Springfield to take water from the impoundment to supplement Cobble Mt. Reservoir in times of drought. (This latter project was vehemently opposed by the directors and led to the first bad publicity on the front page of the Springfield newspaper accusing the WRWA of being formed just to oppose the Springfield Project!). Highway salt use was questioned, not from the safety or health aspect, but because it creates problems for the manufacture of certain paper products. Also, pesticide spraying was opposed only for the unsightliness of roadsides so sprayed. First Forestry Demonstration Areas: Plots were established around the watershed by the Forestry Committee. They also pursued the forming of a Forest Landowners Assn. A new brochure was published on Land Use and also a tri-fold one on the Laurel Tour with the First Catchy Title: "Won't You Let Us Introduce you to Laurel Week in the Berkshires?" which contained a gret deal of material on the history of the tour as well as of its founder, A.D. Robinson. Annual meeting speaker was the President of the CRWC who had taken a recent trip down the CT River. He showed slides of pollution sites along the river. First Scholarship: $250 awarded to a secondary school student residing on the watershed. First Budget established for 1961 at $10,000 as a minimum necessity.
1961: Littleville now fully designed. Investigation of small watershed P.L. 566 Dam Projects of the Soil Conservation Service. Good forest management stressed again. Formation of conservation commissions urged for all communities. Only Russell has a sewage disposal facility in operation at this time. Two-thirds of members new this year! Annual meeting featured speakers from the 212 communities that now had conservation commissions. A drought again brought attention to stream flow stabilization. First Essay Award: $250 scholarship given this time for an essay on a conservation topic. First Canoe Race Trophy Presentation: Canoe race winners were awarded trophies at a meeting. Directors increased from 12 to 18. Sidelight to meeting: Presentation of plaque to first woman participating in the canoe race by the Hampden County Women's Rod and Gun Club. This was the 20th year for the Laurel Tour. Residents at a forestry meeting strongly opposed the building of a proposed pulp plant since it would take young trees before they mature into lumber size. Seventy people attended a tour of the demonstration projects and a later viewing of a Springfield Water Department film "Your Future". Largest fund-raiser: An auction in October raised $110 for the association. The first newsletter I found, the "WWA News", was not being published. Air pollution first mentioned as a problem. A professor from UMass spoke in December on the land use potential of the watershed.
1962: Participated in meeting on family camping and recreational areas. First sustained membership drive: Two-week membership drive held after the annual meeting. First widespread brochure availability: Maps of the Laurel Tour were available at the Westfield Chamber of Commerce as well as at the Huntington WRWA Office.
1963: The 10th anniversary was celebrated this year at the annual meeting where an historical presentation on the history of WRWA and its progress over the years was presented. Sewage disposal facilities were a top priority this year as delays cost dollars. First endorsement in principle: conservation district projects. First sponsored meetings to get more communities involved in conservation commissions. Much concern in forestry group concerning fires starting along railroad rights of way. They plan to try to solve or at least reduce this problem. First discussion with state leaders: Plans for increased water-based recreation in the watershed discussed with MA Commissioner of Natural Resources. Forestry people in area taken to demonstration lots to note how they could make use of them. First slide program: Lynwood Lesure showed his slides on a European "People to People" program he recently attended. Directors voted not to take over the Westfield River White Water Canoe Race at this time. First assistance to state: allocation of funds will be considered to publish maps of 1962 and 1963 state water location surveys over the watershed. Participated in pesticide pollution state study. Wood utilization meeting held by Forestry Committee with a UMass specialist and an extension forester. It was felt that communities needed to work together in solving water resource problems. Loss of wetland water storage and silt pollution of stream condemned.
1964: First membership drive theme: "Conservation is for the Birds - and People". Newsletter "extra" sent to non-renewing members over the last three years. First request to State: Board voted to ask SCS to survey West Branch for possible P.L. 566 sites. First national-level speaker: Annual meeting had Congressman Silvio Conte as speaker. He discussed "Conservation Opportunities and Problems Pertinent to the Westfield River Valley". First discussion of pending legislation: Directors discussed bills governing house size on lots where public water and sewer lines exist and a bill dealing with the opening of Cobble Mountain Reservoir and its land area to hunting and fishing.
1965: Board expressed strong interest in multiple use impoundments as part of P.L. 566 projects. Westfield mayor's proposal to establish an MDC for municipal water communities in the area was approved by the directors. First project informational meeting: West Branch Project meeting held in Chester. Annual meeting had a first panel discussion composed of a professor of resource management from UMass, the head of the MA Water Resources Commission, and the leader of the MA Dept. of Natural Resources discussing the role of water in the watershed area. Laurel brochure mentioned as being in great demand this year. First cleanup campaign: Another flyer released urged residents to clean up their residence areas to improve the aesthetics of the area - all "pollution" is not that of water. Other informational meetings on West Branch Project in Becket and Huntington. First long-term project accomplishment: October 9th was a very important day for WRWA for it saw the final realization of Littleville Dam in its dedication program. This was the culmination of at least ten years of work by the association.
1966: Details finished for West Branch Project show 11 proposed dams. Topic for the annual meeting was "Water Resource Development and Multiple Use Values". First national recognition: The Laurel Tour is now included in the "What to See" part of the travel book of a major oil company.
1967: (Newspaper began publishing twice a week in a larger size at this point) Annual meeting speaker from UMass Water Resource Research Center noted the consideration of health factors with the use of drinking water from reservoirs. It was mentioned that 21% of the Westfield River is off-limits today due to pollutants. Laurel Week sponsorship continues.
1968: WRWA-sponsored informational meetings on the West Branch project held in Huntington and again in Chester.
1969: The entire time of a meeting of directors in Cummington was devoted to a Corps of Engineers report concerning the imminent danger of flood damage in Westfield.
