Historic Valley Campground Sets Open House
NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — Historic Valley Campground at Windsor Lake is hosting an open house on Saturday from 10 to 3 to meet the new managers and check out the improvements made to the city's camping area.
Area residents are invited to meet Susan and Steven Landry, who are managing the family campground this season, and their family. Free refreshments and hot dogs will be available.
The Landrys have been working on improvements to the 100-acre campground. They also are planning themed weekend activities throughout this year's camping season
The city recently refurbished the bathrooms, with the help of students from McCann Technical School, and last week's citywide cleanup brought volunteers and Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts students to paint and rake.
You can also meet the new concession manager, Eric Dean. He is opening Coastal Smokin', a new barbecue food and snack bar at the public beach at Fish Pond.
The campground is open from May 1 to Oct. 15. It offers a private beach for campers and is within walking distance of the larger public beach and concession area. Fish Pond is also a favorite spot for anglers, canoeing and kayaking.
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Historic Valley Prepping for Camping Season
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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North Adams Campground Seeks Fee Hike
The old concession stand and bathrooms are being replaced by a newer structure closer to the beach. The future of the old building would be up to the city, said the commission.
NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — Campground fees are likely rise next year as the city looks to improve and market Windsor Lake.
The Windsor Lake Recreation Commission on Tuesday voted 4-1 to recommend to the mayor about a 10 percent increase for all camping rates.
"What it comes down to is the rates haven't changed in years," said Chairman George Forgea. "These are low compared to other campgrounds around here. ... we're a few bucks below everybody."
Forgea had suggested raising the daily rates for the different sites at $2 and raising the seasonal rate by $55, to $1,600. There are about 40 seasonal campers, which would mean the campground would bring in $2,400 more a season.
"I don't want to drive anybody away," said Forgea. "I just know we can't continue the way we are."
The reinvigorated board has been tasked by Mayor Richard Alcombright to review options for upgrading and marketing the 100-site Historic Valley Park and the public areas of Windsor Lake, better known as Fish Pond. The City Council in October authorized the borrowing of $150,000 at the urging of the mayor and the commission to build a new concession stand at the lake and revamp the outdated bathrooms in the campground. Both structures are more than 40 years old.
Member Nancy Bullett asked why the arbitrary $2 hike per day but $55 for the season. She suggested that the amount be fair across the board, either 15 percent or 10 percent.
Forgea said it was likely the rates would climb higher in the future, but added he was "concerned about that much of an increase with no visible improvements." Far more work needs to be done in the campground, including an expensive electrical upgrade.
Commission member William St. Pierre said he didn't think $2 more would drive anyone away but raising them higher might. Member Robert Upton, however, wondered if too low an increase to start would make the inevitable larger hike to help recoup the cost of the improvements seem even bigger.
"I think for consistency you should do it across the board," said Bullett.
A 10 percent increase, rounded up, would set the full-season rate at $1,700; wilderness sites at $14, up from $12; tent sites at $23, up from $21; water and electric sites at $29, up from $26; and lakeside sites at $33, up from $30.
A monthly rate of $465 for the water and electric sites would jump to $515, still a considerable savings considering it would be $780 if paid by the night.
The commission left standing a pay-six-get-seven-nights deal around since the 1970s and visitor rates of $3 per person a day and $6 for overnights. They suggested adding a senior citizen rate of free daily visits and $3 overnights.
The commission voted to send the recommendations to the mayor; St. Pierre voted no believing the seasonal rate was too high and would discourage campers from the already underbooked park. "We'll lose that revenue."
Member Paul Corriveau disagreed. "We seem to be worried about losing seasonals but this campground has gotten the reputation for not being the place to go. I'm sure the word is out that the seasonals are taking up space.
"Once the word gets out that we're renovating the campground ... I like to think that we're going to see more people come forward."
The panel also said it would begin cracking done on littering, trash left behind and unregistered camping vehicles. A new, updated brochure should be ready be spring, a website is being developed and the institution of a credit card registration system will aid in getting deposits. The campground is also now listed with the Massachusetts Camping Association.
The commission will also be sending recommendations for the post of campground manager after reviewing some 20 applications for the seasonal post. Most of the applicants live in the region but some are applying from as far away as Pennsylvania.
Forgea said a motorhome group out of Boston has expressed interest in using the campground as the base for a three-day rally. A representative is coming out Thursday to look it over and Forgea planned to greet her with brochures of the region's attractions.
Commission members were pleased with the news. "This could really get the word out," said Corriveau.
