----- Taylor's History (1952-2002) -----
| 1952-1976 | 1977-2002 |
Compiled by J. Kenneth Taylor
With Assistance from Ben Bragg and Howard Mason
1977: The first meeting dealing with the reintroduction of Atlantic salmon in the Westfield River was held at the Westfield Athenaeum in January. This was following a meeting in Boston attended by Dick Waite and Ben Bragg where the project was first proposed. Sixty people were in attendance. Several Greenbelt Meetings held throughout the watershed to make sure that public use of the river would be possible when pollution abated. Association continues holding West Branch Project meetings to clarify the issues involved. Of the eleven dams proposed, five would stabilize river water flow throughout the year. Westfield River Area Corps of Engineers dike project presented with $10 million dollar increase from last time presented. Westfield residents rejected the original proposal. Support of above two projects raised many problems for the Association. Many people felt that WRWA supports each and every project that comes along no matter how the residents feel about it. Annual meeting had first speaker from CRWA in many years. Ecology Award Program continued at Gateway Regional High School. It is planned to expand this program to Westfield High School next year. First state stocking of trout below the Strathmore Dam in Woronoco due to river cleanup. WRWA nominated river as MA Scenic River. "Boy and the Valley" AV presentation continues to be shown. Larry Dennison, WRWA greenbelt project consultant speaks to hill towns about project. Last of meetings held studying raising height of Knightville Dam. First of several difficult financial years (only $41.85 in treasury in December.)
1978: First West Springfield paper companies, Southworth Co. and Premoid Corp., honered for river cleanup work at annual meeting. Watershed Land Use Policy with stress on conservation and wise usage issued. Board now comprised of 22 members, one from each watershed town. This did not work very well in the hectic 1970s. Dick Waite made Honorary Director for Life. Board makes point that we are not "sponsors" of the West Branch Project, but are just "proponents". (This was a means for reducing the impact when the SCS canceled the project a few months later.) Board votes discontinuance of West Branch Project. Chapter I of IX of Greenbelt Project distributed to towns and cit. High interest shown when 60 Cummington residents attend a scenic rivers meeting. First grant obtained to pay 80% of Larry Dennison's salary.
1979: First Massachusetts Rivers celebration at Chesterfield Gorge. First U.S. Senator, Paul Tsongas, to attend WRWA event. This was the first cooperative endeavor of WRWA and CRWC. First Westfield River canoe "Trash and Treasure Hunt". WRWA ends year $1000 in debt.
1980: First conflict between WRWA and the Charles River Watershed Association based on copying membership material from a CRWA brochure. Settled amicably by inclusion of design source acknowledgement on new WRWA brochure. First time conservation speaker program held after each Board meeting.
1981: First 3-part feature story on WRWA in Country Journal. Richard A. Waite dies and memorial set up in his name that today is the Waite Award. Some recipients of this award over the years have been: Mary Arnold, Huntington (1981), Ken Taylor, Westfield (1982), Blandford Conservation Commission (1983), Julie Vukovich, Chesterfield (1984), Linwood Lesure, Ashfield (1985), Jeff DeFeo, Russell (1999), Dan Call, Westfield (2000), and David Pardoe, Huntington (2001).
1983: 5th Annual River Festival canceled due to lack of securing a safe site to launch canoes in Westfield upstream of Whitney Playground.
1984: First Westfield River Festival attendance affected by competing Air Show at Barnes Airport on the same days.
1985: Greenway Project Westfield River Advisory Committee formed with representatives from 10 out of 22 towns in the watershed area. (The West Branch of the river was not included in this study.) The group noted that more access points for recreation were needed on the river.
1986: First publication of the original Greenway Plan and its summary pamphlet. Westfield Festival resumes with a new format after suspension for a year. There now are several demonstrations as well as food served on the grounds.
1987: Membership this year was 82 in number. 44 of these were from the city of Westfield.
1988: First photo display in Jasper Rand Art Gallery at the Westfield Athenaeum. This focused on pictures showing the beauty of the Westfield River. A second photo contest in the history of the group was held this year. A $50 prize was awarded to the entry judged to be the best one submitted. Regular Board meetings now held at Westfield Athenaeum.
