Pittsfield Seeks Volunteers to Ward Off Zebra Mussels

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PITTSFIELD, Mass. — The city is calling for volunteers to stave off an invasion of zebra mussels into its lakes.

The call to arms came Friday afternoon from Mayor James M. Ruberto, who is urging citizens to volunteer for boat-ramp monitoring at Onota Lake or Pontoosuc Lake.

"We need to do everything that is in our power to keep our lakes and ponds free of this invasive zebra mussel," said Ruberto in a press release. I am reaching out to the community for help. Become a boat-ramp monitor and let's keep Pittsfield zebra free."

Zebra mussels, a freshwater shellfish native Eastern Europe and western Asia, have been proliferating across the Northeast since first being discovered in the Greatl Lakes region two decades ago. They were found in Laurel Lake in Lee — the first documented appearance in a Massachusetts body of water — last week.

Preventing Infestation
1. Inspect and clean your boat
2. Thoroughly inspect all exposed surfaces on your vessel and trailer
3. Remove all plants and mud from your boat, trailer, and equipment
4. Carefully feel your boat's hull for any rough or gritty spots
5. Drain all water from your hull and dry your boat
6. Keep your watercraft dry for at least one week in hot/dry weather, four weeks if cold/wet

Source: City of Pittsfield
Although small — growing to just an inch or two — the mollusks can wreak havoc by blocking pipes, filters and motors, gobble of food resources from native species, and significantly change habitats to the detriment of other species. Their ability to consume algae and nutrients can clarify waters to the extent that sunlight can affect other species, including aiding the growth of another water pest — milfoil.

A female can produce up to a million eggs at a time and the creatures can cluster together by the hundreds of thousands.

They are thought to have been brought to North America in the ballast water of European ships; they've spread by attaching themselves to boats.

The boat ramp at Laurel Lake was closed by the state Department of Conservation and Recreation, but other towns that shut their boat ramps in the wake of the news were ordered to reopen. The state has authority over the public ramps.

The city, working with the Lake Onota Preservation Association and the Friends of Pontoosuc Lake, will be coordinating the boat-ramp monitoring program, in an effort to prevent the spread of zebra mussels into these water bodies.

Pittsfield is hoping its volunteer inspectors and diligent boaters will keep the tiny terrors at bay.

"Before you launch your boat, kayak or canoe, be sure to do a visual inspection to make certain it doesn't have any hitchhikers," said Pittsfield Harbor Master James McGrath in a press release. "If your boat has been in a zebra mussel-infested water body this season you must make certain that it is properly cleaned and decontaminated before you launch."

Pamphlets are available at City Hall that outline the threat and ways to prevent the spread of the mussel.  

An information and boat-ramp monitor training meeting will be held at City Hall on Monday, July 20, and on Tuesday, July 21, at 5 p.m. in the Council Chambers. For more information, go to Pittsfield.com or call the McGrath at 413-499-9344.
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Burning Crosses Across the Berkshires: KKK Thrived Locally 100 Years Ago

By Joe DurwinSpecial to iBerkshires
PITTSFIELD , Mass. — Over a thousand men, most of them hooded, gathered around a burning cross.  Some 200 were new recruits, there to be inducted into the secrets of the Ku Klux Klan. The year was 1927.
The place was a farm 15 miles from Pittsfield.  
The first arc of the Ku Klux Klan following the Civil War seems to have permeated very little into New England, in terms of formal organization. The requisite attitudes were certainly present in the Berkshires by then; the same month that Berkshire volunteers were mustering with the 27th Infantry to fight in that conflict, at least eight innocent men of color were arrested following the September 1861 slaying of Emily Jones and her children in Otis. Several narrowly escaped lynching by angry mobs, before James Callender confessed to the triple homicide.  
There were plenty of heinous incidents and individual acts, but it wasn't until a couple decades later that systemic hatreds in the Berkshires began to cluster into vigilante groups — first as White Caps, and later as klansmen.   
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