Wednesday, October 21, 2009

The Daily Hampshire Gazette Supports Hadley's inclusion on the WMF Watch

Yesterday's leading opinion piece from the editorial board of the Daily Hampshire Gazette was a wonderfully well-written piece about Hadley's inclusion on the World Monuments Fund's 2010 Watch list of endangered heritage sites.

I don't think I can produce the piece verbatim here because of copyright laws, but here are some excerpts:

Hadley has long been known for its productive farmland and perhaps less for its history, though it can make a few claims on the latter subject. For one, the town is the birthplace of Civil War general Joseph Hooker, whose Union forces were trounced at the Battle of Chancellorsville in 1863. And two regicides from the English Civil War, William Goffe and Edward Whalley, hid in colonial Hadley in the 17th century, giving birth to the "Angel of Hadley" legend in which Goffe allegedly emerged from hiding to help save the settlement from an Indian attack in 1675.

But recently, news arrived that seemed to merge Hadley's farmland and its history. The World Monuments Fund, a private organization dedicated to saving landmarks around the world, included a section of Hadley on a list of 93 sites in 47 countries it believes need to be preserved. The New York-based group cited the "cultural landscape of Hadley, Mass." as a value that deserves protection...

...A program coordinator for the World Monuments Fund told the Gazette the organization wants to work with local land preservation groups to prevent the Great Meadow from being developed, "not to museum-ify it, but to find out how it can be preserved as farmland."

At first glance, the Great Meadow's inclusion in the group's list seems curious, seeing as many if not most of the landmarks listed date back hundreds, even thousands of years. For example, the list includes Peru's famous Incan ruins, Machu Picchu, as well as a medieval Spanish town, castle ruins in Uzbekistan over 1,300 years old and ancient petroglyphs in Pakistan...

...Though the history of European settlement in this country can't compete with the longevity of many places around the globe, that doesn't disqualify sites such as the Great Meadow from consideration as a place of historic and cultural value. If anything, the inclusion of the Hadley land on the World Monuments Fund list corroborates what many local land preservationists have said for years: It's vital to protect farmland and open space in the Valley...

...There does not appear to be any immediate threat to development in the Great Meadow, even though much of the land is zoned for it. We hope this kind of national recognition will aid local conservation groups such as the Kestrel Trust - which helped protect some of the Great Meadow - attract more resources for preserving additional acreage.

The Great Meadow and Machu Picchu on the same list? If that might help preserve a historic part of Hadley and, more importantly, some first-rate farmland, why not?

Thank you, Daily Hampshire Gazette!

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