Residents dropped in to spend time looking over and discussing neighborhoods over the 2 1/2 hour session on Tuesday.
NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — Residents have been meeting since 2011 to brainstorm big ideas for the city's Vision 2030 master planning process. But over the past couple weeks, they've been focused on a smaller scale.
The third of four neighborhood visioning sessions was held at Brayton Elementary School on Tuesday night and, while it targeted the Brayton neighborhood, those in other neighborhoods were welcome as well.
"The participation has been in good in that we're seeing new faces we haven't seen before," said Amy Kacala, project manager at Berkshire Regional Planning Commission who facilitated the session.
"We're seeing younger people, young families bringing kids. They bring a new perspective to the process."
Maps with outlined neighborhoods and "idea boards" were laid out on the tables in the cafeteria, some cluttered with yellow Post-Its of ideas, praises and complaints. Others were barely touched, whether because the neighbors didn't want to get involved or thought there wasn't anything worth changing was unclear.
Kacala said former residents of the Beaver, for example, had spoken about all the children that used to the live there ... but few left messages of how to improve it.
There were recurring themes within all the neighborhoods — concerns about traffic and crimes, wishes for community gardens, parks and playgrounds, and a desire to know neighbors better.
Others were more specific, such as making Brooklyn Street one-way or creating more community gardens. One suggested a "no tech" period to get people out of their houses to visit — an idea that got a resounding "yes!!" from another participant.
Still others were thinking outside the box, suggesting "glamping," or luxury camping, sites off Charles Street. Or going retro by bringing back corner stores, library branches and police substations.
On the Greylock board, a number of residents expressed concerns about crime and the "shady characters" that have appeared in the neighborhood.
A number of break-ins have occurred in the city over the summer along with a number of high-profile crimes. "Used to be a peaceful neighborhood until we were robbed," wrote one resident, calling for action to clean the neighborhood of drug dealers: "We need to take our city back."
Billy Piantoni, who lives with his young family off Massachusetts Avenue in Blackinton, said speeding is an issue.
"Traffic is whipping through sometimes and people not being careful or courteous of people just trying to take walks with their kids," he said.
The longtime resident would also like to see more small production companies move in, including at the Blackinton Mill, to provide better jobs than the service industry, and much larger ideas of bringing back the roller skating rink and making Walmart restore the drive-in it replaced.
"I do like this town because it's safe, but truth be told it's getting worse because of drug problems," he said.
Kacala said the sessions allow residents to focus on housing, including senior housing, and the social programs they would like to see. But it also gives them a chance to remind themselves what they like about their neighborhoods and how to make them better.
"It is kind of where the rubber meets the road," she said, in terms of how the larger master plan can be implemented at the very local level.
There is one more neighborhood session for Church and South Church streets on Tuesday, Oct. 22, from 5:30 to 8 at All Saints Church. The results of the housing and neighborhood sessions and the next steps will revealed on Wednesday, Nov. 20, at 6:30 at First Baptist Church in the Eagle Street Room.
Those who haven't had a chance to attend a meeting are invited to Tuesday.
"If they missed their meeting or they missed a meeting, they can come to the one next week," said Kacala.