Ponders Hollow plan in process

WESTFIELD – City officials will begin to conduct public hearings next spring to determine the future use of the Ponders Hollow property recently transferred to the control of the city’s Park & Recreation Commission.
Mayor Daniel M. Knapik said this morning that a requirement of the National Park Service approval of the land transfer is that the city, during the next three years, perform a “community-wide needs assessment for recreational facilities.
“The Park & Recreation Commission and the Community Development Department will begin to hold public hearing, probably next spring, to determine the future recreational use of that property,” Knapik said.
Knapik said that any future use will include “amenities” to support that use.
“There would be infrastructure improvements, sidewalks, parking, upgrading the roadway to make is accessible as possible,” Knapik said.
The city, which owns about 25 percent of the Little River Levee will also have to take steps to develop a comprehensive maintenance plan.
“In the short term, we need to determine what needs to be done to maintain the levee on that property. It’s gone into quite a state of disrepair,” Knapik said. “Mayor Michael O’Connell signed a letter accepting responsibility for maintaining the levee.”
A major part of the comprehensive maintainance plan will be to take ownership of the 75 percent of the levee now under private ownership.
“That will be a long legal process because the city will have to perform appraisals with the private land owners to secure that land, a process involving the City Council for easements and acquiring the land,” Knapik said.
The city is also in the process of expanding the access to other trails from the Columbia Greenway. Work is currently being performed on a section of the Westfield River Levee Walkway multi-use trail.
“Linking other trails to the Columbia Greenway will give the city a more robust trail system,” Knapik said. “So there may be a connection to the Little River Levee, as well. There is a lot of land under conservation in the Ponders Hollow area that could be used for bike and walking trails.
The Ponders Hollow property now controlled by the Park & Recreation Commission could be used for non-traditional recreation.
“There are a lot of groups looking for different kinds of facilities. The city needs more football fields, but there is also a desire by some people for a Frisbee field, and an area for a more robust skate park, a rest area off the Columbia Greenway with amenities,” Knapik said. “That will be determined through the community-wide needs assessment for recreational facilities.

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