----- Waite's History (1953-1974) -----
| Pages 1-8 | Pages 9-16 |
A brief summary of its organization and activities from 1953 thru 1974
by Richard A. Waite
The recorded history of the Westfield River Watershed Association begins with a meeting of the Directors of the Connecticut River Watershed Council, organized in 1952, at the Community Building in Woronoco the evening of April 14, 1953, attended by representatives of the Westfield Chamber of Commerce, Junior Chamber of Commerce and many other Valley citizens. The purpose of the meeting was to determine the practicability of organizing an agency within the Westfield Valley which, like its sponsoring agency, would be devoted to the conservation of its natural resources. These were defined as "Those resources provided by nature which may be used for the benefit of mankind". Mr. Clayton Hoff of the Brandywine Association gave the group the benefit of the experiences of that organization.
A formal organization meeting followed on April 25th, attended by: Dr. Edward Baldwin, Elmer R. Foster (acting chairman), George Kemp, Leonard Mason, Lawrence Shattuck, ? Schultz, Jr., Harold Worthington. Officers and committee chairmen were proposed as follows: President - L.W. Shattuck; Secretary and Treasurer - Mrs. Elmer R. Foster. Area Planning - Henry C. Johnson; Education Theodore Schultz; Finance and Law - Andrew Anderson; Fish and Game - Harold Worthington; Forestry - Andrew Oleksak; Industry - Phelps Brown and Allen Gowdy; Recreation - Florence B. Pomeroy; Soil Conservation - Richard Sanford; Town Government - Leonard N. Mason. The above Committee Chairmen, President Shattuck and Edwin Pratt were named as directors at a meeting of June 23rd.
The organization's original By-laws were adopted on June 6, 1953. A membership of 38 was reported at the end of June. The name of Howard F.R. Mason first appeared - as a member of the Forestry Committee - July 1st.
The Director's meeting of July 20th featured a talk by Clarence I. Sterling, Director of the Mass. Division of Public Health, Director of the Water Pollution Abatement and Stream Improvement. He emphasized the high recreational potential of the Westfield Valley and stated that the river's eventual classification should be "B" from head waters to the City of Westfield and "C" from Westfield to its convergence with the Connecticut River. He urged that the Association "get people to have pride in the valley" - that the Association stimulate public opinion in this direction.
President Shattuck announced establishment of an "Educational" committee, made up as follows: Paul T. Schultz (Chairman), Edward C. Janes, Miss K. Grace Brown, Mrs. Dorothy Shattuck, Wooster Canfield, William Luchini, Ned Walter (sp?), Dana G. Webber, Harold B. Swicker.
The message "To Make Our Valley a Better Place in which to Live" first appeared on the Association's letterhead August 12th.
A presentation by Dr. Edward Baldwin, Chairman of the "Pollution and Steam Improvement" Committee was featured at the October 6th Directors' meeting, held at the Community Center in Cummington. He discussed "Stream Improvement" for the upper Valley and "Pollution Abatement" in the lower.
At the Directors' meeting of November 18th, the Pollution Abatement committee was instructed to prepare: (1) sources of pollution; (2) what should be done; (3) what has been done; (4) things the association can do to help. A "Pollution Abatement" brochure was proposed.
Consideration of water quality and pollution abatement carried into the final Directors' meeting of 1953 (November 16) at which it was proposed that a meeting be called of industrial concerns guilty of pollution; another meeting made up of Boards of Health and/or Boards of Selectmen of all towns discharging industrial wastes into the river. Problems of excessive run-off and erosion were reviewed. Howard F.R. Mason reported that work has been completed for a forest resource inventory of the Westfield River watershed area. It was voted to accept a proposed water management project on the Watts Brook drainage in Worthington as a major project for the coming year.
Bancroft Mills of Becket has made available to the Massachusetts Department of Natural Resources a large marsh area at the headquarters of Factory Brook in Middlefield - later to become a factor in what became the "West Branch" project of the Soil Conservation Service and the Massachusetts Department of Natural Resources.
