Northampton: Our home away from home

This is a photo- and video-essay about our first two days of the fellowship in Northampton, Massachusetts. It’s such an enthralling feeling to immerse in a city that makes an effort to prioritise the walking and cycling public over cars. It’s also a rare treat to use trails that are protected from the dangers of highways. I like calling it the “Trail City.”

 

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It’s 35 miles (or 56 kilometers) from the Hartford Springfield Airport to the City of Northampton. On Uber, that’s about $58. (We took the blue route.)

 

The winter season is transitioning to spring, so most trees had no leaves. It’s still very scenic, though. It also ranges from 8 to 12 degrees, with sunny and dreary days competing everyday, so we have to adjust to how it goes in the northern hemisphere. This short video below shows what it looked like traveling to Northampton.

 

Our home away from home: Elm Street

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Elm Street, where we live, pretty much looks like this. It’s a mix of big, painted and wooden houses and brick houses. Some areas of the city really show how houses are located so far apart, that you would need to drive cars to get to other places (sprawl).

 

The Trails

After plopping our bags in the inn, we went straight to our first activities:

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This is Fai Teeratitayangkul, my “pi sao” (elder sister in Thai). We’re in this whole fellowship together, and we’re both working on more inclusive and greener public spaces. This photo was taken upon arriving at Northampton, where we went straight to a dance class and the bike festivities.

 

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Trails for cycling, walking, and multi-use are not only for pedestrian safety, but also for better health. Cycling is a good way to get exercise into daily activities to combat obesity and other health problems in cities. The connectivity of the rail across cities also shows how collaborations in public infrastructure can be done across local governments. https://www.northamptonma.gov/1346/BikeWalk-Trails

 

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This bike trail was developed separately from cars. This photo shows how it intersects with a motorway.

 

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That’s me, enjoying the safety of the trail. 🙂

 

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The trail is elevated from the highway, showing how connectivity of space is used.

 

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See how pedestrians (with babies and dogs) and cyclists are featured on the elevated trail? It speaks so much about the city.

 

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The culmination of the biking festivities was at this park right outside the brewery-turned indoor park (next photo). This event, called North to East, was put together by a variety of very active volunteer groups, including All Out Adventures, the Appalachian Mountain Club, Manhan Rail Trail, and FNTG.

 

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Breweries were developed across New England, but now there are many which have closed and are already abandoned. We took a toor of how this brewery was rehabilitated to have a residential functions and an indoor park.

 

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This is what the brewery looks like on the second floor: An indoor open space.

 

 

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There are play places, a restaurant, tables, and generally every possible comfortable space to just hang out. The rehabilitation of this space was done on a private capacity.

They grow their own vegetables too! And they’re well-integrated into the interior design.

 

Downtown

This video shows Wayne Feiden, Northampton Director of Planning and Sustainability, touring us around the city.

 

The next photos are elements that I found interesting on the streets:

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This smoke-free park is right beside the city hall. Notice how water from from the streets can flow to the plant box area. There are also movable chairs and tables which have been found to delight people who use them because of the simple fact of movability.

 

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This Happy Frog has an interesting backstory: Given that there are homeless people, others would just give them money directly. The Frog Bank collects all donations which proportionates the assistance to all homeless people in the city.

 

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A pedestrian counter! It works with a micro-eye on those two holes, so the city government can monitor people who use the improved walkway / bike lane.

 

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Northampton is a very liberal city. This pedestrian lane reflects the support for LGBT communities.

 

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This particular wall art always reminds me of how good Northampton is in music and the arts whenever I pass by.

 

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This is the Memorial Hall. So many buildings in the city have a similar facade.

 

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And lastly, St. Mary’s Church, which is closed. When I was asking about Catholic Churches for Sunday mass, Wayne explained how Catholicism has greatly dropped in the New England Cities to a very low rate in the past years.

 

That’s it for first impressions. I’m looking forward to working in the Planning and Sustainability office when we get back to Northampton from Manchester.

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