Skip to main content

Ashland - Local Town Pages

Select Board donates “up to $5,000” to replace Nyanza Project glass panels

Fundraising is now taking place to replace the multi-colored glass panels in the original canopy structure with a material stronger than glass . Source:

By Theresa Knapp

The Select Board has approved a donation of “up to $5,000” from its gift account to the Ashland Nyanza Memorial to replace multi-colored panels with a material that is “more than plexiglass but it’s not glass.” 

Town Manager Michael Herbert presented the request to the Select Board at its meeting on Aug. 16. He described the memorial as “a solemn reminder of the past and the history of Nyanza and the damage inflicted upon the community in terms of lives lost.”

According to, “Nyanza is a Superfund Site in the middle of Ashland Massachusetts, it was listed as one of the first ten sites upon the founding of the EPA’s Superfund Program in the early 1980’s.  The Superfund site is named after the now defunct Nyanza Chemical and Dye Company, the last company to operate on the land from 1965 until its closing in 1978 as a dye manufacture. Chemicals released from the Nyanza Color Plant into Ashland’s groundwater was the direct cause of a cluster of rare, deadly cancers in several of Ashland’s youth. Kevin Kane was one of  them.  When Kevin was diagnosed with cancer, he knew the adjacency of ballfields to the Nyanza Chemical plant was the cause. He spent the last months of his life advocating for local and state officials to study the site and [its] relationship [to] the cluster of cancers in Ashland.” 

The project includes a healing garden with an open-air canopy-style structure that has multi-colored “glass” panels that reflect sunlight around the site. There was some vandalism in recent years which is now being addressed.   

“What’s happening now is a refresh of it and, essentially, it is going to be landscaped around the memorial site itself, and then an ADA-accessible trail will be built coming from the middle school,” said Herbert, noting the funding sources for that phase included monetary donations for the plants, and Keefe Tech volunteering the design and installation of the plants. 

Now, they are fundraising to replace the multi-colored panels with a similar look but a different material. 

“What we’re looking at doing now is looking at getting money for the replacement of those panels that were glass at the time, of all different colors, [but] they’re going to be a much more durable material, not glass - it’s more than plexiglass but it’s not glass,” said Herbert. 

Select Board member Yolanda Greaves said, “It was so sad. I remember when I heard about it being damaged and it was glass and vandalized, so to be able to support this and make it a more durable memorial, I think is a great idea. It’s a great way to memorialize what our community has gone through.”