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City Council Looks at Zoning, Borrowing Issues
The City Council on Tuesday, Oct. 12, will be asked to authorize the borrowing of $650,000 to complete the airport project and $150,000 to renovate and construction bathrooms and a concession stand at Windsor Lake and its campground.
The Finance Committee heard both issues at its meeting Thursday. The committee has recommended adoption of the borrowing order for the airport and, while not formally endorsing the lake spending, reacted favorably to it. The lake spending had not been presented to the council nor referred to the committee to act on.
The council will also be asked to call a joint public hearing of the council and Planning Board at the behest of Planning Board Chairman Michael Leary. The city is pursuing a state Green Community designation that will require "by-right zoning" for certain green businesses. Leary said the city has by-right in three zones but still requires a special permit if a site plan approval is needed. New language would clarify a site plan review is not part of a special permit process.
Christopher Lamarre quit as chairman of the Board of Assessors to become the chief assessor in Great Barrington last month. In a letter to the council, Mayor Alcombright said that the qualifications for assessor made the position difficult to fill.
He is asking that the residency requirement for the full-time, chief assessor be removed. "It will always be my preference to hire a resident, if qualified," he wrote. The residency requirement would not change for the two part-time assessors.
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Alcombright Seeks Funds for Campground, Lake
Mayor Alcombright says the aged concession and public bathrooms at Fish Pond are an embarrasment.
NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — The City Council on Tuesday will be asked to authorize up to $150,000 in borrowing to update Windsor Lake (Fish Pond) and its campground.
Mayor Richard Alcombright told the Finance Committee on Thursday afternoon that the money would be used to revamp the two bathroom buildings at Historic Vally Campground and build a new concession stand and bathroom facility closer to the beach.
"The idea is how can we renew the excitement and enthusiasm about the lake," said the mayor. "It's a beautiful, beautiful place."
Alcombright said the two bathroom buildings built in 1969 are in a state of disrepair; the concession stand and public bathrooms at the lake "are in deplorable condition, they are embarrassing quite honestly."
The concession and facilities were built in 1959. They are now located far away from the public beach area as is the playground equipment.
"It's inconvenient, it's old, it's nonfunctional," said the mayor. "Considering the idea is to enhance the lake, to remarket the lake [we would] build a new concession/restroom building on the green space as you walk toward the beach."
The estimated cost for refurbishing and making the campground bathrooms handicapped accessible would be $60,000; building a new one-story concession modeled after the one at Noel Field about $70,000 to $80,000. The playground would be moved and needs new equipment.
A possible beach volleyball court could be put in but Windsor Lake Recreation Commission Chairman George Forgea said that would not be included in the borrowing. "There may be other ways to do that."
A lot of the exterior work would be done by McCann Technical School students and most of the rest done by city workers. The cost would be primarily materials.
Revenues from the lake and campground go into the general fund. Forgea said the campground "is nowhere near the capacity of the revenue it could generate." But the park is in dire need of upgrades beyond just the bathrooms: its roads and buildings need serious upgrading as do the sewer and electrical.
"The wiring goes back to 1969," said Forgea. "We had several campers who came up and found we only had 20-amp service and turned around and left."
The campground isn't prepared for the larger campers and their multiple appliances. Forgea said the idea isn't to turn the campground into a "Disneyland" but to make it attractive to the types of people who are coming to spend money at places like the local museums and theaters. They're not coming in tents, he said.
Of the park's 100 campsites, 48 were occupied by seasonholders but the remaining 52 had only a 30 percent occupancy rate.
Some changes are already under way. After operating on a cash only basis for decades, campers will now be able to use charge cards, make reservations online and, more importantly, be required to make deposits. A new management team will take over in the spring as well.
Finance Committee members were in favor of the investment because of the likely future return.
"Any money spent on the lake is money well spent," said committee Chairman Michael Bloom.
In other business, the committee voted to recommend borrowing for $650,000 to complete the the $6.3 million airport project. The matter was referred to the committee at the last council meeting.
"It's our obligation as a city to finish this airport," said the mayor. "This is an amount of money we can work with to get this done."
The city would use $150,000 to complete its 2.5 percent match of the runway funding (another 2.5 percent is being paid by the state and the rest by the federal government). The balance of the borrowing would used to pay any overruns regarding the Runway Safety Areas.
The RSA work is currently in litigation over a dispute with a subcontractor regarding the design and amount of work needed to complete it.
"The bonding request that the mayor sent [the council] is larger than the estimated local share of the project," said Administrative Officer Jay Green. "That is to have a buffer zone to make sure we're covered."
Not all money may be used, he said, because there is a federal wetlands grant for the project that may provide more funding. The city's attorney is in talks with the subcontractor to reach a settlement.
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