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Charlie LaBatt of Guntlow & Associates addresses the Williamstown Conservation Commission.
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An overhead drawing of the Clark Art Institute's campus redesign project.

Williamstown Con Comm Hears Project Updates

By Stephen DravisWilliamstown Correspondent
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The Conservation Commission heard updates on several projects.
WILLIAMSTOWN, Mass. — The Conservation Commission received updates recently on several projects — including a couple of its own.
The commission had just one public hearing on the its agenda Thursday and OK'd in short order: a Williams College plan to resod its two varsity soccer fields at Cole Field.
The bulk of the meeting was spent getting reports on the ongoing construction at the Clark Art Institute, improvements to the Con Comm-managed Margaret Lindley Park and the panel's efforts to update the town's Open Space and Recreation Plan.
Engineer Charlie LaBatt of Guntlow and Associates told the commission the redesign of the Clark's campus is on track for completion this summer, but there have been some modifications to the project.
The modifications require changes to the permit the Clark has from the Zoning Board, and LaBatt will be before that body in the near future. But since the project also has permitting through the Con Comm, his client wanted to keep the panel up to date, LaBatt said.
Among the changes from the plan originally approved by the town is a reduction of the size of the tiered reflecting pool that will face the Clark's new Visitor Center, LaBatt explained.
"One of the other main things that is happening on site is what we're proposing is a reduction in summer-season grass parking in [the north end of the campus]," LaBatt said. "This is permitted to be a fair-sized parking area, but one of the things we'll be asking for and seeking approval of is seeking extension of the use of 101 North St., which has been well-received by the community and utilized well. ... That is the grass parking on North Street used as part of the full-time scheme of the Clark, as one of their key tools."
In response to a question from Chairman Philip McKnight, LaBatt assured the commission that the changes to the campus redesign will not impact any of the conservation advantages envisioned in the original plan.
LaBatt had a busy night in the meeting room, appearing on behalf of two other Guntlow clients: Williams College and the Conservation Commission itself.
For the former, LaBatt explained the scope of the maintenance plan for the Ephs' soccer fields, which will be stripped and resodded in the late spring with a planned completion in time for the start of soccer season in September.
Williams project manager Jason Moran, who also appeared, said the men's soccer field is particularly of concern because while it usually rests during the spring, it is going to get a workout this spring when the men's lacrosse team relocates to the site to accommodate the renovation of the Weston Field complex.
 LaBatt had good news for the commission about the Margaret Lindley Park project, which the Conservation Commission undertook with Community Preservation Act funds awarded at last May's town meeting.
LaBatt reported that water has been reconnected to the restroom building at the popular swimming hole, and the project is awaiting final reports from the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection but is on track for completion in time for the park's opening this summer.
McKnight told the commission that so far it has spent about $48,000 of the $65,000 awarded for the project. Depending  on how much is needed to redo plumbing inside the building, that could leave leftover funds to do cosmetic changes to the interior of the building. McKnight recommended the commissioners start thinking about other improvements that could be made to the facility.
Margaret Lindley Park is not the only project on the commission's plate. The body also is in the process of updating the town's Open Space and Recreation Plan and developing a management plan for the nine parcels it controls in town.
The former got a boost this fall when students of Commissioner (and Williams professor) Sarah Gardner conducted a survey of town residents about their recreation needs.
She submitted the students' report on Thursday and reported that they had reached 20 percent of the town.
"Of those surveyed, the main outdoor recreation need is outdoor running and hiking," Gardner said. "The second one is biking. So it makes sense to focus on those forms of recreation."
The students pitched the idea of single-day closures of Water Street (Route 43) on Sundays in the summer to allow pedestrians, runners and bikers to use the winding road without fear of vehicular traffic.
"I think it's a neat idea," Gardner said. "They do it in Cambridge. They do it in Pittsfield. A lot of places do it. Why not reclaim one of our most beautiful roads for recreation on four Sundays in July as an experiment. ... All you need is a parade permit to do it."

Tags: Clark Art,   conservation commission,   public parks,   

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