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Historical Commission gathering input on scenic road bylaw

Date: 12/29/2008

By Courtney Llewellyn

Reminder Assistant Editor

HAMPDEN The Hampden Historical Commission wants to know if residents are interested in approving Massachusetts General Law Chapter 40, Section 15C a bylaw which would designate and protect scenic roads in the town.

Connie Witt, chair of the Hampden Historical Commission, is currently gathering opinions from residents whether they would like to see this article included in the warrant for the Annual Town Meeting taking place in April.

"I have had some feedback," Witt said. She sent a letter to the editor of the Wilbraham Times a few weeks ago to alert people to her mission. "Most of the feedback has been positive ... [The public] wants to maintain the rural atmosphere of the town. This [bylaw] would help to accomplish that."

The scenic road designation states that "[u]pon recommendation or request of the planning board, conservation commission or historical commission of any city or town, such city or town may designate any road in said city or town, other than a numbered route or state highway as a scenic road.

"After a road has been designated as a scenic road any repair, maintenance, reconstruction, or paving work done with respect thereto shall not involve or include the cutting or removal of trees, or the tearing down or destruction of stone walls, or portions thereof, except with the prior written consent of the planning board."

"Some people think every road in Hampden is scenic," Witt told Reminder Publications. She added that since there are no state highways running through the town, conceivably, every road could be protected by the scenic road bylaw.

If the approval of this bylaw does take place, Witt said she believes the first roads to be designated at scenic would include those that continue in from Wilbraham, a community that already enforces the bylaw. These roads would include Wilbraham Road in Hampden, a continuation of Main Street in Wilbraham, and Glendale Road.

"There would be a continuity in the way you visualize the road," she said.

Witt continued that other road suggestions have already been made, including Ames, Scantic, South and Chapin roads.

"The bylaw ensures the public has some control over the trees that belong to them," Witt stated.

Earlier this year, a utility company cut down nearly 400 trees in town so it could work on power lines. Most of these trees were public shade trees, according to Witt.

Chapter 87 of the Massachusetts General Laws states that the violation of the bylaw concerning the preservation of shade trees "shall be punished by forfeiture of not more than five hundred dollars to the use of the city or town." The utility company was not charged any fines, but Witt wants to make sure something like this doesn't happen again in Hampden.

Anyone interested in sharing his or her opinion on the scenic road bylaw in encouraged to contact Witt, either by telephone at 566-8327 or by e-mail at