On July 26, Ward 3 City Council candidate Owen Freeman-Daniels published “Keep public access to public lands” on his campaign website. Quoting from his appearance on the Bill Newman radio program, Freeman-Daniels writes,
“The Meadows is a really tough issue. I think it has to do with– there’s a mix there. There’s the public who use the public roads there. Then there are a bunch of roads that are in the Meadows that aren’t public roads that have been basically plowed by the farmers in order for them to allow greater access to their own land. Now, there are no street signs down in the Meadows. So, to the average respectful public user who just wants to take a walk down there, ride their bike, or maybe go jogging or take their dog, there’s no distinction for them between the public roads (which they have a public right to use) and sort-of the ‘private ways’… It’s very hard to tell.Today, the Northampton Meadows Agricultural Association issued an open letter to Freeman-Daniels:
“There’s also a mix between private and public land down there. Some of it is owned by the city, some owned by the state, and some by the federal government… and some by farmers, and some by non-farmers or people who rent out their land to farmers. The mixture of ownership down there also makes it difficult to police trespassing and so on especially because it’s very hard to find your way around in the Meadows… I was part of the Ward 3 Association’s efforts to establish a Meadows Watch, and when you talk to the police, they even have a hard time describing where incidents were…
“The issue is that I feel as though the legitimate public ways in the Meadows, and the publicly owned space, is really valuable to many of the residents of Ward 3 and to many of the people in Northampton. It doesn’t take long to get out of your neighborhood and be in the Meadows; you’re in ‘big sky’ country– it’s a phenomenal experience to be out there– and for those of us who are relatively respectful about it, I don’t think there’s any real concern.
“I think the issue between the two of us is that I want to keep the Meadows as open and accessible as possible, and I think my opponent, he tilts more towards protecting the land rights of the farmers, even though there’s public roads. I think he really wants to restrict or discourage public use of even those public ways.”
NMAA Letter to Freeman Daniels – July 28, 2011