Nolumbeka Project seeks White Ash Swamp with rezoning

By MARY BYRNE

Staff Writer

Published: 07-19-2023 2:59 PM

GREENFIELD — In the month since City Council voted to rezone a portion of the French King Highway, the fate of White Ash Swamp — a 10-acre portion of land included in the rezoning — remains in limbo as historical preservationists continue to push for the land to be transferred to the Nolumbeka Project.

“There’s no reason why this could not be deeded over,” said David Brule, president of the Nolumbeka Project. “It’s got spiritual value for Natives. ... It’s an incredibly rich, Indigenous, spiritual place.”

The property in question, Brule said, is not only protected by its status as wetlands but is the likely location of human remains, particularly victims of the Battle of Great Falls in 1676.

“Everybody has said it’s undevelopable,” he said.

The plan to rezone the land along the French King Highway, which was the subject of a joint public hearing by the Economic Development Committee and Planning Board in May, involves rezoning six parcels over 40.98 acres from General Commercial, which provides for mixed retail, to Planned Industry, which is meant for manufacturing and industrial development. City Council voted to approve the change on June 21.

Though originally owned by Mackin Construction Co., the parcel that includes White Ash Swamp is now under the ownership of Ceruzzi Holdings (Greenfield Property Development Inc.).

In an email to Brule, dated May 18, Ceruzzi Holdings President Arthur Hooper wrote that he hopes “we can accommodate your desires.”

“The property is being evaluated for sale by the creditors of the Ceruzzi estate,” Hooper wrote. “There is also a mortgage on this property that will have to be dealt with.”

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Attempts to contact Hooper were unsuccessful as of Wednesday afternoon.

Conversations relating to this area along the French King Highway date back to the 1960s, when amateur archaeologist George Nelson observed that sand and gravel were being removed from a property on the other side of Route 2 — land that was originally targeted for the construction of a Walmart — to fill in White Ash Swamp. According to Brule, Native American burials were found there during gravel excavations.

In 2001, the Friends of Wissatinnewag formed to buy the 61 acres of land across Route 2. The land was later transferred to the Nolumbeka Project in 2013.

Brule explained that the Friends would like to see the area overseen by the Nolumbeka Project extended to include White Ash Swamp. He said promises had been made to that effect over the years, with no success.

“This has to stay … natural,” Brule said. “Tribal people believe in the spirit of the person and they would definitely want to conduct ceremonies.”

Reporter Mary Byrne can be reached at mbyrne@recorder.com or 413-930-4429. Twitter: @MaryEByrne.

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