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Emily Lindsey said there is no reason why the towns would oppose such a designation as a bicycle route.

BRPC Supports Efforts to Designate 'Bicycle Route 7' Through Berkshires

By Andy McKeeveriBerkshires Staff
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PITTSFIELD, Mass. — Long-distance cyclists may soon be directed to bike through the Berkshires.

The American Association of State Highway Transportation Officials are developing a massive highway system designation throughout the country for long-distance bicyclists to map out routes. What is eyed as US Bicycle Route 7 would connect Connecticut with Vermont through the Berkshires.

"It's connecting regions and states much like the highway system," said Berkshire Regional Planning Commission Senior Planner Emily Lindsey.

BRPC is supportive of the agreement but the effort to get the designation will need the backing of the eight Berkshire communities whose local roads will be used. So far, four of those towns — North Adams, Williamstown, Great Barrington, and Stockbridge — have given the OK.

Kate Masztal, of the state Department of Transportation, has been working on getting the designation on the already dubbed the Western New England Greenway — a planned route connecting Norwalk, Conn., to Montreal. The Western New England Greenway mostly follows the US Route 7 corridor but seldom uses the road itself.

"It really wants to use more local roads," she said.

Masztal said the plan is to build the main route first and then develop "spurs" off it to other areas. The US Bicycle Route 7 designation is eyed to come into the Berkshires on Route 7 but then veer over Route 183 through Lenox and Pittsfield.

While the focus is on Route 7, Ashuwillticook Rail Trail also offers options along the parallel Route 8 through Adams. From there, it will go back to Route 8 into North Adams, through Williamstown and connect with designated routes there.

Lindsey said Vermont's portion has already been approved by transportation officials' group and Connecticut's portion is expected to be approved later in the spring. The Massachusetts portion links those two existing routes through the Western New England Greenway.



The municipalities on the route take on no additional liability nor are they required to upgrade roads or pay for additional signage, so Lindsey says there is no reason why they shouldn't support it. The AASHTO would be the final approval. From there, the route will be marketed in the bicycling community and placed on the Adventure Cycling Association's national map of networks, bringing more riders through the Berkshires.

"There is a lot of economic development tied to bicycling touring," Lindsey said.

Those involved in bicycling touring tend to be people in their 50s with disposal incomes, she said. On average each rider spends about $100 a day while touring. The riders will often deviate off the route to eat at local restaurants or stay at hotels. Those who do the activity are "really experienced cyclists," she said.

According to a 2012 study by the Outdoor Industry Association, recreational activities are responsible for $646 billion in direct spending and employs more than 6 million. The bulk of that spending is in hospitality, food, transportation, sight-seeing and related travel needs.

The study found that the recreation economy grew 5 percent annually between 2005 and 2011, even during the worst years of the global economic collapse.

In North Adams, plans are to run the bike path through Western Gateway Heritage State Park and Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art.

"It is an economic generator, and people go out of their way to go to communities where there are bike paths," Michael Nuvallie, the city's community development director, said last fall in describing the bike plan. "They will spend a weekend in town and explore anything and everything they can get their hands on. They will stay over and they will shop and eat; it's an attraction."


Tags: bike path,   biking,   BRPC,   economic development,   recreation,   

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Pittsfield Kayak Kiosk Proposal Withdrawn After Pushback

By Brittany PolitoiBerkshires Staff

PITTSFIELD, Mass. — It is the "end of the road" for a kayak kiosk proposal after pushback from community members and the City Council.

Whenever Watersports has withdrawn its proposal for a kayak rental program at Onota Lake. Safety concerns arose around the company's self-serve model though it was stipulated that users sign liabilities away with a waiver as part of the process.  

"It's unfortunate. I had hoped the outcome would be different and I think (Recreation and Special Events Coordinator Maddy Brown) and you as well thought this was an opportunity to provide an additional level of services, recreation opportunity to folks at the park through a modern-app-based system," Park, Open Space, and Natural Resource Program Manager James McGrath said to the Parks Commission on Tuesday.

"It would have cost the city nothing to have this sited. We wouldn't be responsible for any maintenance but there would be maintenance to the units and to the boats, etc. Everyone was going to get life preservers and there are instructions through the app so we thought it was it was safe and secure and a good fit for the park."

In December, the commission granted a request for the pilot program and City Solicitor Stephen Pagnotta had been reviewing and revising a proposed contract that had not yet been approved. Last week during City Council, residents Daniel Miraglia and Gene Nadeau submitted a petition requesting a legal opinion on the proposal from the solicitor.

Miraglia expressed concerns about the lack of a bidding process, safety hazards, and the impact on a local business that rents kayaks on the lake. Onota Boat Livery owner Caryn Wendling was upset to hear that an out-of-town company would be allowed to operate the kiosk on the same lake as her business and also cited safety concerns.

Councilors asked that Pagnotta look into items such as the commission's authority with entering into contracts and if a bidding process would be needed for this.

Later that week, a request to the Conservation Commission for determination for the kiosk at Burbank Park located within the buffer zone associated with the inland bank was withdrawn. According to the application, it was proposed to be located before the beach area coming from the main parking lot.

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