1970: Annual meeting again had Congressman Conte as speaker. He spoke on the general topic "Pollution". The association grew in membership this year. First unique money-raising project: After the meeting, floral centerpieces on the tables were auctioned off to provide funds for the association. First booklet reissued: A red covered booklet appeared including the WRWA purpose, the 22 towns involved and their natural resources. This contained many statistics on the area, many of which are far different than those of today. It was noted in here that aesthetics are listed as both assets and liabilities! (An exact duplicate of this book, except it had a yellow cover, was reissued in 1972. These were both the first publications of WRWA that were directly addressed to getting new members.
1971: Annual meeting theme was "Future Water and Land Use Development in the Westfield River Valley". A speaker from the Corps of Engineers addressed the newly released Westfield Water Management Project. First office closing: Huntington office now closed for financial reasons and office has moved to Dick Waite's home in Middlefield.
1972: First photo used in newspaper: Annual meeting report in paper had large picture of new officers looking down at river together accompanied by a detailed article on the meeting. At least 75 people were present at this meeting sponsored jointly by WRWA and Hampden County Section of teh American Forestry Association. This latter group was gathering information through state and federal agencies to determine what land qualifies as watershed land. State Senator Alan Sisistsky was the speaker. He addressed the general topic of the "Role of Organizations in the Westfield River Watershed". He felt this association accomplished a great deal more than others across the state. He cautioned that, despite our accomplishments, there are some topics that need handling on a statewide basis. Recreation and scenic beauty still need work. He noted that no decision othe Westfield dike project would be made until they heard from the mayor. Mention was made of the Corps of Engineers study on raising the height of Knightville Dam by seven feet. Today, federal agencies prefer projects that have several uses as they are easier to justify money-wise. There are many organizations over the state at this time, but none are as substantial or has such spirit of involvement as the WRWA. A lively discussion ensued on local topics, such as how to get rid of billboards on your property. First major change in personnel and titles: At the next meeting of the directors a major change occurred. Dick Waite retired as Executive Director and Ben Bragg was hired as a part-time Executive Secretary. At the meeting there was discussion of the recent Raytheon Corporation report on a statewide plan for waste disposal sites (dumps).
1973: (Not a single article on WRWA occurred in the newspapers over this entire year.)
1974: First major long-awaited project accomplished: The annual meeting this year brought about something desired by WRWA for some 20 years! This was the premiere of a commercially developed sound-slide program entitled "The Boy and the Valley". Bay State Film Productions, Inc. in Agawam did the major work on this project. First speaker's bureau: A speaker's bureau of members of WRWA was set up to take this production not only to schools, but also civic associations, scout troops, women's clubs, et. - it was well-utilized for many years until wear and tear plus equipment damage resulting from not having a central office in which to store it and keep track of it led to its demise, with the eventual loss of the carousels of slides themselves. The annual meeting speaker was the city planner from Westfield who discussed the topic: "The Need for Conservation". He covered present land uses and state and local regulations on them. Recommended for future work were: regional growth rather than just a local situation, flood protection, custom fitting soil and land planning - not adhering to a single zoning formula, considering open space along the waterfront area for recreation and wildlife preservation, acquiring land through land trustees or land banks, managing growth and using creative type planning technology. First public showing of audiovisual program with speaker: Ben Bragg showed "The Boy and the Valley" at a meeting sponsored by WRWA at the Chester Public Library. Discussion again took place on the West Branch Project after the showing of the film.
1975: Dr. Evelyn Murphy, the MA Commissioner of Environmental Affairs toured the West Branch Project in the afternoon and was briefed on its history, present condition, and the urgency to start construction soon.
1976: First linkage with coalition: Ben Bragg represented WRWA at the Pioneer Valley District Coalition of MA Environmental Groups. This group was formed mainly to lobby the state legislature to obtain funds for the environment to replace the shrinking federal funds in this field. First recognition of school contest winners and their parents at an annual meeting: Gateway Regional Secondary School became the site of WRWA Ecology Awards Program. This was a pilot program to ascertain if there was interest in this type of project work. There were around 30 entrants in the two divisions: Senior (high school grades) and Junior (grades 6 to 8). Students wee asked to do in their home town an ecology or conservation project with backing by research. Students from Westfield State College served as judges. Cash prizes were awarded in the Senior Division and trophies in the Junior Division. In the senior division there were three students who tied for first place, one each from Huntington, Montgomery and Chester, while in the Junior Division there were 1st through 4th place finishers, who were from respectfully: an unknown, town, Russell, Worthington and Woronoco. Thus, you see the winners were spread out over at least five towns in the watershed area. There were a total of 20 students and parents as guests of the association at the meeting. This excellent response will have an impact on whether this project continues next year with students eligible from all secondary schools in the Watershed.
We have now reached the halfway point in this summary. The last 25 years will be covered in a second part available by the June annual meeting as stated previously.
People in the association for a long time: Your looking around for any printed items (newsletters, programs of annual meetings, minutes of meetings, etc.) and either sending them to the address on page 1 or bringing them to my home at 8 Greylock St. Westfield (in back of the Vocational Technical High School) will be a great help to me in compiling the history. I found that as I reached the 70s the amount of items in the newspaper decreased at an alarming rate, even to zero in one of the years. These items are valuable in this type of work for documenting events. Practically all the material in this report came from the film record of the Westfield News Advertisers of the time in the Westfield Athenaeum. This is not only a tedious and eye-straining task, but many important events have no information in the newspaper on them at all. Most items were more often than not sketchy on details. Any things you bring to me I can assure you will be kept in its present condition and returned to you, if you so desire, or placed in our historical files in the office at Hampton Ponds.