A “monument” to a reported UFO sighting near the covered bridge has been relocated after an outpouring of opposition from town residents and the chairman of the Historic Commission.
The 5,000-pound monument was moved on Friday afternoon away from the bridge and off town property about 50 feet to the east, Nadine Hawver, who chairs the Board of Selectmen, told The View.
The UFO monument now resides on the property of Louis Aragi, who owns Pine Island Farm. Hawver said while the large concrete slab is now on private property, the town does have a right of way in that area and it’s possible the monument is now in the right of way, though that should not pose a problem.
The move came after meetings with town officials and the owner of the monument, Thomas Reed, who had placed the slab on town property after conferring with town officials. Its placement and appearance caused an outcry of opposition. About two weeks ago, it was defaced with graffiti.
In an Aug. 26 ceremony, Reed and a group of supporters gathered at the covered bridge to commemorate an event that occurred Sept. 1, 1969, when Reed and others say they saw a UFO near the site in Sheffield. The dedication of the monument was part of that event.
For his part, Reed insisted in an email exchange that the monument was originally placed on private property to begin with, but that the spot was still in a town right-of-way, which should not have been a problem.
Reed says he was told by a female town employee, whose name he could not recall, that he could place the monument in the original spot. That assertion is confirmed by Nick Dayal, a contributing writer for The View who was in Town Hall on another assignment.
“With that said, the issue for us was never working with the town to move it,” Reed said. “We can all change our minds, but it was the harsh statements declaring the participants involved never obtained the okay.”
The town’s position is that Reed did not receive permission and that only the Board of Selectmen had the authority to issue it anyway.
“There was no permission given,” Hawver said. “There was a discussion here at Town Hall with town employees who had no authority and did not provide any permission for the monument to be placed.”
“As I previously stated, all involved in this monument demonstrated the highest regard for Sheffield’s local government, by means of appropriate inquires,” Reed explained.
As for the UFO monument’s ungainly appearance, Reed said it is unfinished because he had to get it ready in a hurry for a television crew that was filming the dedication ceremony.
Reed plans to “brick in” the monument and wants to place a decorative bench and solar light near it. And there is talk of a movie about the episode.
“This is a positive for the area,’ said Reed, a former resident of Sheffield and Great Barrington who now lives in Tennessee. “A movie could offer wonderful opportunities for these local children and their families. A film could offer something for them that they may not have had the chance experience otherwise. It may also bring revenue and distinction to Sheffield.”
Meanwhile, those whose job it is to steward Sheffield’s history, were not pleased with the monument.
“We’re very upset about it,” said Dennis Sears, who chairs the town’s Historical Commission.
“Everyone’s unhappy. I’m absolutely incensed that it impinges on one of our landmarks, the covered bridge.”
Sears said he first noticed the monument, which he described as “the junkiest piece of crap I’ve ever seen,” while riding his bicycle. The area near the covered bridge off Route 7 north of downtown functions as a scenic town park. Residents can often be seen walking their dogs or launching kayaks in the Housatonic River. The historic bridge on Covered Bridge Lane was built in 1832, burned in a fire in the 1990s and was subsequently rebuilt to carry pedestrian traffic only.
“This just makes us all look like a bunch of wackadoodles,” said one man who declined to be identified and was taking a walk on Covered Bridge Lane near the monument Tuesday morning.
“It’s a nice park,” added Sears. “We don’t need this kind of crap.”
Sears emphasized that he was speaking on behalf of the Historical Commission and not the Sheffield Historical Society, where he also sits on the board of directors. The society’s director, Paul O’Brien, could not be reached for comment but Catherine Miller, who presided over the society for several years in the 80s and 90s, described Reed’s monument as “blight on the landscape.”