At the Charrette, South Deerfield’s Residents Dream of What Could Be

South Deerfield resident Ken Schoen talks with a planner about the village.
South Deerfield resident Ken Schoen talks with a planner about the village at the charrette.

My neighbors and I gathered again to hear experts talk about the livability of our village, South Deerfield, and show us some scenarios of what could be and what they think would make the town more pedestrian friendly. A consultant showed a fast-paced slide show that showed all of the ways people enter South Deerfield, and how much traffic each road has, along with some photos from the olden days.

One elderly woman pointed to the maps and said that in the former location of the GoNOMAD Cafe there was once an A&P.  Across the street in the space where Jerry’s Place is now, was the Cumberland Farms.

After the slide show, we all broke up into groups and gathered around color photos of several aerial views of the village, in varying degrees of detail. “What we really need is a grocery store, a real place where you can shop. Now we have no choice but to drive to Greenfield, Northampton, or Hadley,” said one man.  Many in the group lamented about our flirtation with Atkins Farms, which almost built a store in South Deerfield a few years ago.  Today instead of a store like that, we have  seasonal ice cream farm market.

The point of contention at all of the different map tables was the pesky triangle between Park Street and Sugarloaf. It’s the tiny town common now, and many felt that the fork you see as you approach the center of town and have to choose one road or the other should be changed. All of the models that the planners showed did something about this–either placing an island just before Park Street to separate cars, or blocking it off altogether and making the common bigger.

But as so often happens, there was a representative from the other side, and he was vocal about his opposition to closing this road. He’s Jim Reid, the dentist who owns the building right across from the common. There’s always room for many points of view in these charrettes, in fact that’s the point.

The consultants said that one of the big draws of the village besides Yankee Candle was Mount Sugarloaf Reservation. But like Yankee, few of the hikers who go up the mountain turn right and go up into the village. There’s no sign, nothing to point them to come see our stores and restaurants.  The same thing, we agreed, should be out on Route 5&10. Those YCI shoppers need to know that there’s a compact little village back behind those railroad tracks.

The charrette continues Friday and Saturday at town hall, so if you have any thoughts, come by and add your notes to the maps!