1989: First membership drive organized and led by a consultant, Lynn Lenker. First Saturday River Festival that was canceled early due to a severe thunderstorm. First bike ride over the Westfield River Watershed area as part of the Sunday part of the River Festival. This led to The Great River Ride that continues to be held each October in Westfield. Barbara Bush assumes role of organizer for WRWA and all records transferred to her business off of Elm St. in Westfield.
1990: Barbara Bush, after coordinating the WRWA for a number of years, announced her retirmenent as of April 1st. No longer could the group continue to store records, use the telephone bank or use her staff for clerical work. First Westfield Post Office box rented in name of WRWA and first answering machine obtained and set up that would be transferred to the home of each new president. At January Board meeting the first set of yearly goals established for WRWA. The revival of the Waite Award and computerizing the membership list were two of the new items on this list. Dues increased this year to $20 per family or individual and $10 for students. The Greenway Plan Executive Summary was approved and distributed this year. This basically provided for growth control along the river corridor through management by residents, while protecting the free flow of the river for fish, the unique scenic qualities and private property rights. First major grant received: $40,000 from Natural Resource Defense Council from a federal fine of local company for river pollution in Westfield. Money had to be spent on only environmental matters in the lower part of the watershed, not operating expenses for WRWA. First "Memorandum of Agreement" signed by six East Branch towns, PVPC and WRWA. This was the first step leading to the Wild and Scenic River designation by the State. For the first time upper segments of the Westfield River become designated as a State Scenic River under MA Scenic and Recreational Rivers Act. For the first time WRWA joined a coalition of thirty other MA watershed groups. First WRWA car decal included with dues notice mailing.
1991: First annual River Cleanup Day with WRWA and PVPC coordinating cleanup of areas in Westfield, Agawam, and West Springfield. Participation in first open-house program at Knightville Dam.
1992: First educational science program: provision of supplies for water-monitoring program by environmental science students at Southwick High School.
1993: (A "lost" year as nothing was located for this year either in the newspaper or the WRWA files.)
1994: Dues were now $20+ for individuals; $35 for small businesses, $25-200 for cities and towns; $450-500 for large businesses; (open)$ for public interest groups. Also appearing for the first time was a listing of areas of interest for checking off on the membership application. New membership brochure produced that contained for the first time actual pictures as well as sketches. This was the first brochure to actively support Atlantic salmon restoration in the Westfield River.
1995: First publication of WRWA Guide to White Water Canoeing and Kayaking on the Westfield River. First annual Westfield River Symposium held in April at Westfield State College. There were 14 speakers in all, including a keynote speaker, two luncheon presenters and the remaining 11 spread out through four concurrent sessions: Government Programs, Biotic Resources, Recreational Resources, and Riparian Resources. Speakers came from 6 different organizations. However, 72% of the 14 speakers in this initial year came from just two of the organizations, Westfield State College and MA Department of Environmental Management.
1996: For the first and only time through 2002 the 2nd Annual Symposium was scheduled to coincide with the Westfield River Wildwater Canoe Race. The theme was "Recreation". Poster sessions appeared for the first time this year. For the first time, instead of a keynote speaker we had a keynote slide sound presentation entitled "Welcome to Our Wild and Scenic Westfield River". This year there were only 8 presenters, a drop of 1/3 from 1995, but 62.5% of them came from the college. This high number resulted from two of the four concurrent sessions being Teacher Session #1 and Teacher Session #2. The other sessions were Watershed Issues and Recreation and the Internet.
1997: First trail being built: Westfield River Walkway/Trail under construction atop the Westfield dike from the Great River Bridge to the Westfield pumping station on Meadow Street. This project also included a launch area for non-motorized watercraft. This was the inaugural year for the Westfield River Canoe Cruise and picnic. Four Symposium Focus Sessions introduced for the first time. Sessions were: Watershed Visions, Water Pollution Protection, River Protection, and Watershed Mammals: Using the Internet. The first field trip and indoor session held at the same time in the afternoon took place at this symposium. The field trip looked at the botany and geology of the watershed, while the indoor session discussed drinking water. This year there were again 8 presenters with Westfield State College personnel handling only 37.5% of them, a 25% reduction. This reduction spread out the program more evenly among the participating groups.
