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The plans for a park at the former Hoosac Valley Coal & Grain site on Cook Street.

Adams to Seek CDBG Funding for Coal & Grain Park

By Jack GuerinoiBerkshires Staff
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The coal and grain building was once a stop on the rail line and now borders the Ashuwillticook Rail Trail. 

ADAMS, Mass. —  The town plans to apply for funds to construct the proposed Hoosac Valley Coal and Grain park on Cook Street.

Members of the Community Development Department gave a presentation to the Selectmen at its Wednesday workshop and informed the board that now that the park designs are complete, the town can apply for funds to begin park.
 
"We want to honor the location adjacent to the rail trail," Becky Ferguson said. "And also the Berkshire Scenic Rail Line and honor the history of the site."
 
The town took the property for back taxes some time ago and, with its optimal location near the Ashuwillticook Rail Trail and the Berkshire Scenic Rail line, the town sought funding for an environmental cleanup and CDBG funds to design the park.
 
Ferguson said the park will be "ice cream cone" shaped, and the plan is to install a fenced-in dog park at the tip of the "cone." 
 
Besides a pedestrian entrance, there will be a ramp leading off the rail trail into the park. This would move into a plaza area and then into an event lawn. Across a middle path will be a picnic area.
 
The coal bunkers and tank saddles will be preserved and Donna Cesan, who has stayed on as director until her position can be filled, said park users will be able to interact with the train relics.
 
"We want to stabilize and maintain some of that and turn them into interesting features that people in the park can explore or sit on," she said. "We have incorporated some climbing features that kids can climb on."
 
Cesan said the landmark tower will be stabilized as well as the historic building on the property. Although currently the goal is to just maintain the historic structures, the town could consider installing bathrooms or some other function in the future.
 
"It is an icon, and I think because of the historic character people know exactly where we are by the landmark," she said.
 
Cesan said the town does have U.S. Environmental Protection Agency funding to undergo clean up, which will be done in two phases 
 
The Selectmen liked the idea but Richard Blanchard was worried about the limited parking.
 
Cesan said the park is designed with pedestrians in mind and she hopes the majority of people would walk or ride their bikes to the park. She did say there was an abundance of street parking.
 
Blanchard was also concerned that the park would create new burdens for the already stretched Department of Public Works squad.
 
Cesan said the park was designed to be low maintenance and Town Administrator Jay Green said he saw an opportunity to create a friends group to look over the park.
 
Selectman Joseph Nowak shared Blanchard's concerns but was happy the town was preserving the silo.
 
"It is a beautiful building and it is part of our history," he said. "There are very few left, and it reminds us of our railroad history."
 
Cesan said the project is estimated to cost $560,000. She said if the town received the full $800,000 Community Development Block Grant funding, there should be enough for program salaries and maybe a smaller planning project.
 
Besides project details, Cesan said she had little information on the grant process and that the fiscal 2021 deadline is still undetermined. The state also has delayed much of the guidance it typically releases each grant cycle because of the pandemic.
 
Cesan said applications are usually due the first Friday in March, however, with the pandemic, this deadline will be moved. She said the earliest she thought they could apply would be April.
 
"They have not given us a new deadline ... but we will have additional time. We will be before the board again before we submit an application," Cesan said.
 
In other business, the town discussed future Transportation Improvement Program  (TIP) projects and Cesan suggested that the town add Howland Avenue to the list.
 
"The concept for Route 8 North. It is the industrial area of town, and we want to enhance it," she said. "That is a gateway into town, and we want to make it more attractive and welcoming."
 
Community Development is envisioning a boulevard style overhaul with a medium that would narrow as a traffic-calming measure.
 
The state Department of Transportation liked the idea, Cesan said, but said the town would need to hold a public meeting on the project to get the ball moving.
 
The Selectmen had few comments on the project but agreed the road needed improving. Blanchard said he was hesitant to comment without seeing a more fleshed out design.
 
They did ask about current TIP projects, such as the Route 8 South improvement project, and the rail trail extension to North Adams. 
 
Cesan was excited to say the town was nearing 25 percent design completion for the rail trail extension to Hodges Cross Road.
 
"At 25 percent decision, once DOT accepts that they want a public hearing," she said. "Once you achieve that, then you are on your way to finishing off the project." 
 
She anticipates completion by the end of the calendar year with a public hearing scheduled shortly after.
 
Cesan added that the town has been working with Burnett Farm, a "major land owner," that wants the trail to run through their farm.
 
"I think they recognize that there may be some agricultural tourism opportunities with the bike trail coming along the river on a portion of their land," she said. "So we are working closely with them."

Tags: Ashuwillticook Rail Trail,   CDBG,   public parks,   

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Adams Aiming for Summer Reopening of Public Buildings

By Jack GuerinoiBerkshires Staff
ADAMS, Mass. — The town is hoping to fully reopen by July, depending on public health data.
 
Town Administrator Jay Green told the Select Board on Wednesday that although he does not foresee completely opening until the summer, he thought it was time to start planning.
 
Green said currently the town is in the yellow level of the state's COVID-19 categories and that he would not be comfortable opening until the town is consistently in the green or, even better, gray. The levels run from red for high transmission and positive cases to gray at the lowest level.
 
"As long as we are in the red or yellow, that indicates the presence of COVID-19 at a level that could promote community spread," Green said. "As you can see there are a lot of communities opening up, but we are a little behind. Is it conservative? Yes but I think we are almost there."
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