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Foolhardy Hill offers camping essentials for outdoors enthusiasts in Charlemont.

Charlemont Campground Wins Entrepreneurial Challenge

By Stephen DravisiBerkshires Staff
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Kurt Gaertner of the Massachusetts Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs, left, congratulates Patrick and Katie Banks of Foolhardy Hill campground.
NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — A Charlemont campground Thursday was awarded a $25,000 grant in the Lever/Mohawk Trails Woodland Partnership Entrepreneur Challenge.
 
Foolhardy Hill, an off-the-grid base camp for outdoor enthusiasts started by Katie and Patrick Banks, was selected from among five finalists by a panel of three judges after making virtual pitches.
 
"Charlemont is the mecca for outdoor recreation," Katie Banks said in giving the team's presentation. "People come to fish and paddle its waters, hike its mountains and simply enjoy the history and natural beauty of the area. The number of people visiting Charlemont has skyrocketed the last 10 years as a result of the rapid development of tourism activities.
 
"During this same time period, we have witnessed over nine local restaurants and shops closing their doors. Something's not adding up. Something is missing: local accommodations."
 
The Banks are hoping to fill that gap by catering to campers who want to stay outdoors and take advantage of the region's kayaking, mountain biking, zip lining and fishing without enduring some of the hassles associated with camping.
 
"We provide the basic essentials: shelter, cooking supplies, bathroom facilities and potable water," Katie Banks said. "By providing these basics, we're reducing our customers' set-up time. They can roll out their sleeping bag and head over to the community fire and make some new friends."
 
Foolhardy Hill was selected from among four other tourist-based businesses plus Remote Harvest Sensors, which is marketing a way to collect data about the environmental impact of logging practices.
 
The other tourism businesses included Charlemont-based Berkshire Bike Tours, which offers lessons and guided mountain and road bike tours in partnership with Berkshire East ski area; the Wigwam Western Summit, which revived an abandoned gem at the eastern gateway to North Adams; and Adventure East, an outdoor and experiential travel company that aims ultimately to help make the region a destination for international tourists.
 
Adventure East was selected as the first runner-up in a brief awards ceremony led by Kurt Gaertner, of the Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs in Boston, which funded the grant.
 
"All of you proposed interesting, creative entrepreneurial ideas -- welcome and needed ways to benefit the Mohawk Trail region," Gaertner said. "I understand all of them made really fantastic pitches as part of this effort. That makes me pleased that all are benefiting from work with Lever, and I wish all of the entrepreneurs well in their endeavors."
 
As with other Lever challenges, the five finalists worked with the staff of the North Adams non-profit and outside mentors to develop their business plan and prepare for Thursday's pitch competition.
 
Williamstown's Henry Art, who chairs the Mohawk Trail Woodlands Partnership's Board of Directors, agreed with Gaertner that all of the five finalists could benefit the region.
 
"I think it shows the wonderful diversity of the use of our natural resources for a combined stewardship, sustainability and economic development all rolled into one, which is really what the Mohawk Trail Woodlands Partnership is all about," Art said.
 
"My impression is that each of you will have enormously benefited from the process, and the region benefits from the attention you have given to the landscape."
 
The potential synergies that might be achieved among the four tourism-based businesses came up during a couple of the presentations, and Katie Banks echoed that sentiment in accepting the top prize.
 
"Being a part of this challenge has been incredible for us," she said. "We kept saying that we're winners all along. This is just the cherry on top for us.
 
"To all the other participants, we can't wait to see what you guys do, too. It's been great."
 
During her presentation, Banks said the pair plans to apply the grant money to installation of a solar array and construction of a bathhouse that will enable them to create new camping sites in the spring and generate more revenue.
 
During a Q&A period with the judges that was part of each business's presentation, the Banks were asked about local competition in the camping space.
 
"Currently, there are maybe, in terms of proximity, eight or nine different campgrounds, and, on top of that, have motels, hotels and things of that nature," Katie Banks said. "A lot of them … don't go after the specific targeted customer that we're after. They offer a different energy and vibe, so to speak. The best way I can describe it is: You don't put a Chuck E. Cheese and biker bar under one roof and expect everything to be kosher."
 
