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Some Pittsfield residents are raising concerns about putting a bike skills park in Springside.

Community Members Raise Concern About Proposed Springside Pump Track

By Brittany PolitoiBerkshires Staff
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PITTSFIELD, Mass. — While bike enthusiasts are excited about the proposed pump track in Springside Park, others have concerns about the project.

The Parks Commission has received a number of emails from community members regarding the possible impacts a pump track may have on the historic site.

"I think for members of the public and I think other commissioners who have expressed input is to recognize that we are still in a design phase of this," Chairman Anthony DeMartino said. "We are still very early on for us to look at the scope, the size, the exact location and its impact in those areas, so certainly we are on the path of exploring this proposal down the road but we are still in my mind a good bit away from putting a shovel in the ground."

In November, the commission approved the concept for a bike skills park on about one acre of Springside's property, and in January, they approved the location northeast of the North Playground behind Reid Middle School subject to additional public input.

At Tuesday's Parks Commission meeting, DeMartino offered the opportunity for individuals to voice their concerns on the project.

"I think [Springside Park] has public trust that will be violated by this proposal," argued Royal Hartigan, who says he travels the world but always considers Pittsfield his home.

Hartigan said the historic park is a sacred place for passive recreation and that there are Berkshire County locations that could better suit a bike skills park such as October Mountain State Forest in Lee, Pittsfield State Forest, Burbank Park, and Kirvin Park.

"That alone encompasses almost 40,000 acres of territory that is at least potentially open for biking and is currently already being used for biking," he added.

Daniel Miraglia, who was born and raised in the vicinity of Springside Park, urged commission members to reject the proposal out of concern for the change of use within a historical location.

He said the Springside Park Master Plan clearly states that moving forward there should be no changes made to alter natural characteristics in the park. Miraglia feels a mountain bike course will clearly change the natural surroundings and historical significance.

Park, Open Space, and Natural Resource Program Manager James McGrath addressed a few common themes of concern that community members expressed. He said most of them dealt with the issue of permitting, making it clear that no environmental permitting is required as part of this project site and that the site hosts no rare or endangered species or known flora or fauna.

"At present, the location for the proposed bike skills park is outside of any wetland jurisdictional area," McGrath explained. "So there's no need to present the proposed project to the conservation commission because in fact there is no application in front of them, in fact, we don't even have a definitive site plan but I can tell you right now that where this is being proposed it is outside of any wetland resource area and it will not need a wetland permit."

He also addressed Miraglia's concern that the park was having a change of use, saying there are no covenants that spell out a change in use for the park that needs to be approved by the commonwealth.  

"This is not a change in use within a park," he clarified. "There are no covenants which dictate that this would require any further involvement by the commonwealth."

McGrath said the memorandum of understanding between the New England Mountain Bike Association and the city in relation to the bike skills park is simply meant to be a vehicle by which the relationship between the city and the mountain bike club is established.

This memorandum outlines rules and responsibilities, the time frame for design, construction, arrangement relative to funding, and overall maintenance of the pump track. This agreement, he said, is not giving away the park to a single-use organization.

NEMBA Berkshire Chapter President and program representative Alison McGee said community concerns will able to be addressed when the pump track's final design is received from Powder Horn Trail Co., which specializes in "finish work" that does not disrupt the natural surroundings of a project.

"We don't have the design yet," McGee said. "But I met with Will the designer this past week and so I'm anticipating that we will be getting the detailed design plan in the next week or so."

After receiving this plan, McGee will be able to provide more information on the project so it can be discussed and adjusted as necessary.

This initial design encompassed a large portion of fundraising the organization has done so far.

Through an online donation platform for mountain bike projects launched in partnership with brand Shimano called "Dig In," McGee set a $5,000 goal for the design plan from Powder Horn. Her organization was responsible for raising $3,000 and if it meets a $2,000 goal, Shimano would match the $2,000.

McGee said the group had until the end of March to raise the funds but finished within the first two weeks, surpassing the $5,000 goal and being able to put the remaining funds toward the cost of the project.

Currently, Berkshire NEMBA is putting together a sponsorship package so it can approach local organizations, individuals, and businesses and McGee is in the process of applying to several other grants.

"We are kind of diving into the fundraising aspect of things now," she said. "But I was very excited to have such a great response for the first fundraising push that we did."

The commissioners also discussed the wishes of the Miller family, which donated much of Springside Park to the city of Pittsfield in the early to mid-20th century.

"Basically the Miller family wanted that parcel of land they gave to the city mainly for the education, I think in some ways we've gotten away with that," Commissioner Cliff Nilan said. "I do not see this project going against their wishes."

McGrath said he will do due diligence to investigate if there is any sort of document or agreement from the family that was included in their gift to the city, though he believes that Nilan is correct.

Tags: biking,   Springside Park,   

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Veteran Spotlight: Sgt. Maj. Michael King

By Wayne SoaresSpecial to iBerkshires
PITTSFIELD, Mass. — This week's Veteran Spotlight subject is retired Army Sgt. Maj. Michael King, who now leads the Berkshire Veteran Outreach Center.
King grew up in Rochester, N.Y., and served his country from 1993 to 2015. He enlisted at the age of 18 and was sent to basic training at Fort McClellan, Ala. 
"It was definitely a culture shock," he recalled. "I learned about biscuits and gravy from the mess hall, which I found delicious ... remember an obscene amount of heat and humidity."
King's first assignment was at Fort Huachuca, Ariz., where he served in law enforcement as an military police officer. From there, King was assigned to the former Johnston Island Air Force Base — 800 miles southwest of Hawaii — that is now a wildlife preserve.
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