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One of the Parks and Recreation Advisory Committee's recommendations is using the pond at the Spruces as a skating rink.

Williamstown Parks & Rec Committee Delivers Its Report

By Stephen DravisiBerkshires Staff
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Select Board members, from left, Andrew Hogeland, Jeffrey Thomas and Anne O'Connor participate in Monday's meeting.
WILLIAMSTOWN, Mass. — After spending a year to look at the town's recreational opportunities, an ad hoc committee concluded that it shouldn't take people a year to find those opportunities.
"The one consistent bit of input we got from people is: We would do more if we knew more," Parks and Recreation Advisory Committee Chairman Tim Carr told the Select Board on Monday evening.
"Even though those lists exist, it needs to come together in a central place, be kept up to date and be accessible to all different user types. There are some people who will just read a piece of paper and some who will just use an app. And everything in between."
The ad hoc PARAC, which was charged last January with developing a report to the Select Board, delivered its findings on Monday. The core of the report is a list of 12 actionable areas that the committee members organized in a prioritized list for Town Hall.
No. 1 on that list: "Staffing, communications and partnerships."
The committee lists 14 recommendations for how the town might increase communication about its recreational offerings and "develop and leverage relationships with North Adams, Lanesborough and Berkshires recreation-focused organizations."
Among the more ambitious suggestions from the committee is to designate a town employee to "curate, prioritize and advance this work," a step that would have clear implications for the town's budget.
But other suggestions have lower price tags, like creating "better signage and more of a universal brand for recreation in Williamstown."
The committee even suggested its own "tagline" for its vision of recreation in the community: "A lifetime of discovery."
Without yet adopting that moniker, the town already has taken some steps toward unifying its signage, Town Manager Jason Hoch told the board later in Monday's meeting. The recently installed information kiosk at the trail head on Berlin Mountain echoes similar kiosks on Stone Hill and at the Spruces park on Main Street (Route 2).
That sort of initiative is in line with another section of the PARAC report, the committee's list of 23 action steps it describes as "low-hanging fruit" that could be implemented relatively quickly.
Among those items: add directional markers and signs along woodland trails, utilize Spruces Pond as an outside skating rink and designate dog play areas, fenced or not.
Perhaps the committee's most ambitious proposal fell under its second actionable area: multi-use field space.
Carr said the committee heard clear feedback that there are not enough athletic fields in town to meet the tremendous and rising demand from youth leagues and active adults alike.
"It's not a safe circumstance is what we've heard from people," Carr said. "There's co-location and concentration of fields at Williamstown Elementary School. They do not have the buffer zones that are needed.
"Peak season is peak season for a lot of these sports, and there's not adequate space for demand."
Brian Gill, one of several members of Carr's committee who attended Monday's meeting, elaborated on the problem

Parks and Recreation Advisory Committee Chairman Tim Carr delivers his committee's final report.
"Some of the particular struggles were safety, overuse and not enough size and number of fields," Gill said. "Whether from the emerging growth of softball in town to go along with baseball or not enough current fields for baseball with scheduling. There's a problem with use of fields for soccer and lacrosse, specifically in the spring with overuse in mud season. We have zero rotation of fields.
"On top of that, we don't have a full-sized field of any type that high school-aged kids or adults can play on."
Gill said the town has a large population of active adults, and they have no place in town to play.
"It's not just youth," he said.
Select Board member Hugh Daley said it will be a challenge to find room to establish new fields.
"There's not a lot of flat land that doesn't have a home or a building on it," he said of the town. "That, to me, is the toughest one to solve."
To that end, the town has a request before the Community Preservation Committee for CPA funds to help pay for a consultant to look at all land -- public and private -- in town to see where the town could either acquire property or establish fields on currently town-owned land.
Select Board member Jane Patton, who serves on the CPC, said the lack of fields is an issue the town should be addressing.
"There were years and years of literally nothing being done in terms of any kind of standard parks and recreation development or infrastructure," Patton said. "A town like ours should have these things. I'd want this even if I didn't have kids in sports. I grew up in the Midwest where my town had 10 different parks, and we weren't a wealthy town.
"The town, at the end of the day, is why we're here and why we should work on correcting this."

Tags: ad hoc committee,   parks & rec,   public parks,   

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Williamstown Historical Museum Hosts 'Baseball in the Berkshires' Exhibit

By Stephen DravisiBerkshires Staff

An image of Ulysses Franklin 'Frank' Grant looks down on the Baseball in the Berkshires exhibit. The Hall of Famer was celebrated with a plaque in his hometown of Williamstown in 2006. Right, 2006 sports page from the former North Adams Transcript celebrates Grant's legacy and the connection between the Clark Art Institute and the Baseball Hall of Fame. The event included Williams alum and former Baseball Commissioner Fay Vincent.
WILLIAMSTOWN, Mass. — The Baseball in the Berkshires roadshow rolls into Williamstown starting Saturday with a summer exhibit exploring the town's impact on America's pastime and vice versa.
Now in its seventh year, Baseball in the Berkshires has established itself as a repository for facts and artifacts that shine a bright light on the region's baseball roots.
Since its beginnings in the barn at Herman Melville's Arrowhead in Pittsfield, the exhibit has called Lanesborough, Lee, Lenox, North Adams, Stockbridge and Dalton home.
This summer, it plans high-profile public displays of baseball imagery in North Adams and Pittsfield along with a summer "residency" at the Williamstown Historical Museum that opens to the public on Saturday morning.
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