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Sue Bush
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On To The Finish Line: Town Named Greylock Glen Developer

By Susan Bush
12:00AM / Monday, December 11, 2006

Adams Selectmen's Chairman Edward MacDonald signed an agreement with state officials that named the town as the designated Greylock Glen developer.
Adams - They signed to a packed house.

Town Selectmen's Chairman Edward MacDonald, state Department of Conservation and Recreation Commissioner Stephen H. Burrington and
David B. Perrini, commissioner of the Massachusetts Division of Capital Asset Management, signed their names to a series of documents that may finally bring a Greylock Glen project to fruition.

With the pen strokes, the Town of Adams became the state-designated developer of a three-phase, 15-year, estimated $44 million proposal
predicted to deliver an amphitheater, a cross-country ski venue, an environmental education center, camping and meeting facilities and more to about 54 of the property's 1,063 acres.

"A Great Milestone"

from left, Greylock Glen Committee member and former Selectwoman Myra Wilk, town Director of Community Development Donna Cesan, DCR Commissioner Stephen H. Burrington, Greylock Glen committee member and town Finance Committee member James Wojtaszek and town Selectman and Greylock Glen Committee member Joseph Dean Jr.
A town, DCR, DCAM, the Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts, Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art, the Massachusetts Audubon Society and Appalachian Mountain Club collaboration brought the project to this point, Burrington said during an interview prior to the signing.

"This agreement is a great milestone," he said. "What we are celebrating as much as the signing is the collaboration. That collaboration has brought us this far and will push us over the finish line."

Burrington said that he was warned away from the project when he became DCR commissioner in 2003.

"I was told by many people 'do not go there, do not, do not,'" he told a filled-to-capacity community room at the Discover the Berkshires Adams Visitors Center. "I was told 'go do something else instead.'"

A Bright Picture

Burrington ultimately did "go there," and now sees "not a fast process but a promising process."

"For the first time in decades, everyone who cares about Adams and Berkshire County have been working together," he said.

And when coupled with other major projects, such as the planned Greylock historic parkway renovation, the success of the Ashuwillticook Trail and a likely trail expansion, and additional Berkshire development, "it really adds up to quite a bright picture for the future of Adams," Burrington said.

An animated, energized William "Bill" Wilson, president of the Berkshire Visitors Bureau, told the crowd that "it's Adams turn now, time for Adams cash registers to start ringing."

Attention North Dakota

About 40,000 travelers from 49 U.S. states and 37 other countries have passed through the visitor's center since it opened in 2003, Wilson said.

"So if you find anyone from North Dakota, bring 'em here," he said.

"Everything the potential visitor or the loyal visitor wants we have in this project," he said. "Once a place is a destination point, that's when the dollars start to flow."

Wilson noted the recent economic growth befitting several surrounding communities.

"Adams has an opportunity to capitalize on what has been big business in other parts of the county," he said.

Adams Taxpayers Association President John Swistak shared a less enthusiastic view of the proposal.

Cost Concerns

Swistak attended the signing and said during an interview that he has concerns about the ultimate town cost of the project. Although the proposal calls for significant private funds and some state revenue investment, Swistak said the anticipated 15-year, multi-phase process puts the proposal at great risk for costs far above current estimates.

"I mean, how much is this really going to cost?" he said. "When you have all these phases, and it's going over 15 years, and you have all these state agencies involved; well, we've had previous experience with state agencies."

Greylock Glen development has unfolded over many decades and each plan has ultimately sustained failure before any work went much beyond the drawing board. The last plan - a mammoth design that called for housing construction and a golf course - went belly-up about three years ago, when then acting Gov. Jane Swift pulled state funding from the project.

MacDonald said he doesn't see another state pull-out ahead.

"I don't see it," he said during an interview prior to the signing. "I think this is a good foundation. I think the state is ready to fulfill their promise to do something."

An Exercise In Perseverance

Town Finance Committee member James Wojtaszek is a Greylock Glen committee member along with committee member and former town Selectwoman Myra Wilk, Selectman Joseph Dean Jr. town Director of Community Development Donna Cesan and former town Selectman George Haddad.

"The town is taking an active role in charting its own course," he said, and added that the proposal is meant to "excite and entice" residents and visitors alike.

Perrini noted that years of hurdles were cleared to reach the new proposal and the designation of the town as project developer.

"This project has indeed been an exercise in perseverance," Perrini said.

Dean, who is the longest-serving Selectman in the town, shared a feeling of personal satisfaction at the developer destination. The town is ranked as one of the poorest economically in the state and the Glen endeavor is imperative to generate town tourism and economic opportunity, he said.

"It Just Doesn't Happen"

The town's proposal linked numerous agencies that rarely work together, said MassDevelopment CEO and President Robert Culver.

Few municipalities have successfully involved MASS MoCA, MCLA, the Appalachian Mountain Club, the Audubon society, the state DCR, DCAM, and MassDevelopment on one venture, he said.

"I really want to bear witness to today, that's why I came here," he said. "To bring all these [entities] together is rare; to be at a celebratory event with them is even more rare. It just doesn't happen.'

Culver expressed his thanks for the collaboration.

"And I'm thankful to be serving you," he said.

During an interview that followed the signing, Wilk said she was very happy to see the proposal move forward.

"I think it's a very exciting thing for the Berkshires," she said. "This is a project that we understood from the beginning would need collaboration. I'm very happy with the collaborations that resulted and I'm very excited about the future of the project."

A Keepsake For Cesan

Cesan was presented with a token of the day; after apologizing for mispronouncing her name and that of her husband, Berkshire Regional Planning Commission Executive Director Nathaniel Karns, Burrington handed Cesan the pen he used to sign the documents.

The town and the DCR are expected to share pre-development design, permitting, and project debelopment costs of about $300,000, according to information provided by the DCR. Phase I, which may begin in about two years, is expected to focus on construction of trails, outdoor recreation amenities, a camping area, outdoor environmental art, and infrastructure improvements.

A Brief Funding Overview

According to a DCR document: "The Town of Adams will provide non-Commonwealth funding for the project. Non-Commonwealth funds may include federal and private foundation grants, private capital campaign, sub-lessee agreements, concession payments, debt and equity contributions. The Town will coordinate the design, permitting, and construction of Phase I improvements that it undertakes, including a campground, outdoor environmental art, maintenance facilities, infrastructure improvements, and outdoor recreation amenities. The Town is solely responsible for the funding, design, and construction of all Phase II and II improvements. During Phase I, DCR will provide up to $3 million of matching funds to match non-Commonwealth investment by the town on a 'dollar-for-dollar' basis."

Susan Bush may be reached via e-mail at suebush@iberkshires.com or at 413-663-3384 ext. 29
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