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Pittsfield Parks Commission Sees Plans for New Pontoosuc Lake Park

By Brittany PolitoiBerkshires Staff
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PITTSFIELD, Mass. — A new Pontoosuc Lake Park is one step closer.

The Parks Commission saw a final master plan for the park on last week after months of preparation.  Next, the city will advertise it to the community to solicit feedback.

"What we're going to present to you this evening is the culmination of all of that input from the community, the commission, from neighbors, the abutters, other stakeholders," Park, Open Space, and Natural Resource Program Manager James McGrath said.

"And I think this represents a significant improvement to the park."

The design includes a swimming area, floating docks, an accessible kayak and canoe launch, changing facilities, an open lawn, and a shoreline walk on the north side of the park. On the south side off of Hancock Road, there are new access stairs, a lake promenade and pier, wetland and shore restorations, new picnic areas, and accessible paths and parking.

To connect the two parks, there will be a new sidewalk to improve transit or pedestrians.

The plans can be found on the city website here.

The commission responded positively to the design elements though there was no formal approval on the table for this meeting.

During public input, it was emphasized that the south area needs better accessibility because of the steep nature of the property. People also asked for the parcel's iconic pine trees to be preserved, which have been honored with select tree thinning and removal planned to remove just the dead trees.

A new family beach area will replace the failing concrete wall on the north side of Pontoosuc Park.

"The family swimming area is bounded by a new dock system and those that are familiar with the history of Pontoosuc Lake Park know that we used to have a U-shaped dock system on the south side of the old beach area here," McGrath said.

"So this sort of brings back the historical element and creates real safe space, but what's not shown on this plan is that we have a swimming platform here and that's something we don't have either at Onota Lake or Pontoosuc Lake and that's really a nice attractive feature."

In February, the commission was presented with various different design proposals for each side of the park. This plan is simpler than the others and draws on the swimming area as the largest attraction.

"Of all the schemes that we had developed this is kind of the less is more approach, but I think appropriately meets the needs for swimming, handicap access, changing and restrooms, and maintains some sort of lawn areas and the existing shade trees," McGrath explained.

"It doesn't propose any new plantings, we're mindful of views are afforded by folks that live in the condominiums and the general sweeping views for those that are utilizing this area."

He said the keystone feature of the south side is the 10-foot wide promenade that goes along the shoreline with picnic tables and resting spaces along the way.

"This is the destination," he said about the plaza area. "If you're coming down the stairs that's the destination, if you're coming down the pathway that's the destination but oh, there's more, you continue on and you end up over the top of the water."

He added that he imagines this area as the place where young couples will take their prom photos in the future.

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.

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 community's wishes were used to fuel designs created by  Berkshire Design Group out of Northampton, which was hired for the project.

McGrath reported that this is likely a $1.5 million to $2 million dollar construction.

In the next couple of weeks, the city will share the plan with the community and bring it back to the commission's June meeting for an update.

Tags: Pontoosuc,   public parks,   

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Pittsfield Kayak Kiosk Proposal Withdrawn After Pushback

By Brittany PolitoiBerkshires Staff

PITTSFIELD, Mass. — It is the "end of the road" for a kayak kiosk proposal after pushback from community members and the City Council.

Whenever Watersports has withdrawn its proposal for a kayak rental program at Onota Lake. Safety concerns arose around the company's self-serve model though it was stipulated that users sign liabilities away with a waiver as part of the process.  

"It's unfortunate. I had hoped the outcome would be different and I think (Recreation and Special Events Coordinator Maddy Brown) and you as well thought this was an opportunity to provide an additional level of services, recreation opportunity to folks at the park through a modern-app-based system," Park, Open Space, and Natural Resource Program Manager James McGrath said to the Parks Commission on Tuesday.

"It would have cost the city nothing to have this sited. We wouldn't be responsible for any maintenance but there would be maintenance to the units and to the boats, etc. Everyone was going to get life preservers and there are instructions through the app so we thought it was it was safe and secure and a good fit for the park."

In December, the commission granted a request for the pilot program and City Solicitor Stephen Pagnotta had been reviewing and revising a proposed contract that had not yet been approved. Last week during City Council, residents Daniel Miraglia and Gene Nadeau submitted a petition requesting a legal opinion on the proposal from the solicitor.

Miraglia expressed concerns about the lack of a bidding process, safety hazards, and the impact on a local business that rents kayaks on the lake. Onota Boat Livery owner Caryn Wendling was upset to hear that an out-of-town company would be allowed to operate the kiosk on the same lake as her business and also cited safety concerns.

Councilors asked that Pagnotta look into items such as the commission's authority with entering into contracts and if a bidding process would be needed for this.

Later that week, a request to the Conservation Commission for determination for the kiosk at Burbank Park located within the buffer zone associated with the inland bank was withdrawn. According to the application, it was proposed to be located before the beach area coming from the main parking lot.

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