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With the well project at Margaret Lindley Park under budget, Chairman McKnight suggested cosmetic improvements to the 'bunker' building.
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Williamstown Con Comm Pursuing Recreational Use for Highway

By Stephen DravisWilliamstown Correspondent
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The Conservation Commission is researching an idea to open sections of Green River Road for bike and walking use.

WILLIAMSTOWN, Mass. — The Conservation Commission on Thursday discussed moving forward with a proposal to occasionally open a portion of State Route 43 to recreation.

But the commissioners also recognized that such the road plan has a number of roadblocks.

The idea of shutting down Route 43, or Green River Road, to vehicles on selected Sunday afternoons grew out of the Con Comm's effort to update the town's Open Space and Recreation Plan.

The idea is to make the picturesque stretch from Latham Street to the Five Corners intersection safe for bikers and foot traffic by temporarily detouring vehicles to Route 7.

Sarah Gardner pitched the notion earlier this month and gave her colleagues a report on her initial research on Thursday.

"While I think the idea, anecdotally, has a lot of support, it's complicated, as we know, to close a state highway," Gardner said. "The cost would be quite steep because you'd need a police officer at each end [to stop traffic]."

Gardner said she met with Jennifer Civello from the Williamstown Chamber of Commerce and was encouraged. Civello's discussion with the town's chief of police gave a hint how expensive the proposition would be.

"We would need to raise quite a lot of money," Gardner said in a meeting telecast on the town's public access television station, WilliNet. "It's time and a half for the police officers."

Chairman Philip McKnight suggested that Gardner get some firm cost estimates and see if private donors would be willing to help support the project.

Gardner said she had not given up on the idea and would consider pursuing the plan on another stretch of road.

"I can't think of another road that would work well," Gardner said. "[Water Street] would be biking and recreation for people of all ages and abilities on a beautiful road that's totally flat that's a popular running and biking road because it's so beautiful.

"But it's also dangerous because of the traffic."

Also at Thursday's meeting, the Con Comm received an update on a commission project that is further along: the renovation of the bath house at Margaret Lindley Park.

The commission sought and received money from the Community Preservation Act last spring to drill a new well to supply water to the structure at the popular swimming hole.

Town Conservation Agent Andrew Groff Thursday confirmed that work was on schedule and under budget at the park. The bath house likely will be operational on opening day for the park this spring.

Since the well project only has cost about $45,000 of the $65,000 budgeted — so far — McKnight once again suggested that the commissioners think about cosmetic changes that could be made to the bath house.

"It is as stark and and severe and unwelcoming a place as I've ever seen," McKnight said. "It's a concrete bunker.

"When we undertook this project, we wanted not just the well and the water, but we also wanted the building to be welcoming."

The commissioners agreed to plan a site visit to see what changes they might be able to make to the interior of the building.

In other business, the commission OK'd two projects on private land: drainage improvements on a property owned by Bruce E. Beverly on Summer Street and improvements to a residential septic system at 770 Hancock Road.

It was also announced that Commisssioner Thomas Ennis, whose term expires in 2015, tenured his resignation from the body. McKnight encouraged any citizens interested in serving on the commission to inquire at Town Hall.

Tags: conservation commission,   public parks,   state highway,   

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