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Parks Commission OKs Location of Springside Pump Track

By Brittany PolitoiBerkshires Staff
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PITTSFIELD, Mass. — The Parks Commission is seeking community input on the proposed pump track in Springside Park.

On Tuesday evening, the commission approved the location and concept for a bike skills track at Springside Park subject to additional public input. Due to project timelines, this was a special meeting called outside of the commission's usual meeting times.

"That's another step forward in what we hope to become a great addition to the park system," Chairman Anthony DeMartino said about the approval. "obviously still a lot of work to do, but a step in the positive direction."

Park, Open Space, and Natural Resource Program Manager James McGrath said he will begin working with the program's representative Alison McGee to inform the public of this proposal and give them an opportunity to voice opinions at the regularly scheduled Parks Commission meeting on Tuesday, Jan. 19.

McGee has drafted a survey for residents of the Morningside neighborhood and the two school communities that Springside Park surrounds.  She also wants to make sure the larger community has voiced their thoughts on the project.

"We have a vision for what we want the project to be but we are really open to making it something that fits the community," McGee said. "so by opening it up for some input in the next month that would really enhance the project and make it a very solid asset to the community."

The approval of the pump track's concept and location allows for McGee, who is president for the Berkshire Chapter of the New England Mountain Bike Association (NEMBA), to pursue funding and project designer/contractor Will Conroy of Powder Horn Trail Co. to develop a full detailed design plan.

The track will be of zero cost to the City of Pittsfield, as Berkshire NEMBA with the Berkshire Mountain Bike Training Series and Shire Shredders will pursue funding on their own, independent of the park or city. In November, McGee said they have already fundraised enough to cover the cost of an initial concept plan by Powder Horn from a community bike race event in March 2020 at Bosquet in Pittsfield.

Members of the Parks Commission met with McGee for a walkthrough of the site early last month, which raised questions from commissioners relating to cost, location, and maintenance.

McGee, who previously taught at Morningside Community School and currently works at a middle school, thinks that an outdoor recreation facility will steer students away from going down the wrong path. In her opinion, a pump track located at Springside Park is ideal because it benefits both the Morningside and Reid Middle School neighborhoods.

"I think providing a recreation opportunity to these at-risk communities is extremely important," she said. "Because many of these families cannot have cars to drive to access recreation and to be able to provide something that the kids and adults can bike to from their homes is really valuable."

McGee also said the Springside Park location will increase the chances of the project receiving funding and support, as several of the grants she has looked into specifically like to support projects that are targeting at-risk neighborhoods and will promote diversity and inclusion.

NEMBA and the Berkshire Mountain Bike Training Series will have a memorandum of understanding with the city that states that the two organizations are solely responsible for all maintenance of the track.   

McGrath explained that this project has two phases: the design phase and the public bidding construction phase. When it comes to the design, Conroy has the ability to design the project with NEMBA funding and then NEMBA will donate the design to the city.

When it comes to bidding, City Purchasing Agent Colleen Hunter-Mullett wants to see that this project is publicly bid. The professionally developed design plan can then be put out in the open marketplace for vendors to bid on.

McGrath said when it comes to the bidding and construction of this project, it is important to make sure they find a firm with experience in constructing pump tracks, as it is a niche market.

If Powder Horn designs the project, it will also be eligible to bid on it and the project would then be awarded to the lowest responsive bidder.

"Now, the project wouldn't be able to go out to bid until there is an attestation that the funds would be in place, and the funding would be that estimate of the probable cost that Will Conroy and Powder Horn would develop," McGrath said. "So, I would imagine that NEMBA and Alison would want to start fundraising as soon as they can, I know this is one of the reasons that we are having this special meeting tonight."

The Parks Commission also received some clarity on materials that would be used for the track and discussed concerns of unwanted riders.

McGee said that in addition to asphalt being low maintenance, it has a multi-user benefit because roller blades, skateboards, and scooters would also be able to ride on it. McGee and Conroy hope to have about 4 feet of the track be paved and rest natural, with the dirt consistently leveled so there isn't a height difference.

"In my opinion, it is also safer in terms of providing a level of traction that you might not find consistently on a dirt or natural surface," Conroy said. "with dirt you're going to see erosion, dust, freeze/ thaw cycles will cause heating and that provides some variability in the track whereas with asphalt you're going to have a consistent surface that doesn't change."

Commissioner Michele Matthews commented that McGee and Conroy's information has sold her on the idea of having a paved pump track, which she wasn't leaning toward prior to the meeting.

The commission also requested that Conroy considers an expense in the design plan regarding aesthetically pleasing perimeter protection to keep dirt bikes and four-wheelers from damaging the track.

"My hope is by adding something like this we would increase positive traffic to the park and decrease negative traffic," McGee said.

In other news, Paula Albro was welcomed back to the Parks Commission. Albro had previously served for 19 years and was its first woman chairman. She is also the former principal of Morningside, has served on the Elizabeth Freeman Center Board of Directors, and has been a very active volunteer in the community.

Tags: bicycling,   Springside Park,   

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