|Pittsfield Receiving $500K State Grant for Pontoosuc Lake Park Redesign
|By Brittany Polito, iBerkshires Staff
05:06AM / Friday, November 24, 2023
|Construction on Pontoosuc Lake Park is expected to begin next summer now that a $500,000 state grant has come through.
PITTSFIELD, Mass. —The state has fully funded a grant request for the revisioning of Pontoosuc Lake Park, a well-loved gem for sightseeing and recreation.
The $500,000 boost is being matched by city funds, totaling $1 million, and construction is expected to begin next summer.
"I am happy to report here this evening publicly that the grant application that we submitted this summer to the Executive Office of Energy Environmental Affairs to the park grant program was funded fully at the $500,000 level. So that means we now have a project to completely redesign Pontoosuc Lake Park," Park, Open Space, and Natural Resource Program Manager James McGrath said to Parks Commission on Tuesday.
"What that means is that we will be entering into a contract with the commonwealth shortly to have the grant project. There's $500,000 that they've offered the project, the City Council at their capital budget hearing for FY24 authorized a $500,000 match to this grant so there's now a million dollars that we have to execute a project at Pontoosuc Lake year one, which we're in right now which goes through June 30 of 2024, is the design year."
The project agreement, which is required as part of the grant, was endorsed by the commission.
The city completed a master plan for the park in 2020 and in 2021, began a public engagement process to hear what residents value about the park. The location’s "iconic" white pine trees were highlighted as a positive attribute and accessibility as an area that could be improved.
Last year, plans for the park were released for the public feedback.
Berkshire Design Group has been hired to undertake a survey and a complete design of the park and McGrath said there will be an abundance of involvement from the commission, neighborhood, and other stakeholders.
In year two of the grant next summer, the construction period is set to begin.
"So stay tuned for all of this. I can't really tell you more details than that at this point in time. The commonwealth hasn't formally announced the grants," McGrath said, explaining that the project agreement needed to be signed by the end of the calendar year.
McGrath also spoke about the recent detection of zebra mussel eDNA (DNA released in the environment) in Onota Lake.
The invasive species was detected in Laurel Lake and its outflow in the Housatonic River in Lee/Lenox in 2009. Since then, the city has actively worked with the state Department of Conservation and Recreation to proactively monitor and bring awareness to proper boating care to help prevent the spread of zebra mussels from one waterbody to another.
He said the city is working to figure out what this all means.
Community Preservation Act funds were allocated last year for a boat wash station at the lake to prevent the invasion by the species. This discovery could lead the project to be scrapped and funds put into a different type of station at another location, though the city has to engage in conversations with the state to fully assess the situation.
The presence of zebra mussel eDNA reverses the scenario from protection to containment.
"We will do everything we can to make certain that Onota Lake is not the place where other lakes are finding their infestation is coming from," McGrath said.
"We will do everything we can to make certain that Onota Lake is open for recreation but that those that are using the lake aren't going to cross-contaminate another water body. That's the last thing we need to happen."