The section colored in red, closer to Springside Avenue, is where the work will be focused. The section colored in blue will be left mostly the same to avoid removing a lot of sediment.
PITTSFIELD, Mass. — The design efforts to restore Springside Pond is entering the permitting phase.
Parks and Open Spaces Manager Jim McGrath updated the Parks Commission on Tuesday about the progress and said the city will be seeking permits from the Conservation Commission in the coming weeks.
However, the project itself is going to be costly and a funding source has not been identified.
"It is an expensive project, no question about it, but this is the phase we are putting the design together and permits in place," McGrath said.
Two years ago, the city allocated federal funds to hire SK Design to design the restoration efforts. The pond had once been a landmark in the city's park system with both a traditional pond and a concrete wading pool but has since fallen into disrepair. The dam broke and much of the pond is overgrown with reed-like plants. Those plants have continued to creep southward over the water.
One particular issue the dam faces is a lot of sediment. McGrath said the city has been advised to limit the removal of sediment because of the need to dispose of it and additional federal permitting that could come into play. McGrath also said the water drains into Silver Lake, so what gets drained that way needs to be clean.
"This is a major contributor to the water in Silver Lake," he said.
The plan now is to repair the dam so it again holds water and holds it at a higher level -- the higher level will ultimately lead to killing off a lot of the overgrown plants, McGrath said. The city then plans to remove the stonework and the concrete floor in the wading pool section and restore that to a natural bottom pond. Overall it would become more of a natural pond with natural banks.
The next step would be to create a handicapped accessible walking path through the park and a boardwalk over the pond to improve handicapped accessibility.
A final step would be to create a parking lot in that section of the park. McGrath said he is still unsure if the parking lot will be created -- and he doesn't know if even he agrees with putting one there -- but it is part of the permit the city is seeking.
"The real emphasis of this plan is to restore the pond," McGrath said.
The cost estimates are still fairly wide-ranging. McGrath estimated it could cost from $600,000 to $900,000 for the work. He said the project particularly yields a number of ecological benefits so potential state funding could come from agencies that fund such projects as wildlife habitat restoration projects and water quality.
"It is not the jewel in Springside Park that we know it can be," McGrath said of the conditions of the pond. "This is a project I had on my wish list for many years and I hope we can get to it sooner or later."
The update Tuesday was particularly timely because of recent debates about the park. The Springside Conservancy has fought a proposed pickleball facility to be located in a different section of park because it didn't believe it complied with the master plan for the park. The City Council ultimately cut funding for it in the capital budget but the courts could still be built, and could still be built at Springside.
That debate led to a significant debate in the city and the pond had constantly been cited as a need instead. The work on the pond had been ongoing, city resources were being spent on the design phase and throughout the debates, McGrath often reaffirmed that resources were not being taken away from the park. Tuesday's update serves as somewhat of a reminder that the pond isn't being ignored.
Parks Commissioner Joe Durwin is the former conservancy president and now serves as a non-voting member on the conservancy board. Durwin said the pond is one of the top priorities in the park's master plan and the conservancy is supportive of the plan as McGrath presented.
"As this strategy has evolved, there's always been some kind of intrinsic challenges that we knew were going to need to be overcome in some way. I think we've arrived a creative solution that could potentially achieve what they've always been looking for in this neighborhood," Durwin said after the meeting when asked what the conservancy would think of the plan.
"I think this is by far the most desired project that I've heard from neighborhood residents. Overall it is something that for years and years there has been a tremendous community push for."
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