PITTSFIELD, Mass. — The city will take a stronger stance against the removal of downed wood and vegetation from city parks.
After hearing from Jane Winn of Berkshire Environmental Action Team about illegal scavenging of downed wood at Burbank Park, Parks and Open Spaces Manager James McGrath on Tuesday said the department will address such actions with signage, education, and enforcement.
"We certainly want to get the word out that that is not acceptable," he said.
Winn said she had witnessed at one point a person with two truck loads of downed wood from Burbank Park. When she approached him, she was told he had permission from "Conservation and Recreation." She said if he was referring to the state agency they have no jurisdiction over the park
"I would like to see the Parks Commission have something maybe a policy that says take only photographs leave only footprints," she said.
Winn said downed wood is important to the ecosystem and helps store carbon, creating a resilience against climate change. She added that the downed wood also acts as "sign posts" for critters.
"Downed wood is really important for places like Burbank Park that have areas that have not been cut in over 100 years," she said. "We are really developing some old-growth characteristics."
McGrath said the city already has a policy against removing any vegetation from the parks, alive or dead, and added that it also isn't fair for individuals to use or possibly make a profit off a public resource.
"There are a lot of folks in the community that heat with wood and I can understand that they may think they are just downed trees in a big woodland and it won't hurt anything," he said. "It is part of the educational process."
People are allowed sometimes to remove and take downed wood from public areas, he said, but this is isolated to roadways and other areas where the wood should and needs to be removed.
"We make sure they have the proper authorization because sometimes it helps us and takes the burden off of us," McGrath said. "But we would never allow anyone to salvage through the woodlands that is an egregious activity."
The signage will be placed at Burbank Park and information will be placed on the city's website. Also McGrath plans to email the Police Department just to inform them of the park policy.
McGrath said drones will no longer be able to be flown in parks within 2 miles of the airport and signage will be installed at Clapp Park, South Street Memorial Park, and Osceola Park.
"We had had these conversations before and have drafted a policy to prohibit drones because we don't have a site set aside for such an activity," he said.
McGrath said the request came from the airport manager, who wanted the city to comply with Federal Aviation Administration regulations.
The department can look at developing a drone park if there is an interest, he said.
"We can start to have that conversation but this park would really need to be outside of this 2-mile radius," he said. "There are parks where we can do this."
In other business, the commission executed a provisional agreement with Todd Fiorentino, owner of the Poseidon Coffee kiosk, who may end up moving his operation to North Street.
"There are a few locations earmarked as possibilities on North Street," McGrath said. "If he can secure a location, he will go that route instead."
There were initial concerns over the operation specifically about inconsistent hours, however, Chairman Anthony DeMartino said he and McGrath met with Fiorentino to hash out some of these points of contention.
DeMartino said Fiorentino acknowledged that he had issues with staffing that he looks to rectify and would also like to change his hours from 10 to 12 to 7:30 to 9:30.
He said Fiorentino asked for the provisional agreement so he could start to sort out staffing for an April opening. He said they would have a firmer handle on which direction Fiorentino wants to go once he returns from a trip.
McGrath said the city is still in negotiations with the Pittsfield Suns to execute a new agreement that would allow the team to continue to lease Wahconah Park.
"We are not at total opposite ends of the spectrum," he said. "We all want baseball back here in Pittsfield and we all understand that it is good for Wahconah Park but this will set the stage for the next five years so we want to get it right."
In January, the commission executed a memorandum of understanding with the team allowing them to continue to use the park until the city and team can draft a new agreement.
McGrath said the Suns are looking for a reduction in fees while the city has reinforced that the park is an expensive facility to maintain.
"There is some common ground in there somewhere," he said.
He said he expects to have a draft agreement ready for the March meeting.
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Pittsfield Officials Pick Taconic Grad for Empty School Committee Seat
By Brittany PolitoiBerkshires Staff
PITTSFIELD, Mass. — In a joint meeting of the School Committee and the City Council, Nyanna Slaughter was unanimously voted to serve the rest of former member School Committee member Dennis Powell's term expiring at the end of December.
Slaughter is the Central Massachusetts regional director for U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren and as a Pittsfield native has "strong relationships with several children, families, elected officials, and community leaders in the city."
"I am a Black educated woman who is a confident, passionate, determined, organized leader and team player," she wrote in her letter of interest. "Joining the Pittsfield School Committee will allow me to continue to serve and engage our students in our community."
Also indicating interest was Karen Kaveney-Murray, who has worked in Pittsfield Public Schools as a translator, and Randy Farmer, who feels strongly about ensuring success for all students by implementing policies that focus on student achievement. Ward 4 Councilor Chris Connell nominated Farmer but the motion was not seconded.
Applicants Kathy Amuso, Avi Dresner, and Karen Lauzon withdrew and Farmer was a new addition, as his application through Google on May 3 was misplaced in the system.
Mayor Linda Tyer made the first motion to nominate Slaughter for the seat.
"Stop Telling Women to Smile" — her debut book — was released in February 2020 and uses visual art and storytelling narratives to address the daily oppressive experiences of marginalized people.
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Not yet ready to settle on a final plan, the Ordinance and Rules subcommittee unanimously voted to table a petition from Ward 1 Councilor Helen Moon requesting that city and council continue to offer a virtual and call-in option beyond COVID-19 for all public meetings.
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The Pittsfield Education Foundation is hosting a takeout-to-donate event called "Food for Thought" to benefit students and teachers of the Pittsfield Public Schools. This is the organization's fourth annual fundraising event and it has a goal of raising $10,000.
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The lightly attended town meeting was held in the gym of Nessacus Regional Middle School, where voters passed a fiscal 2022 town operating budget of $8,091,026 and an appropriation of $8,130,864 for the town's share of the Central Berkshire Regional School District budget.
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