|Pittsfield Brainstorms Future of Parks and Open Spaces|
|By Andy McKeever, iBerkshires Staff|
02:17AM / Wednesday, March 22, 2017
|Residents were asked to help rank the various ideas, goals, and objectives to help with the crafting of the plan.|
BRPC Planner Lauren Gaherty outlined exactly how much open space and recreation space the city has and why it is important.
PITTSFIELD, Mass. — Expand the skate park. Add lights to Clapp Park. Fix the drainage at the old beach at Pontoosuc Lake. More benches at Burbank.
And the list goes on.
These are some of 43 ideas thrown out by more than 50 residents Tuesday night to help the city craft a new parks and open space plan.
The Parks Commission held a public hearing as it works toward the new plan. Those ideas will be consolidated and crafted into a bold vision to guide the next seven years.
"We are trying to be creative. We are trying to meet your needs," said Parks and Open Spaces Manager James McGrath. "At the end of the day, we are trying to build the best and most robust park system in Massachusetts."
The initial plan was adopted in 2009 and is required for the city to be eligible for park improvement grant programs. It expires after seven years so now, with the current plan out of date, the commission is looking to adopt a new one. The plan "sets a vision for how the city protects open space," McGrath said.
And it does have tangible results. The department took in a lot of the ideas in 2009 and turned them into action. McGrath listed some of the accomplishments that include establishing a right-to-farm bylaw, improvements to Wahconah Park, renovating the First Street Common, protecting cultural activities in parks, relocating the skate park to East Street, adding lights to the Doyle Complex, and designating a staff member to be responsible for natural resources.
Plus there were accomplishments from active citizens to restore monuments, take on a project to rename and improve Buddy Pellerin Field at Clapp Park, and the bike and skate community helping with the skate park.
All of those ideas stemmed from the former plan and now it is time to refocus and start another push for wanted park projects.
"As we move into a new era, a new vision, and an updated plan we are going to continue to need your involvement," McGrath told the crowd.
According to Berkshire Regional Planning Commission Planner Lauren Gaherty, the city owns some 1,605 acres of open space lands. She said 46 percent of the city is forest land, 21 percent is residential, 6 percent is commercial and industrial, 10 percent is water, 10 percent is agriculture, and 3 percent is for recreation.
The open space and recreational areas are vast and includes habitats for rare species and spaces for recreation. The city manages 41 different parks — the largest being the Pittsfield State Forest, October Mountain, The Boulders, Canoe MEadows, Brattlebrook Park, Springside, Kirvin, and Burbank — two lakes, and numerous other conservation areas
"Even though you are in an urban area, you are lucky because there is a lot of open space," Gaherty said. "The city actually owns a lot of open spaces for you to recreate on, play sports on."
Gaherty says surveys have shown that scenic beauty was the No. 2 reason why people choose to live in Pittsfield, the No. 1 being to be with family. The management of open spaces is important to residents.
The public outreach session was well attended.
The commission and BRPC crafted goals and objectives to manage the open spaces. But, it wants to make sure the public has input on how to make it better. That's what Tuesday's meeting was about. After shouting out specific ideas for parks, the group was then asked to place stickers on goals, objectives, and those specific ideas to help rank them in priority.
Now BRPC is going to take those boards and review what rises to the top, and what is actually doable. That will be crafted into the new plan and presented to the public again. In June, the plan will go before the Parks Commission for adoption. That plan will focus the attention of the work of city officials in the coming years.
"We are really going to be thoughtful about these ideas," McGrath said. "There is a real diversity of age, interest, background and experience."
The list of specific ideas shouted out by the community includes: outdoor ice skating; dog parks; Phase 2 of the skate park; Lakewood and Deming basketball court resurfacing; bike trail from East Street to the Ashuwillticook Rail Trail; connecting all parks with trails; fixing drainage at Pontoosuc; additional outdoor recreation facilities for the handicapped; managing invasive species in lakes; a community boat house at Controy Park; parking at the Bakerville Conservation Area; renovating Springside House; expanding Ray Crow Park; fixing the dam at Wild Acres; more river access; improving the aesthetics and completing a trail at Silver Lake; a bike sharing program in the parks; fixing Springside Pond; more parking on the Springside Avenue side of Springside Park; signage for river access points; electronic field use registration; security; more bathroom access; continuing the Riverway project on Dewey Avenue; better trash management; signage telling of park history; a baseball museum; a food forest; community composting; more benches at Burbank Park; a school age community park cleanup program; getting rid of the cistern in Springside Park; additional dog waste disposal cans; public spaces on Tyler Street; refinishing the Crane Park inline skating rink; create rapids in the river for children to essentially surf on; pump tracks or skills tracks for mountain biking; bike racks, and wireless zones in parks.