UPDATE – May 2020
The Hickory Ridge Golf Course surrounds a 1.4 mile stretch of the Fort River, so the Town of Amherst’s offer to purchase the property is a critical in preserving and protecting that resource. The Town Council appropriated $1 million for the project, which will pay for the property, fund needed maintenance and planning. Town Manager Paul Bockelman signed a purchase and sale agreement with the owners, Applied Golf of Millstone, NJ, for 149 acres of property.
As part of the sale, Applied Golf will retain 26 acres and construct a solar farm on that property. The company is moving forward with the project but is not yet approved for inclusion in the State’s SMART solar program, although a decision is expected soon. In the interim the Town is completing its due diligence on the purchase, including environmental site assessment (also known as a 21E). The owners are arranging for a full survey of the property.
PROJECT SUMMARY – JANUARY 2020
Background: Hickory Ridge is a private golf club in the heart of the Fort River watershed in South Amherst. Due to declining membership and budget shortfalls, the current owner is interested in selling the property. The Town of Amherst, after a year of discussion with the owner and regional partners, has entered into a purchase and sale agreement to buy the property and plans to use most of the land for conservation.
Here are some questions that you might have about the project:
Will any of the 149 acres be developed?
Yes. The purchase and sale agreement allows for a 20-40 year lease of 25 acres of the property to install solar energy collection panels. Also, there are roughly 8 acres along West Pomeroy Lane, including the golf club’s existing buildings, that will be considered for possible other uses.
How much will this project cost?
The town intends to make this purchase “revenue neutral”. This means that up front and operational costs are made up for with revenue generated from the property. The purchase price agreed to is $520,000. Future revenue sources include: (1) PILOT payments from the solar development that will range from approximately $45-$60,000 annually; (2) the town may sell up to 8 acres along West Pomeroy Lane for residential or commercial development, with a goal of furthering the commercial density at Pomeroy Corners.
All questions about future use of the property will be considered through a community master planning process with town staff, committee and boards, and local and regional stakeholders (that’s us, watershed neighbors).
What is the conservation value of the property?
Access to natural spaces. Hickory Ridge borders two large neighborhoods that currently lack good access to nature: Orchard Valley, and East Hadley Road complexes (Brook, Mill, Boulders, South Point). Trails through the property would allow for walking, bike riding, and access to fishing and swimming. Furthermore, trails could connect neighborhoods off East Hadley Road to Crocker Farm Elementary School and Pomeroy Village Center.
Ecological benefits. The Fort River winds 1.4 miles lazily through the Hickory Ridge property, presenting a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to restore a huge reach of the river. Concentrated efforts to restore and protect the riverbank would enhance the health of the entire ecosystem and species living it, including endangered species like the dwarf wedgemussel and wood turtle. The ecology of the river would benefit immensely from restored riverbanks and increased vegetative cover along its course.
Have other questions about the project?
Email us at email@example.com, and we’ll see what can do to find an answer!
A flooded bridge at Hickory Ridge hints at the opportunity to restore floodplain environments there. These areas can reduce downstream flooding, improve water quality, and foster unique and valuable ecosystems.