BOSTON -- When the chairman of the Board of Selectmen from the town of 'Ripton' offered his community as the site for a controversial Air Force communications center, officials were puzzled -- there is no such town.
'I think this is some kind of shindig,' said Richard Cronin, director of the state Division of Fisheries and Wildlife. 'It's somebody who's very clever. Somewhere, somebody very cleverly designed a town.'
A letter dated July 9, addressed to Maj. Kenneth Small at Bolling Air Force Base and signed 'Robbins Phillips, chairman of the Ripton Board of Selectman,' offered the town for the facility.
The offer attracted interest because the Air Force had run into strong opposition from residents of the western Massachusetts town of Hawley, who said the facility's antenna towers would ruin the area's rural atmosphere.
'Physiographically, Ripton, like Hawley, lies along a ridge which varies in elevation from about 1,900 to 2,200 feet above sea level,' the letter stated, adding that the towers would provide nesting sites for eagles.
But after checking maps, ZIP code directories, telephone listings and state election listings, no such town could be found, the Boston Globe reported today.
The letter, postmarked in Pittsfield and Springfield, did not include a telephone number or return address. Copies of the letter, which said the town was established in 1767, were mailed to several state and local officials.
'I'm not familiar with the community myself,' said Pat Larkin, an aide to Rep. Silvio O. Conte, R-Mass., whose district would include the town.
'I've checked the congressional directory. I'm not sure exactly where they are. I'd be embarrassed to find that it was in our own district. But I've never heard of it,' Larkin said.
The letter wasn't the first time 'Ripton' had come up.
Cronin said he received a letter postmarked in Lee or Pittsfield from the 'Ripton Board of Selectman' about two years ago, complaining that his division should clean up a pond in Ripton.
The town also showed up on a first draft of the 1986 state budget, according to Walter Bickford, commissioner of the state Department of Fisheries, Wildlife and Recreation.
Bickford said he planned to visit the town until he tried to find it on a map and could not.
'When we received a copy of the letter, the popular question that went around the room for a while was, 'Where is Ripton?,'' said Edward Kohn of Plainfield, a member of the a citizens' group opposing the Air Force project.
'And we're still looking.'