West Springfield Hosts Workshop to Battle Climate Change


Gabrielle Daley

There was a MVP meeting in West Springfield. The MVP state program helps prepare towns for the effects of climate change.

Gabrielle Daley, Editor-In-Chief

As of January 31, 2020, the Senate of Massachusetts approved a series of bills that will dramatically reduce the state’s greenhouse gas emissions over the next decade. The state’s legislation is aiming to reach “net-zero” emissions by 2050, according to the Daily Hampshire Gazette. Massachusetts has identified climate change as a dangerous issue and wants to reduce its effects such as flooding, increased temperature, extreme weather, and increased rainfall.

One way that the state legislature is trying to adequately prepare its communities for the effects of climate change is by involving towns and cities to their “Municipal Vulnerability Preparedness (MVP) Program. According to Mass.gov, this program “provides support for cities and towns in the state to plan for climate change resilience and implementing priority projects.” There are a number of steps and meetings that a town or city must go through to become an official MVP community and receive MVP Action grants to implement projects that will help the town prepare for disasters. 

On January 23, 2019, West Springfield had its first MVP workshop to become a certified MVP community. Over twenty people were involved in this meeting including an MVP official from the state, a group of from the Pioneer Valley Planning Commission, which is a group currently working to mitigate the effects of climate change in the region, the fire chief, DPW officials, members of the Tree Committee and many more.

Gabrielle Daley
Each of the groups sorted through all of West Springfield’s disadvantages and advantages during a climate crisis.

Everyone who attended broke into three groups. Each group looked at the demographics and geographics of West Springfield, for example, who in the town is most vulnerable when it comes to weather changes, what infrastructure needed to be updated, and what parts of the town are prone to flood. They debated where people could take shelter and what could be done to prepare West Side for an increase in immigrants from around the world who will be affected by climate change. The groups sorted through the town’s advantages and disadvantages when it came to resources and infrastructure. “Identifying the town’s vulnerabilities and concerns along with its robustness and strengths pertaining to infrastructure and in regards to natural disasters and/or emergencies was a unique experience.  Just discussing getting an emergency message out to the town’s families that speak one of 30+ languages other than English was eye-opening,” said Mr. Steve Svec, a science teacher at the high school who attended.

Allyson Manuel, the town planner who attended the meeting, continued, “I am really pleased to be participating in the MVP program because it focuses on being proactive and minimizing the community’s vulnerability to things like floods, power loss, drought, etc. The benefit of preparing for and adapting to climate-related impacts is many-fold. There is the ultimate benefit of being less likely to experience catastrophic losses during situations such as severe weather events, and then there are the associated benefits such as protecting more open space and improving the overall quality of life in the community.” 

The whole group at the workshop eventually voted on the three top priorities they wanted to tackle out of all of their ideas. Their three top priorities were increasing communication within the town’s communities to prepare for climate change, creating a tree management plan so the trees in the town survive and the town can plant more, and implementing a tax on people based on how much hardscape they have on their property to encourage creating permeable surfaces that could reduce a flood. By the spring, West Springfield should become an MVP community and receive grants from the state to implement these projects in the future in order to protect the town’s residents and mitigate the effects of increasing local temperatures.