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Historic Valley Prepping for Camping Season

Tammy Daniels

The Windsor Lake Recreation Commission hears what new campground manager Susan Landry, right, has been doing to prepare for the season.

NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — Historic Valley Campground has a new manager and is preparing for an open house on May 7 and an influx of visitors for the summer, including filling the sites with Wilco concertgoers.

"We have 150 people coming in for Wilco; that's not counting children — that's booked adults," new campground manager Susan Landry told the Windsor Lake Commission last Tuesday. "I know they're bringing their families, I know they're bringing teenagers."

Landry said she has five campsites left for the Solid Sound Festival weekend of June 24, 25 and 26, and will start adding in seasonal sites if they're still available in May.

Susan Landry and her husband, Steven, were named to the post in February and are volunteering their time before officially starting in May. The 100-acre campground is open from May into October; Landry will be paid around $15,000 for the season.

An iBerkshires' birds-eye view of Windsor Lake, better known as Fish Pond to North Adams residents.

The goal is to whittle down the number of seasonholder spots — which took up nearly half the campground last year — and boost reservations in the rest of park, which stood at about 30 percent.

The couple have been getting the park's name out and looking at ways to improve it. Among those initiatives are putting together welcome packets, getting in touch with camping associations and marketing the park. Steven Landry said brochures on the park were well-received at the Springfield RV Camping & Outdoor Show a few weeks ago and 200 were provided to the expo's sponsor, Pioneer Valley Chapter 8 of North American Family Camping Association.

The camping association also will return to Fish Pond after years away, said Susan Landry. "They try to stay within their region, so for us it's the Berkshires and Greenfield," she said. "They always go east because they don't realize what the west has to offer; now they're looking to come back in our direction."

New patrons include an RV rally in June, a British boarding school from Boston, and Mount Greylock Regional High School, which wants to do some geocaching on the trails.

The biggest draw, by far, is Wilco's Solid Sound Festival. Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art wasn't interested in adding a shuttle to Windsor Lake, so that led the Landrys to suggest hiring a bus from Dufour Tours to transport campers. It made sense, said Landry, because otherwise they'd have to drive their cars to Williamstown to catch a shuttle back to the campground.

The weekend cost would be about $800, which Landry figured would be covered by all but $50 by charging $5 per person for the weekend, and Steven Landry would be the driver. "This was one of the big things they asked about," Susan Landry said.

In other business, the board recommended the purchase of new playground equipment to the tune of $20,000, depending on funds left over from the work currently being completed on the bathrooms at the campground. They also thanked Susan and Robert Chilson for offering to volunteer their help.

McCann Technical School students have been refurbishing both since last fall and they are expected to be finished on or about opening day.

"I'm pleased with the way that's going," said Chairman George Forgea, noting the city still has to remove and repair the cement sidewalks around the facilities. "I thnk it' going to be nice when it's done."

A concession stand and bathrooms for the lake area are planned for next year. "They're less than acceptable," said Forgea. "It's just not a pleasant experience to use the bathrooms; that's one of the reasons were getttng rid of them because it's not worth fixing them anymore."

Landry said she was seeking new local providers for the ice and laundry after running into difficulty finding service contracts and contacts with the current ones. 

The board also reviewed a job description for a park police officer to be submitted to the mayor for approval. Forgea said the Public Safety Department would now be involved in the hiring process. "They're going to be labeled as police, they should have police backing them up."

Forgea thanked the board for their work. "This is the end of my first year as a commissioner ... I was a member many, many years ago," he said.  "I want to thank everyone for what you did this year and I look forward to this year ... we've come a long way in a short time."

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