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Clapp Park is set to see renovations.

Pittsfield Finalizes Plans For Clapp Park Renovations

By Andy McKeeveriBerkshires Staff
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Architects Rachel Loeffler, of Berkshire Design Group, and John Barry of Barry Architects presented the plans to the Parks Commission on Monday.
PITTSFIELD, Mass. — A final design for more than a half-million dollars worth of improvements to Clapp Park was finalized Monday.
The Parks Commission gave its stamp of approval on the design crafted by Berkshire Design Group. The design, however, isn't entirely what parks officials had been hoping for when first crafted. The full vision is now expected to be done in phases.
The city had worked with the designers on a fully re-envisioned park after receiving a $400,000 state grant but all of the elements wanted proved to be costly. Berkshire Design Group went back to the drawing board and now has a set of construction plans that will fit the $680,000 available for spending.
"We're going to focus mostly on the front part of the park," Landscape Architect Rachel Loeffler told the commission.
One of the key aspects of the project is the addition of a splash pad near the current basketball court. The Rotary Club is donating some $180,000 toward the development of that new feature. That will be featured next to the current playground, which will be seeing new elements added to it specifically eyed for handicapped accessibility. The basketball court was once eyed to be moved to the back of the park but instead, that will stay and be resurfaced.
Right next to the playgrounds will be a new bathroom facility that will be open during the day during the summer months. A new walkway from the playground to the existing track will connect the features of the park.
The backstop of the baseball field is eyed to be moved back 45 feet. The Buddy Pellerin Field Committee is donating some $30,000 for improvements to the field, with moving the backstop is one of many changes it has planned. The project is also supported with funds from the Community Preservation Act.
The city was hoping to install a new, net meshing backstop, but that might not be financially feasible. Parks and Open Spaces Manager James McGrath said it will be an "add-on" and if the price is reasonable and there is room in the budget, will be added. Otherwise, that would be pushed to another phase of renovations. 
The moved backstop will force the track to be repositioned slightly. However, there is no money to repair the track so it will remain crushed stone. The crushed stone, however, is not considered handicapped accessible but the path to it will be. McGrath hopes in the future the track is renovated.
The original plan also looked to install a handicapped parking lot near the splash park. But that, too, had to be pulled from this phase of the project. Instead, the accessible walkway will continue to Hollister Street where the city will be setting aside handicapped parking.
"We're meeting the spirit of accessibility with this design," McGrath said. "The improvements we're making on the eastern side of the park in the playground and splash pad are connected to handicapped parking we will stripe out on Hollister Street."
Along West Housatonic Street the plans call for cutting down all but one of the trees and replanting new ones. McGrath said that is eyed to have the tree line be all of the same species and age to provide a more uniformed look.
"What we currently have is a mismatch," McGrath said.
The baseball field itself will see new sodding, new dugouts, benches, and fencing. The current parking area will be repaved and new signage and wooden guardrails will be added.
The light on top of the hill will be removed. McGrath said the state grant requires electrical lines to be buried and for that one light, it would be too costly to do so. 
"No one is going to miss this random light at the top of the hill," McGrath said.
McGrath added that some of the historic features of the park won't go away. Sledding will be not be impeded and the horse trough and Clapp Park dedication stone along West Housatonic Street will be moved into the park.
"The horse trough is a really cool element and there is a marker that almost looks like a gravestone and the idea is to incorporate those features into the design," McGrath said.
The city had first taken a very expansive look at the park and had plans for the entire property, including new walking paths and trails to connect all parts. Now that is being broken down into phases.
"The reality is that everything is very expensive these days," McGrath said. "This is a trimmed-down plan that meets our objectives and is a starting point for substantial improvements to this part of Clapp Park."
Outside of the West Housatonic side of the park, McGrath said the city and the Little League program matched funds to order and install a new scoreboard so the rear portion of the park won't be left out completely. 
"It is a small improvement that we are happy to help the Little League with down there," McGrath said.
McGrath hopes to get the project to bid as soon as possible and the hope is to at least get the baseball field completed before the season starts.
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Tags: parks & rec,   parks commission,   public parks,   

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Children Learn About Wildlife at Richmond Free Library

By Brittany PolitoiBerkshires Staff

Children pet Chili the chinchilla. 

RICHMOND, Mass. — There were some furry and feathery guests of honor at the Richmond Free Library this weekend.

On Saturday afternoon, founder of Nature Matters Jennifer Leahey wowed local children and parents  with a presentation of live animals.

This event was sponsored by the Richmond Cultural Council, said Library Director Kristin Smith. "We are grateful for their continued support."

Though this is not the first time the library has hosted an animal event, it was Nature Matter's first time here. The event was at full capacity, and each of the socially distanced chairs placed in a semi-circle full of eager animal lovers.

The presentation was aimed at families and children of all ages.  Leahey was chosen by the library because her programs are about connecting people with animals, because she rescues animals and turns those that cannot be released into animal educators, and because she is from Berkshire County, Smith said.

Additionally, this presentation was a safe, socially distanced event where all attendees wore masks.

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