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Heritage Park Eyed As New Greylock Gateway

Tammy Daniels

Heritage State Park is pretty — empty.

The former railyard in the heart of the city was once the gateway for all traffic moving west. Now it's targeted to become a gateway again, but not to the west. This time it will be a stopping point before going — up.

The city and the state Department of Recreation and Conservation are looking into revamping Western Gateway Heritage State Park into the northern gateway to the state's highest peak, Mount Greylock.

DCR Commissioner Richard Sullivan briefly touched on the subject on Wednesday during his talk at the Massachusetts Mayors Association's monthly meeting. "We're working closely with the mayor here in North Adams to turn Heritage Park into the new gateway, the northern gateway, to that facility and we expect that it's going to be big for tourists."

The state's already invested $23 million into rebuilding the roads to the peak in the state reservation; another $900,000 in federal funds is being spent for wayside stations, interpretative kiosks and regular signage.

Mayor Richard Alcombright said some of that signage money will be used to direct tourists to Heritage Park, much like the state directs people to the southern access point at the Mount Greylock Visitors Center on Rockwell Road in Lanesborough. Visitors will be encouraged to use Reservoir Road to the park's entrance rather than Notch Road. That street is off a busy, curved section of Route 2 with limited visibility for exiting.

Photos by Fredy Alvarez
Work on the Hadley Overpass hasn't helped the park's popularity.

"There's also hopes that the DCR will also put a visitors' center in there in Heritage State Park," said the mayor. "We do have some money in our Heritage State Park account and we can partner with them [on grants]. ... We're going to do a really nice facelift to Heritage State Park, painting, a whole new landscape design, try to put a little playground back there."

The revamp will include fixing the crumbling retaining walls, finding ways to better utilize the foot bridge and urging Pan Am Railways (Guilford) to clean up the weeds and foliage around the trestle.

"So, next year we do a facelift and coupled with this [sign] project, market the heck out of it," said Alcombright.

The park's seen its ups and downs. Its most popular tenant is the Freight Yard Pub; a quilt shop, the city's historical society, a DCR visitors center focused on trains and Northern Berkshire Community Television are also in there. But there's still plenty of empty space and the park can sometimes look bedraggled, with weeds popping up through the cobblestone walks.

The former railyard — once a seedy area whose buildings were used for railway storage and apartments not so long ago — has never quite lived up to its potential. Encouraging its use as pitstop on the way to the state's oldest park could well bring back a little of its glory days as the gateway to big things.

Tags: Mount Greylock      

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