President Shattuck noted the need for a paid executive director and proposes to meet with industrial representatives to discuss possible financial support.
Interest in the newly-organized Westfield River Watershed Association was indicated by an attendance of nearly one hundred people at a public meeting held at the Westfield Atheneum in late February of 1954. Highlight of the evening's program was the unveiling of a pilot water management project within the Westfield Valley - in the drainage area of Watts Brook in the town of Worthington. The project's objective was to demonstrate in a relatively small drainage area possibilities for improving the fish and - to a more limited degree - the wildlife environment by construction of small stream flow barriers, deepening of pools, stream bank stabilization, maintenance of healthy forest growth. The potential value of the project was indicated by the presence at the meeting of representatives from the Farmington River Watershed Association, the Little Hoosic River Association (Williamstown, Mass.) and the Conservation School at Yale University. There was eventual participation in the project by residents of Worthington, the U.S. Soil Conservation Service and state fish and game agencies.
Proposal for formal incorporation of the Association was advanced in March of 1954 and Attorney Andrew Anderson of Westfield, an enthusiastic member of the Association, was delegated to proceed with necessary details.
The first annual membership meeting of the Association was held in Woronoco April 22, 1954, attended by several community and organization leaders, among whom were: Alice Burke, Mayor of Westfield; Mr. Desotelle, a Russell Selectman; Nathan Tufts, president of the Connecticut River Watershed Council; Joseph Knox, Secretary of the Inter-State Water Pollution Control Commission; "Buddy" Marceau, Conservation Editor for the Springfield Union; several representatives of the Connecticut River Watershed Council.
"Pollution Abatement" was the key issue, with addresses by Mr. Harvey Flint of Rhode Island's Narragansett Information Association and Mr. William Wise, head of the Connecticut State Water Commission. It is worth noting that, at a meeting in Strathmore Park two months later, Mr. Arthur Lyman, Massachusetts Commissioner of Natural Resources at the time, made the following reply to a question about state aid for construction of a Municipal Sewage Disposal Unity: "The people of ... will pay for it eventually anyway. If all the city and town disposal plants needed in Massachusetts are to receive state aid, the State Income Tax will be raised to meet the demand for money".
The minutes of a meeting held on June 24th, 1954, contain the first reference to WRWA's participation in the Annual Laurel Tour - assuming responsibilities assumed by the no longer existent Westfield River Parkway Association, generated by the enthusiasm of Archie D. Robinson.
The Association's growing interest in upland storage of water became evident in the 1954s, which led to meetings with U.S. Soil Conservation Service representatives out of which was proposed an over-all policy of resource conservation for the Westfield Valley and a detailed policy for the Watts Brook area.
Continuing the Association's search for a solution to the valley's sewage disposal problems, officials of the Towns of Chester, Huntington and Russell - also Mr. Iantosca of the Massachusetts Department of Public Health, met with association directors in October of 1954. The proposal of a trunk line to a regional treatment plant in Westfield from the three towns - and possibly the Town of Blandford - was considered but rejected as prohibitive in cost.
The question of a full or part-time executive director featured the final meeting of the Board of Directors in 1954, with an annual budget of from $9,500 to $10,000 suggested as an attainable goal. This indication of progress, along with authorization for the printing of 5,000 membership cards indicated the optimism prevalent among directors as to the future of an association that had been in existence hardly more than eighteen months. There also appeared a new name among the association's leaders - that of Mr. Leslie Chapin of Westfield, who was appointed to serve as "Assistant Secretary-Treasurer".
The new year (1955) - later to be known as the year of the flood - had an auspicious beginning for WRWA when approximately 100 people gathered at the Community Building in Woronoco the evening of January 11th to hear Reverend Ted Schultz, Director of Education for the association, and Mr. Charles Down, Massachusetts Department of Commerce, discuss trends in their respective areas of responsibility.
