Who knew learning about owls could be such a hoot?

Tuesday, February 27, 2018

What’s not to like about the nature talks on owls presented by David Small of the Athol Bird and Nature Club?

Nearly 50 parents, students, siblings, family and friends, ranging from age 1 to 90, recently gathered for a program that featured Small, who shared some of his knowledge about owls using two owl specimens from the club’s collection. He used his phone to play the sounds of the most common owls, as well as the owls the group was hoping to hear later that day.

Then, everyone bundled up and with Small leading the way, headed off to some nearby fields and woods to hear the real thing. What a memorable way to experience outdoors in the winter.

In his memory

The Athol selectmen this week called for a moment of silence at the beginning of their meeting to remember George Whipps, a longtime business owner in town and an advisory board member for the Salvation Army, who died recently.

We should do the same for such an unselfish man.

Accessible grants

We’re hoping that Petersham will soon have good luck landing a grant to make its town hall more accessible.

Even though its latest application to the state has been denied, the town has another chance at a grant for a platform lift at Town Hall.

Selectman Henry Woolsey reported recently that the Massachusetts Office on Disability informed the town it was not going to receive a grant because its “homegrown” Americans with Disabilities Act access plan, wasn’t adequate to support the application. But the good news is that the agency will provide $4,000 to $6,000 needed to hire a consultant to produce a more suitable and up-to-date access plan. Presumably, that will improve the town’s chances of getting a grant.

The town set aside $47,000 for a ramp at town hall, which would have to be re-allocated by a town meeting vote to be used for a lift. A state grant would certainly help the project along.

Healthy relationships

Athol-Royalston Middle School guidance counselors Kathy Begin and Joseph Quinton recently coordinated the school’s Dating Violence Prevention program for eighth-graders — providing valuable lessons in today’s “Me Too” world.

The teachers worked with students, teaching them about different types of abuse and warning signs of an abusive relationship.

The students attended a highly interactive theatrical presentation that encourages bystander intervention, and shows how bystanders and friends can play an important role in preventing abuse. Following the performance, the three actors provided an interactive discussion to help reinforce the educational points of the play.

Skating, past and future

A recent story about two young skateboarders wishing for the return of a skate park had a touch of melancholy to it.

It’s been about six years since the Silver Lake Park hosted a skateboarding facility, which fell into disrepair and eventually was dismantled. But there hasn’t been a critical mass of interest and support, financial and otherwise, to resurrect a skate park here — at least, not yet. The town has had lots of other priorities in recent years, but that doesn’t mean there will never be another skate park.

Fire dangers

House fires rarely come under the heading of good news, but the vacant house that burned in Orange this past week at least didn’t present really bad news.

The two-story, wood-frame house was fully involved when Orange Fire Department arrived on Congress Street shortly after 2 a.m. Thursday.

While there was no threat to occupants, which is a good thing, fires like these always pose hazards to the firefighters, who in this case busied themselves protecting the nearby homes that were occupied.

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