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The Parks Commission will see three concept designs for Pontoosuc Lake Park next month based on input from public sessions held last fall.

Parks Commission Updated on Pittsfield's Outdoor Recreation Projects

By Brittany PolitoiBerkshires Staff
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PITTSFIELD, Mass. — The Parks Commission on Tuesday received updates on various outdoor recreation projects happening within the city.

A bike skills track in Springside Park and a master vision for improvements at Pontoosuc Lake Park are on the horizon.

After a year of deliberating, the track's design was approved in December pending the signing of a memorandum of understanding between the commission and the Berkshire Chapter of the New England Mountain Biking Association, who are paying for the project through fundraising.

Commissioner Anthony DeMartino reported that since the approval, there has been discussion between himself and the city Purchasing Agent Colleen Hunter-Mullett, City Solicitor Stephen Pagnotta, and Park, Open Space and Natural Resource Program Manager James McGrath about the MOU.

DeMartino said they are making sure that every box is checked properly.

"I've said this before, and I know the commission stands behind the statement, that we want to get this right," McGrath added. "And so we're taking our appropriate amount of time to get all of those specifics answered by the Commonwealth, in particular."

The bike park will cover 2.3 acres on the former baseball field behind the north playground. An abutting location was originally proposed and approved but the commission later requested that it be moved south.

Its final design consists of an asphalt pump track, a skills development area, a flow zone, and a dual slalom course for head-to-head racing. In addition, there is also a picnic area and Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) compliance features throughout.

The proposal has been referred to as the "pump track" but in fact, that is only one of the four features in the design.

The revisioning of Pontoosuc Lake Park is now materializing into designs.

The commission will see three concept ideas for the park's master vision at its February meeting. Last week, McGrath received the schemes from Berkshire Design Group out of Northampton, which has been hired for the project.

The designs will be brought out to the community for feedback through a virtual or in-person information session depending on COVID-19 regulations. A final concept will be made based on the commission, stakeholder, and community input.


McGrath expects that the commission should be able to vote on a final concept in April and following that, funding will be sought for the first phase of improvements.

The city began the venture to transform the Pontoosuc Lake Park last year. The revisioning is part of a long-range open space and recreation plan for the city.

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

An online survey was released during the month of September that queried the public on their current uses for the park and how it should look in the future. It generated 225 responses from residents and people living out of town.

In November, there were two public input sessions, one virtual and one in person.

The commission also got an update on how a new and long anticipated outdoor recreation facility is prospering.

Recreation and Special Events Coordinator Becky Manship said she was pleased to say that the city's dog park has been a great success since its opening in September.

There is a grand opening planned for May 14 to celebrate that has been in Pittsfield's long-range plan since 2003.  

After the park has been open for a full year, the city will be eligible for an $8,000 capital grant.  The funding is planned to be used on a new maintenance gate for the large dog area and an asphalt parking area.

McGrath stressed that the dog park is still open through the winter but that the gate to the parking lot is closed because the unpaved lot could be damaged by snowplows.

"The park has been wildly successful, and we're seeing it used all winter long, that's been the trend and what we're tracking," he said.

"Early on when we conceived the dog park, I don't think we had envisioned the amount of use that we're getting during the wintertime, so I think the facility begs for an asphalt formal parking area."


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BEAT: Conserving Flowers and their Pollinators

PITTSFIELD, Mass. — Joan Edwards will speak at the May Pittsfield Green Drinks event on Tuesday, May 17th at 6:00 PM and give a slideshow presentation about the rapidly decreasing biodiversity that is taking place globally, known as the sixth extinction. 
 
She will specifically focus on flowers and their insect visitors. 
 
This sixth extinction is primarily driven by human actions, from habitat loss to climate change. The impacts of biodiversity loss are far-reaching, resulting in biological communities that are less resilient and with diminished ecosystems services. As part of the discussion, Joan will explore the impact of biodiversity loss in the pollinator-flower world and examine how the surprising dynamics of flower-pollinator networks can help to conserve both flowers and their pollinators.
 
Joan Edwards is a botanist interested in understanding the biomechanics and adaptive significance of ultra-fast plant movements—plant actions that are so quick they occur in milliseconds. Using high-speed video (up to 100,000 fps), she studies the evolutionary significance and biomechanics of fast movements, including the trebuchet catapults of bunchberry dogwood, the vortex rings of Sphagnum moss, the splash cups of liverworts, and the "poppers" of wood sorrel. Her early fieldwork was on the impact of moose on plants in the boreal forests of Isle Royale National Park. 
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