1998: WRWA at long last finally has a home base. This is a shared office with Mike Parker, Westfield Team Leader, on the second floor of the DEM Building at Hampton Ponds State Park. For the first time the Board reached a membership of 24 members. The fourth Symposium with the theme of "The Westfield River: Coming Full Circle" for the first time attracted over 100 attendees. Keynote speaker was Trudy Coxe, Secretary, Massachusetts Executive Office of Environmental Affairs. Sessions this year were on: CT River Educational Initiative; Rachel Carson; The H.B. Smith story; Effects of Agriculture on the Westfield River Watershed; Congamond Lakes; The Good, the Bad and the Milfoil; Tourism Initiatives in the Westfield River Watershed. The afternoon field stocked Atlantic salmon fry in the Westfield River while the indoor session discussed Wetland Erosion. There were 9 presenters this year with the dominance of WSC diminishing more. This year the college only represented 22.5% of the presenters, a drop of 15.2%. WRWA actively supported, at Robinson State Park, the 100-year anniversary of the MA Division of Forests and Parks. WRWA in conjunction with PVPC tested Westfield River water at five sites after major rainstorms to note the presence of highway runoff contamination. First WRWA display was held at Gateway Regional High School during the running of the Westfield River Wildwater Canoe Races. First annual West Springfield Fish Ladder Tour held this year. The Association participated in the launch of the Brook Trout vanity license plate at Gardner State Park in Huntington. Westfield River Basin Team organized with Mike Parker as its leader. WRWA has representation at each monthly meeting.
1999: First publication of the Westfield River User's Guide. This contained a large map with indicated sites for such things as museums, parks, public areas and campgrounds, with details and telephone numbers included. For the first time, and each year subsequently through 2002, this symposium had no registration fee. Previously they cost participants from $10-20 to attend. The reason there was no fee this year was the receipt of a $1200 grant for the symposium from the MA Stewardship Program Committee that we applied for after the symposium last year. For the first time the indoor session in the afternoon at the symposium was omitted and three field trips were held. These went to the newly built DSI West Springfield Fish Ladder, a tour of Forest Stewardship, and Salmon Fry Stocking. Morning sessions were: Watershed Initiative; Land Trusts; Impaired Waters; Salmon Restoration; Best Management Practices; Stream Team Program. There were 8 presenters this year with WSC no longer involved and MA Wildlife supplying 37.5% of this program due to the increased interest in Atlantic salmon stocking and the new fish ladder in West Springfield. This year marked the first time we used the Mestek educational facility on North Elm Street in Westfield for our January Board Planning Meeting. This building is well supplied with useful tools for this meeting. First educational outreach occurred when MacDuffie School students and their teacher stocked fry in the Westfield River in Cummington. Canopy and frame purchased by Community Development Corporation of Westfield and stored at our office. This protects us from sun and rain during outdoor exhibits. Some 300 guests toured the Fish Ladder during the open house day this year. This year over 30 canoes and kayaks participated in the River Cruise and picnic. For the first time WRWA participated in a display in the MA Building at the Big E. This consisted of a model watershed with various activities both good and bad illustrated on the large model. For the first time WRWA volunteers manned the fish ladder viewing booth to note the number and species of fish using the ladder in the fall. We needed to do this, as MA Wildlife did not have the funds to man the fish ladder in the fall. This year WRWA received its first intern. The Quebec/Labrador Foundation received a grant to allow an intern to work with the WRWA. She worked through the Watershed Team and completed a project that gave teachers excellent area sources for watershed work. For the first time a formal Education Committee was formed by the Board of Directors.
