A newly formed subcommittee of the Amherst Conservation Commission—Puffer’s Pond 2020—is planning for the future of one of Amherst’s most beloved, and heavily-used, destinations. Town Manager Larry Shaffer says, “Puffer’s Pond is one of the crown jewels of Amherst. Its presentation and management is of the highest priority”.
Puffer’s Pond, which once provided waterpower for a series of mills and industrial activity, has since 1960’s been the centerpiece of a conservation and recreation greenway stretching along the Cushman Brook/Mill River corridor in north Amherst. The pond, which is surrounded by preserved land, hiking trails that meander along the Mill River and Cushman Brook, and is within a short walk of the Mill River Recreation Area and Cherry Hill Golf Course, attracts a diversity of interests and people from Amherst, nearby communities and across the region. The sheer volume of residents, students, and general public who use Puffer’s Pond and adjacent conservation areas during the warmer months transforms a tranquil refuge into a frenzy of beachgoers, sunbathers, kayakers, hikers, dog walkers and more. Impacts on the landscape are evident in trail erosion, beach degradation, trampled understory plants, litter, and dog waste. With crowds come social problems and a need for police and emergency medical responses. At the same time, increasing budget constraints are reducing the Town’s ability to manage crowds and provide maintenance and safety. This is not a new problem. The Amherst Bulletin featured Puffer’s Pond in a July, 2007 article entitled “O, Puffer’s, are we loving you to an early grave?”
The task of Puffer’s Pond 2020 is to find ways to ensure that the pond and conservation areas can be enjoyed for years to come. According to north Amherst resident Elisabeth Hamin, the Conservation Commission member who will chair the subcommittee: “Puffer’s Pond and the surrounding areas are fantastic assets for the people and the wildlife of this community. We will need to be creative and considerate to assure that it stays the place we love long into the future.” She and the subcommittee will consider options for the use, restoration, beautification, and preservation of Puffer’s Pond and surrounding conservation areas, including the Mill River Recreation Area. The subcommittee will also study various aspects of the pond itself, such as its capacity to meet conservation and recreation demands, ecological impacts from overuse, and water quality issues.
The subcommittees’ recommendations will be presented to the Conservation Commission in the form of a final report and recommended management plan. This management plan for Puffer’s Pond and surrounding conservation areas will build on research and public outreach conducted during the recent Master Planning process, and will involve citizen input with forums and events yet to come. Site visits, public meeting & workshops, and surveys will be used to assess current conditions of the pond area, and help determine appropriate resolutions and future actions.
The Puffer’s Pond 2020 subcommittee will be composed of up to eleven (11) voting members appointed by the Conservation Commission for a one-year term. Three members will represent existing boards, with one member from the Select Board, one from the Planning Board and one from the LSSE Commission. Prospective at-large members must be residents of Amherst, and those interested in working with an enthusiastic committee focusing on Puffer’s Pond should submit a Citizen Activity Form (CAF) in the Town Manager’s Office on the mezzanine level of Town Hall or online.