GREENFIELD – The Franklin County Agricultural Society is applying for a permit from the city’s Conservation Commission so they can start work on a slope at the back of the fairgrounds that has had issues with embankment collapse and mudslides .
Company president Michael Nelson said the company, which owns and operates the exhibition center on Wisdom Way, has appeared before the Conservation Commission on several occasions, but had to postpone the process.
“We have been working with the US Department of Agriculture’s Natural Resources Conservation Service for a few years on plans to mitigate the effects of the mudslide,” Nelson said. “The slope is over Linwood Street and needs to be fixed.”
Nelson said the company and the Natural Resources Conservation Service were creating plans that would have the least economic impact on the area – in a field behind the Ferris wheel location for many years.
“The final technical plan has come down to us and we will present it to Con Com in May,” he said. “We thought we would have one in January, but then we spoke to the (State Department of Environmental Protection). The agency made some suggestions on how we might change the plans.
Nelson said although the company has been on the Conservation Commission agenda at every meeting since January, it has been postponed. It will be at least once more before the May 11 presentation.
“Once we are cleared, we will move forward,” he said. “The plan is to install a water relocation system.”
Over the past three years, increased groundwater has caused four new streams to form under the ground in the fairgrounds and find their outlet in the embankment on the north side of the property, Nelson said. The excess water caused the soil to be destabilized and washed several times, and directly below the area are three houses continually affected by mudslides.
Nelson said at least a dozen trees had fallen due to erosion.
In March 2011, the same land ridge collapsed about 1,000 feet at Green River Cemetery and 3,000 cubic meters of mud slid into the neighborhood below.
On Wisdom Way, which is located on the same ridge, the area is collapsing and the state Department of Transportation is planning a multi-million dollar project to repair this area.
The Conservation Commission will review the project – the repair of an area where a slope failure has already occurred and may continue – and will consider the proposed disturbance of the resource areas included in the buffer zone of adjacent vegetated wetlands and Greenfield Wetlands Protection Ordinance 25 feet No Zone of Disturbance.
Nelson explained that the water collects halfway and descends towards the eroding slope. He said the underground waterways there also add to the problem.
“We will also install a drainage system,” he said. “Once these are installed, we will strengthen the areas that need them. ”
Nelson said rip-rap – loose stones used to form a foundation – will be used and new vegetation will be planted.
Western Earthworks, an excavation and landscape construction company in Florence, was contracted to carry out the work. Nelson said his bid – the lowest – was $ 201,000. A grant of $ 96,000 from the Natural Resources Conservation Service will be used, leaving the company to find the remaining $ 106,000.
“It’s been a tough year with COVID, and we’ve fought to stay afloat, but we are committed to doing it,” Nelson said. “We have carefully reviewed our budget and we are at a rudimentary level.”
Nelson said that because the company had a few “good years” before the pandemic hit, it had some savings. Approximately $ 25,000 can be used for the project. The donors have also been kind, but the company is set to raise about $ 75,000 more.
“We know people are careful with their spending and have also had a hard time during the pandemic,” he said.
Nelson said that for those who are concerned the fairground is unsafe, 99.5% are “very safe.” Summer events will take place and the fair will continue as usual, as well as fairs for years to come.
“It’s only a small area on the outskirts that’s struggling,” he said, “but it’s a very costly problem that our nonprofit needs help with.”
To donate to help repair the slope, send a check to Franklin County Agricultural Society / Franklin County Fair, PO Box 564, Greenfield, MA 01302. Write “Mudslide Donation” on the memo line.
Contact Anita Fritz at 413-772-9591 or [email protected]