2000: First use of educational Egg-to-Stream Program in the watershed. WRWA purchased the necessary equipment and supplies and loaned them to a participating school. The class received Atlantic salmon eggs, put them in an aquarium tank, took care of them and eventually put the hatched fry in the Westfield River or its tributary. The Symposium this year had the theme of Citizen Stewardship in the 21st Century. Keynote speaker was Sharon McGregor, Assistant Secretary MA EOEA. Sessions offered were: Impairment Site Study; Dam Issues; Estate Planning; Anadromous Fish; Barnes Aquifer Issues; MA Family Forest; Forestry on Public Water Supply Lands; DSI Fish Ladder; Egg-To-Stream Program. A field trip in the p.m. went to the fish ladder while the indoor session at the same time was a slide program on Plants Found on the Westfield River Watershed. This year there 12 presenters that were evenly dispersed (8.3% each) over the various organizations except for WRWA which had 2 (17%). This is almost the ideal arrangement where dominance by any individual organization is minimal.
2001: The Seventh annual symposium had the largest attendance to date, 150 attendees. The theme was: "Your Watershed: Explore It! Enjoy It!" Sessions dealt with: Fishing; Canoeing; (Hiking) Trails (Panel); Rail Trails; Keystone Arches; Bird Photography; Agency Rules. There were two field trips and one indoor session this year. One trip went to the DSI fish ladder and the other to the Springfield Water Department West Parish Filters. The indoor session was an illustrated program on the Flora and Fauna of the Watershed. For the first time this year we had a private citizen doing a presentation. This was the person who did the Rail Trails program. This symposium for the first time had 13 organizations doing 13 presentations so the percent of each group participating was little over 7.69%. This shows the greatest diversity possible in the program. The annual meeting at Willard's Restaurant in Chester had attorney Alexandra Dawson, of the MA Association of Conservation Districts, speaking on the topic of Open Space. Re-licensing of the Strathmore Dam in Woronoco by the federal government was discussed at Board meetings. Provision for fish to go upstream should be required before the license in reissued.
2002: "Watersheducation" was coined as a new word and the theme for the WRWA for this year. WRWA accepts responsibility for fry stocking in the spring that we have been doing for several years already, the spring fish ladder open-house (this year on a snowy rainy day attracted around 300 visitors, many of whom were children, which is a good sign of involvement in watershed matters) and managing the fish ladder in the fall. This is part of a long-range plan of commitment that has been presented for comment to the partnership of DSI, WRWA and MA Wildlife (this is a shortened name for the MA Division of Fish, Wildlife, and Law Enforcement that is a tongue twister to say and is unpronounceable as MADFWLE). The designation of other parts upriver as "Wild and Scenic" is, at last report, on the desk of the governor for her signature. After signing it goes for Federal designation as the first stage. Then ends up for State designation for the second stage. The Westfield River Wild and Scenic Advisory Committee did a tremendous job in getting this project through its various stages. They have representatives from each community on the board as well as from WRWA, MA DEM, NPS, PVPC and MA Riverways. A colorful brochure was developed and given to residents along the river. As a result of their work, each town involved has passed the required River Protection Bylaw. This WRWSAC (another tough acronym to pronounce) has also applied for and received grants for constructing a trail to the Keystone Arches in Chester and adjacent communities. (I believe that volunteers from Gateway Regional High School and the Americorps have recently completed this trail).
We have now reached the end point of the fifty-year history of the WRWA. It is sincerely hoped that this treatise has enlightened you to the many and varied things, all associated in some way with the Westfield River, that this organization has accomplished over these five decades. Finally, to complete this summary, I'll point out an unusual thing that now unites year one with year fifty of the WRWA! The WRWSAC started out as a committee of the WRWA several years ago and now has its office in space on Bank Row in Greenfield with the Connecticut River Watershed Council (CRWC). If you remember back to the 1952 summary, you will recall that the CRWC was the group that established the WRWA as a committee of the CRWC. Now this committee of the WRWA has found itself in close association with this group that originally considered the WRWA to be part of its organization. So, as the saying goes "What goes around, comes around" seems applicable to this situation.