Reverend Schultz noted these significant trends: the numbers of people interested in the country's natural resources; because of exploitation, the need for counter action; activities in the Brandywine and Muskingdon watersheds; the relationship between the Connecticut River Watershed Council and WRWA; water resources - the retention of flood waters, maintenance of constant flows, the need to eliminate pollution. Down noted these trends: an urge to live outside the city; improved transportation; decentralization of industry; development of shopping centers; modern conveniences in rural areas; rising standards of living.
The name of Warren B. MacGranahan first appears in the association's records when he and Mrs. MacGranahan attended a directors' meeting on February 15th. Record of the meeting further show that his application for the position of Executive Director was accepted the same evening.
An appropriation of $80,000 by the Town of Russell in early 1955 for the construction of a sewage treatment plant to serve the main village represented the first break-thru in the Westfield River Valley of resistance to use of municipal funds for the control of river pollution.
The association's second annual meeting was highlighted by the award of a silver bowl by the Connecticut River Watershed Council "because, in the opinion of the Council's directors, it is the outstanding conservation organization of the year in the Connecticut River Valley".
Diane - the super flood of August 1955 - brought home to business and industrial leaders, small business men, public officials and every-day citizens a watershed-wide approach to water management. At a meeting of WRWA directors with businessmen, industrialists, agriculturalists, municipal officials and others, Reverend Schultz said "Diane has had a tremendous influence on us all. What can we do to turn our river from a menace into a means of life, recreation and wholesome living? Even before Diane, the river was a menace due to pollution. Our philosophy is that we people who live in this valley can do much ourselves to make it a better place in which to live.
Positive developments as a result of the storm Diane were: A letter to the Governor of the Commonwealth favoring: (1) a flood control dam at Littleville, incorporating flood protection, a conservation pool and stream flow stabilization; (2) favoring the construction of a dam on Factory Brook in Middlefield; (3) a survey of the West Branch of the river to determine flood control possibilities.
The first of a series of fund-raising auctions occurred in 1955, from which the association's treasury was enriched by more than $1,600 - from articles contributed by its members and friends.
A report on "Forest Tree Planting" and "Timber Stand Improvement" made by Howard Mason in mid 1955 indicated that six property owners in the Valley combined to plant 14,000 seedlings and that four participated in timber stand improvement on 35 acres of their forest lands.
Appearing again in the association's records - as it will frequently in the records of its activities into the 1970s is correspondence from the Commonwealth's Commissioner of Natural Resources relative to the proposed impoundment of water on Factory Brook in the Town of Middlefield to be designed for flood protection and recreational use.
The first record of municipal support of the association's activities appeared in early 1956, when it was announced that appropriations to it had been authorized by the voters of the Towns of Blandford, Middlefield, Montgomery, Russell, West Springfield and Worthington. Later additions to this group included the towns of Chester, Cummington and Southwick.
When election of the Association's officers took place in May of 1956, L.W. Shattuck - who presided over the group considering formation of a Westfield Valley association and later became its first president - declined to continue to serve further as president. He was succeeded by Harold A. Bolles of Woronoco as President, with Dr. Edward Baldwin and Homer P. Gammons as first and second vice presidents respectively. A new-comer to the Board of Directors was Mrs. Louise Bagg of Southampton.
A communication from the U.S. Treasury Department, Office of Commissioner of Internal Revenue, under date of July 23, 1956, confirmed the Association exempt from Federal income tax.
The summer of 1956 saw the initial publication of an Association NEWS Letter, issued to members of record and potentially interested individuals, businesses and industries.
In his address to WRWA's Fourth Annual Meeting, Francis W. Sargent, Massachusetts Commissioner of Natural Resources, outlined to members possible effects within the Westfield Valley following completion of the Massachusetts Toll Road. He also previewed long-range land acquisition plans developing within his department.
Mrs. Alleen Foster's term of service as Secretary of the Association from its beginning came to an end with her request not to be re-elected and with the naming of Mrs. Elizabeth W. Anderson - a widely known out-of-door enthusiast - as Secretary. Homer P. Gammons of Westfield also succeeded Harold A. Bolles as President.