Patrick Banks has 17 years of experience in the outdoor recreation industry and 12 years experience working in customer and public service. Katie Banks has over 14 years of experience in hospitality and property management. The campground they created offers 10-by-12 cabins that sleep three to four people and, as of now, one tent site that accommodates six people.
 
The winning couple met in 2007 as rafting guides on the Deerfield River and have been adventuring ever since, they said.
 
"We are the secret sauce," Katie Banks said. "Patrick and I are both from the area.
 
"We know how to connect with our customer because, in many ways, we are our customer."

Tags: business competition,   lever,   mohawk woodlands partnership,   outdoor recreation,   

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Adams OKs Final $2.3M Borrowing for Wastewater Treatment Plant

By Brian RhodesiBerkshires Staff

ADAMS, Mass. — The Board of Selectmen has approved the final loan notes and other conditions for borrowing for the wastewater treatment plant project. 

 

The board's vote authorizes Treasurer/Collector Kelly Rice to work with bond counsel to issue loan documents. The loan is from the Massachusetts Clean Water Trust, which the board approved $5.49 million of borrowing from for the project in November last year. 

 

Town Administrator Jay Green said another vote was necessary for borrowing the remaining funds. Town meeting gave the OK to the $5.49 million for the plant in 2021 and approved the additional funds in November

 

"You approved the same type of document for that first batch of money. We're now being asked to do this again for that second batch of money at $2.3 million," Green said. "That will bring us to a full borrowing amount of $7.4 million that we have to use to pay the contractor for the $7.4 million worth of work," he said. 

 

The plant was built in 1968 and received a partial upgrade in 2006. Construction is already ongoing, as the project went out to bid last year. 

 

Green explained that the debt service for the borrowing will not be the entire $7.4 million. 

 

"I don't have that exact number for you tonight because the Clean Water trust needs to apply all of that loan forgiveness. And then the final amount that's calculated is the amount that the town will owe back to Clean Water Trust," he said. 

 

In other business: 

 

  • The Zerbini Family Circus, a circus that travels around the country, is coming to Adams from July 14 to 16 with several shows at Bowe Field. 

 

Joe Martin came before the board the inform them of the circus' arrival. He noted Berkshire County hosted the fair before, setting up in Dalton with help from the Dalton Lions Club. 

 

"We already have permission from the fairgrounds. We met with all the departments for Adams," he said. "There is no exotic animals in the circus. There's dogs and cats and donkeys and ponies. No lions, no tigers, no bears." 

 

The board also approved the facility use request for the Adams Street Fair and accompanying parade on June 24 from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. Martin attended on behalf of the fair as its committee chair. 

 

  • The board approved a 5 percent cost of living adjustment, a request by the Adams Retirement Board. 

 

Bill Flynn, the administrator for the retirement board, said special state legislation allows retirement boards to request a one-time 5 percent increase rather than the usual limit of 3 percent. 

 

"We, by statute, can only go to 3 percent. This was a special act of Legislature just to allow us to go up to 5," Flynn said. He noted that this will likely not affect the town budget, and if it did it would not be for several years. 

 

  • The board approved the ratification of Curtis Crane as a sergeant for the Adams Police Department. Crane is a lifelong Adams resident and is the handler for Kumar, the town's K9. 

 

"With Kumar's leadership, Curt has been involved in numerous drug seizures, evidence recoveries and tracking vulnerable persons, whether they be injured or missing," said Police Chief K. Scott Kelley. "I am extremely proud of Kurt's growth and his accomplishments. I see that he works every day to the best husband, father and police officer that he can, in that order. His dedication to the town shows, and I would be honored to have him as a sergeant." 

 

  • After numerous delays, the board approved the innholder license for the Mount Royal Inn. Board Vice Chair Christine Hoyt said Building Commissioner Gerald Garner, who could not attend the meeting, did complete his final inspection. 

 

  • The board approved the appointment of Barbara Ziemba to the Council on Aging. The COA Advisory Board voted to appoint Ziemba at its most recent meeting. 

 

  • The board approved the ratification of Seth Brooks as an assistant mechanic at the wastewater treatment plant. 
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