City Planner Larysa Bernstein, Mayor Richard Alcombright, BRPC Senior Planner Lauren Gaherty, project engineer Matthew Kearney and City Councilor Joshua Moran at Wednesday's hearing.
NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — City Council chambers were packed on Wednesday night for an often emotional hearing on the proposed bike path that will cut from the Williamstown line to the airport.
Dubbed the "Cariddi Mile" by Mayor Richard Alcombright in memory of longtime bike path proponent Gailanne Cariddi, the section would run along land behind a cluster of homes on Chenaille Terrace.
But a number of Chenaille Terrace residents opposed to the project say the 12-foot paved pathway would have a deleterious effect on their quiet cul de sac.
"It's beautiful and a private oasis ... they want it to remain that way," said Kimberly Rose, whose mother owns a home behind which the path will run. "They just want to maintain what they have."
Others, however, said the path would be of a community benefit and economic driver for the entire area.
"Bike trails bring a lot to the community," said Josh Chittenden of Adams who rents bikes at Berkshire Outfitters for people to use on the Ashuwillticook Rail Trail. "I'm really exicted to hear about an extension. ... I think it would be a great thing for the city of North Adams and for Williamstown."
The city is hoping to piggyback the 1-mile section onto the 2.5-mile route planned in Williamstown that ends near Galvin Road. The Mohawk Bike Path is expected to break ground by 2019 and the city is hoping to tap into soon-to-expire scenic byway money to start the leg from the border to the Harriman & West Airport.
The Williamstown-North Adams section has an estimated budget of $4.9 million; another extension of the Ashuwillticook north to North Adams is targeted for fiscal 2022 at $5.6 million. The short-term goal is to create a bike path connecting Williamstown to Lanesborough, the long-term, to create a cross-county path.
Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art is so confident the path will happen that it incorporated an access way through its campus as part of its $65 million expansion project.
However, cutting a 14-wide pathway through more densely populated areas of the city is proving difficult. A section through Greylock was put on hold after intense opposition to running it through a narrow public roadway in the thickly settled neighborhood.
Some of the same issues surrounding that route were brought up by Chenaille Terrace residents, including concerns about privacy, noise and security, as well as the nearby wetlands, flooding and wildlife.
Jane Culnane of Chenaille Terrace said she was a proponent and user of bike trails, but felt that this was not the right spot.
"I thought long and hard about this bike trail ... I struggle with the bigger questions," she said. "As a result of this probability, the frustration on the street is palpable."
More people had shown up to oppose the Greylock route and it seemed unfair that it should pushed on the smaller Chenaille Terrace, she said. Rose felt that they had been "a little bit demonized" for not wanting a public path in their back yards.
Bike advocates talked about how bike paths raise property values, encourage exercise and healthy living, and attract visitors who spend money. Several spoke of meeting people from around the United States and the world — but a Chenaille Terrace resident retorted that they probably hadn't spoken to the people whose back yards they were in.
Ellen Janis of Davenport Street said she frequently drives to Adams to walk the trail and sees people who live along the path using it.
"It's a peaceful place, it's not loud, there's no trash ... that trail runs through neighborhoods," she said. "It seems like a huge asset for the community ... if all of us want a bike trail but none of us want it near our house, we'll never have it."
The route was selected because it would not cross private property. The city is being given the land along the city line by Fusco, former owner of The Spruces Mobile Home Park, including a parcel on the Williamstown side currently being used as a parking lot by an acupuncture practice. The rest of the land is at Harriman & West Airport.
The mayor said city officials and engineers would continue working with residents and the acupuncturists, who vented their frustrations about not knowing of the plans until July, on privacy and security concerns. The next steps are more concrete plans, such as traffic surveys and environmental permitting, and estimates as the project moves toward 25 percent design.
Plans for the bike path were informed by the public sessions for the city's master plan, Vision 2020. Residents said they wanted bike paths for accessibility and safety, to connect public places and as an alternative transportation resource.
"Everyone wanted to be off the road," said Lauren Gaherty of Berkshire Regional Planning Commission, who has been guiding the bike path project for years. "The Ashuwillticook Rail Trail is sort of the vision and model that we'd like to see."
This hearing was recorded by Northern Berkshire Community Television, check listings for playback times; plans and documents are available here.
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