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State Asking For Input On Outdoor Recreation Plan
Staff Reports,
04:08PM / Thursday, October 05, 2017
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The state is updating its outdoor recreation plan for participation in the National Park Service's Land and Water Conservation Fund program.

PITTSFIELD, Mass. — What type of outdoor recreation would you want to see created?
 
That's what the state is asking right now. The Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs is updating its Statewide Comprehensive Outdoor Recreation Plan, which makes it eligible for about $2 million per year from the federal government. 
 
The National Park Service's Land and Water Conservation Fund program has been ongoing since 1965 and has paid for a number of outdoor recreation projects in the county. Locally, the money has purchased land along the Appalachian Trail and at Onota Lake. North Adams received a quarter of a million dollars to build a park on River Street and monies to improve Noel Field and Windsor Lake. Money has gone toward recreation areas on Laurel Lake in Lee and Lake Mansfield in Great Barrington.
 
State program Coordinator Melissa Cryan said the use of the fund is very broad, from building new parks to purchasing land for conservation to new trails — anything for outdoor recreation.
 
"In the past few years, it has been about $2 million a year we've been receiving," Cryan said.
 
But first, the state needs to update its plan in order to stay eligible. That plan will guide where those funds will be allocated over the next five years. An online survey has been released and will be open for the next week to give the state direction.
 
"It's been open a month and it will be closing on Friday, Oct. 13," Cryan said.
 
The Berkshires hasn't had many projects even apply to the program recently. But, there has been an increased momentum in recent years to build the outdoor recreation economy and improve parks and recreation areas. This program provides a possible federal funding source to help those projects move along.
 
"Berkshire County has a huge chunk of state land and I want to make sure our voices are heard," said Berkshire Regional Planning Commission Senior Planner Lauren Gaherty. 
 
The county has a number of outdoor recreation projects in the works. Gaherty said the survey, and a future public meeting will help show the importance these projects have to the community. She is hoping to set up a public meeting on the statewide recreation plan later in the year.
 
Cryan said the plan needs to be completed by the end of the year and that will guide the state's decision-making process. Many towns in Berkshire County have received a significant amount of funding through the program in the past. 
 
There are three surveys available: one for land trusts here; one for municipal employees here; and one for everybody here.
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