Discussion of the long-contested question of regulated fishing from Cobble Mountain Reservoir led to a vote by the Board of Directors that fishing rights be granted "provided that such will not endanger the safe health and welfare of the City of Springfield".
A major project in 1956 was the organization and carrying out of a tree planting program in the Westfield Valley, which resulted in the deliver and planting of some 8,000 seedlings. Participants in the program included several Boy Scout troops (who did most of the actual planting) and: Strathmore Paper Company; Texon, Inc.; Leonard N. and Robert Mason of Blandford; Elmer R. Foster, also of Blandford; Richard A. Waite of Middlefield.
A reassessment of the Association's future plans and activities was made necessary when, in July of 1957, it received the resignation of Warren McGranahan as executive director - after two years of effort on his part to expand its activities and solicitation of public support. It was with regret on the part of the board that his resignation was accepted. Also resigning as Director of Fish and Game was LaDoyt Teubner of Westfield - a resignation also accepted with regret.
Increasing emphasis upon the forest resources of the Westfield Valley developed in the late 1950s under the leadership of the Association's Forestry Committee. Programmed were such basic factors in forestry management as "A Forest inventory of the watershed"; "The Economic importance of the Forest Industry"; Prospective markets for low grade hardwood; forestry practices in municipal watersheds; maximum use of the services of Extension and District Foresters. Many of the Valley's commercial lumbermen registered their support of this program.
The search for an executive director to fill the vacancy resulting from the resignation of Warren McGranahan in July of 1957 ended with the appointment of Richard A. Waite of Middlefield to the position. Waite, an owner of a 450 acre "Tree Farm" in his home town, began his service as of January, 1959.
Beginning in the late 1950s and continuing through the following decades, even to the present date, the water resources of the Westfield Valley became of paramount concern to municipal and industrial interests within and outside the Valley. Population growth, increased per capita consumption of water generated by the development of many new water-consuming home conveniences, growing water-related recreational demands, proposals to improve water quality by regulating stream flows combined to make water management in the Westfield Valley a highly controversial issue.
Original plans by the Corps of Engineers, U.S. Army, to build a multi-use (flood control and recreational use) dam on the Middle Branch of the Westfield River, at Littleville in the Town of Chester, were redrawn to provide an eventual source of water for the City of Springfield's Water Department. The Watershed Association, together with other Valley interests, raised objections to the revised plan based upon considerations that adequate study had note been made to determine possible sources of water in the nearby environs of the City of Springfield; that demands will eventually be met by purification of Connecticut River water; that municipalities with areas contained within a municipal water supply drainage area are penalized economically by restrictions applied to their future use; that the need for expanded recreational opportunities cannot be ignored. As is true in practically all similar controversies "Municipal Water" won out; Today, fishing is permitted over much of the Littleville impoundment - a recreational activity which presumably will be eliminated whenever its waters are diverted for municipal use.
Discussions in early 1959 with Dr. Benjamin Isgur of the U.S. Soil conservation Service and Charles H.W. Foster, then Massachusetts Commissioner of Natural Resources, led to the incorporation of the long-sought for Middlefield Recreational lake into a basin-wide S.C.S. project for the entire Westfield River's "West Branch" drainage area, comprising nearly twenty percent of the Valley's entire area. Design for the project, developed over a period of several years of study by S.C.S. engineers and cooperating divisions within the Massachusetts Department of Natural Resources provided for eleven dams at strategic points in the drainage area to provide: (1) substantial flood protection for the Villages of Becket, Chester and Huntington; (2) more uniform stream flows for an improved fish environment in the hot summer months; (3) maintenance of a series of deep water impoundments for support of cold water fish species and of shallow pools favorable to water-related bird species; (4) general recreational use of the restored Middlefield reservoir. Woodland nature trails are integral parts of the over-all proposal.