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Park, Open Space, and Natural Resource Program Manager James McGrath asks the public what they think the historic park should look like.

Second Pontoosuc Lake Public Hearing Sees Better Turnout

By Brittany PolitoiBerkshires Staff
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Ward 7 Councilor Anthony Maffucio talks about the need for better parking at Pontoosuc.

PITTSFIELD, Mass. — The city's second public hearing for a new master vision of Pontoosuc Lake Park attracted about 25 attendees who weighed in on their wants for the space.

Handicap accessibility, trash cleanup, swimmer safety, and improved walkability around the combined 24-acre park were reoccurring topics of conversation.

This is the city's third outreach method in the process of developing the master plan. In September, a community survey generated 225 responses and in late October, there was a virtual public hearing that was less attended.

Pontoosuc Lake Park was acquired in 1913 and has not had any substantial improvements made to it since the 1960s. This project is part of a long-range open space and recreation plan for Pittsfield.

From around the 1950s to the 1970s, there were large, well-attended public beaches at the park along with a bathhouse and swimming docks.  

It is made up of two parcels: a 23-acre main area off Hancock Road and another area off of North Street that covers one acre.

Planning elements include a new public beach, improved picnic area facilities, and better accessibility.

About $8,000 Community Preservation Act funds were reallocated for the undertaking after a previously awarded project was unable to be completed. The Community Preservation Committee voted in favor of this reallocation.

The park is part of the 47 public open space properties across the city.

"We try to have a park system which is responsive to the needs of the community, which responds to changing interests and demographics and I think we're doing a pretty fair job at catering to the needs and desires of this community," Park, Open Space, and Natural Resource Program Manager James McGrath said.

"And the 20 years that I've been working with the Parks Commission, I think we've had some great successes on our park system."

In a cell phone survey, attendees were asked to rank what they believe should be the top prioritized improvements. "Access to the lake" was voted as the most urgent improvement and "handicap accessibility" was ranked second.

The crowd also submitted phrases that come to mind when they think of the park. "Views" was the largest word in the cloud referring to the scenic landscape that the location boasts and other popular words were "swimming," "water," and "pines" in reference to its white pine trees.

There were also less positive phrases in the cloud such as "run down" and "garbage and goose poop."

Ward 7 Councilor Anthony Maffuccio said the smaller, north part of the park would be a better fit for a beach and emphasized the need for proper parking.

The city did a site visit with the Commission on Disabilities over the summer to address accessibility issues that are mainly prevalent on the South side of the park because of its steep incline.

Members Patricia Sheely and June Hailer were at the hearing and spoke on the need for increased accessibility.

Some pitched the idea of using a maintenance road between the boat ramp and dam for better swimming accommodations. The suggestion was well received by the planners.

McGrath also disclosed that the state Office of Fishing and Boating Access will be assisting in getting handicap parking in that lot, which currently only has spots for boat trailers.

Another person brought up the former swimming docks on the lake and remembered it being a great place to spend time as a kid.

"One of the things I found working for this park system is that folks like yourself have so many memories of being in parks and being with families and and and having that special time, and this is what we're trying to recreate," McGrath explained.

"It may look a little different and maybe it got a different look and feel or not but at the end of the day, we're trying to create wonderful spaces where folks like you and your family can continue to make memories."

A long-distance swimmer said she and her friends have to go out early in the morning to avoid being injured by boats or jet skis.

Nearby residents also spoke to the need for better sidewalk conditions that connect the two parks together and the whole space to its surrounding area.

"The connection to the neighborhood is a little bit lost," a resident said. "When Route 7 came through and that changed the shape of the lake on that side people drive — and again I live right there — are doing 50 miles an hour through there so it's very hard to be connected as a neighbor."

Other neighbors spoke about the trash that is left at the park. Some say they watch the same person leave a Dunkin Donuts coffee cup at the tables on the regular.

There is currently one trash bin for a large vicinity of the south park, which was said to fuel littering and needs to be addressed.

The survey and both public hearings will fuel the concept designs and then a formal final design.

Following the public input phase, Berkshire Design will move into the development of some concept plans for the Parks Commission to review in December and then toward creating the master vision.

The design group was also present at the public hearing.

Tags: Pontoosuc,   public parks,   

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