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Pittsfield Parks Commission Sees Plans for New Pontoosuc Lake Park
By Brittany Polito, iBerkshires Staff
04:21AM / Monday, May 23, 2022
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PITTSFIELD, Mass. — A new Pontoosuc Lake Park is one step closer.

The Parks Commission saw a final master plan for the park on last week after months of preparation.  Next, the city will advertise it to the community to solicit feedback.

"What we're going to present to you this evening is the culmination of all of that input from the community, the commission, from neighbors, the abutters, other stakeholders," Park, Open Space, and Natural Resource Program Manager James McGrath said.

"And I think this represents a significant improvement to the park."

The design includes a swimming area, floating docks, an accessible kayak and canoe launch, changing facilities, an open lawn, and a shoreline walk on the north side of the park. On the south side off of Hancock Road, there are new access stairs, a lake promenade and pier, wetland and shore restorations, new picnic areas, and accessible paths and parking.

To connect the two parks, there will be a new sidewalk to improve transit or pedestrians.

The plans can be found on the city website here.

The commission responded positively to the design elements though there was no formal approval on the table for this meeting.

During public input, it was emphasized that the south area needs better accessibility because of the steep nature of the property. People also asked for the parcel's iconic pine trees to be preserved, which have been honored with select tree thinning and removal planned to remove just the dead trees.

A new family beach area will replace the failing concrete wall on the north side of Pontoosuc Park.

"The family swimming area is bounded by a new dock system and those that are familiar with the history of Pontoosuc Lake Park know that we used to have a U-shaped dock system on the south side of the old beach area here," McGrath said.

"So this sort of brings back the historical element and creates real safe space, but what's not shown on this plan is that we have a swimming platform here and that's something we don't have either at Onota Lake or Pontoosuc Lake and that's really a nice attractive feature."

In February, the commission was presented with various different design proposals for each side of the park. This plan is simpler than the others and draws on the swimming area as the largest attraction.

"Of all the schemes that we had developed this is kind of the less is more approach, but I think appropriately meets the needs for swimming, handicap access, changing and restrooms, and maintains some sort of lawn areas and the existing shade trees," McGrath explained.

"It doesn't propose any new plantings, we're mindful of views are afforded by folks that live in the condominiums and the general sweeping views for those that are utilizing this area."

He said the keystone feature of the south side is the 10-foot wide promenade that goes along the shoreline with picnic tables and resting spaces along the way.

"This is the destination," he said about the plaza area. "If you're coming down the stairs that's the destination, if you're coming down the pathway that's the destination but oh, there's more, you continue on and you end up over the top of the water."

He added that he imagines this area as the place where young couples will take their prom photos in the future.

The city began the venture to transform the Pontoosuc Lake Park last year. The revisioning is part of a long-range open space and recreation plan for the city.

An online survey was released during the month of September that queried the public on their current uses for the park and how it should look in the future. It generated 225 responses from residents and people living out of town.

In November, there were two public input sessions, one virtual and one in person.  The community's wishes were used to fuel designs created by  Berkshire Design Group out of Northampton, which was hired for the project.

McGrath reported that this is likely a $1.5 million to $2 million dollar construction.

In the next couple of weeks, the city will share the plan with the community and bring it back to the commission's June meeting for an update.

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