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Mohawk Trail Woodlands Partnership Want to Change Name

By Jack GuerinoiBerkshires Staff
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NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — The Mohawk Trail Woodlands Partnership voted to ask state representatives to introduce a bill that would officially change the organization's name to the Woodlands Partnership of Northwest Massachusetts. 
The Executive Committee voted Thursday, March 23, to ask state Reps. John Barrett III and Natalie Blais along with state Sens. Paul Mark and Joanne Comerford to file the draft bill.
"We can send it off to them and see if someone will step up to the plate," Chairman Henry Art said. 
In October 2022, the full partnership board voted to change its name. To accomplish this, the board requested the state Legislature, the Massachusetts Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs, and the USDA Forest Service to take necessary actions to make the new name the official, legal name of the Woodlands Partnership.
The group had reached out to state representatives to push the name change forward but things seem to have stagnated.
"I don't think that there has been a groundswell of having our legislative delegation embrace this and dash towards making the name change official," Art said.
The group wanted to change its own name for two reasons: to remove the name Mohawk as they felt it was offensive, and for accuracy. The Mohawk Trail only runs through five of the 21 communities in the partnership 
"It is not an appropriate name, and it is a highway," Art said.
Art noted that there is a fear among lawmakers that the name change could cause the partnership to "disappear" impacting grant applications. He was specifically referring to how changing the name would impact the partnership's trust.
But member Robert O'Connor, referring to the draft bill, felt this was a nonissue. 
He noted the draft had been reviewed by the EEA attorneys and it contains language that clarifies and protects the trust. He said, literally, the only thing the act would do would be to replace all references to the Mohawk Trail Woodlands Partnership with the Woodlands Partnership of Northwest Massachusetts.
"It was reviewed by their attorneys at EEA, and I am not sure how this would be endangering the program if we change the name," he said. "I think we are stating that we are the Mohawk Trail Woodlands Partnership legally, and we would like to change our name. I don't think that endangers any grants."
In other business, the Executive Board was in favor of exploring expanding board membership to include an indigenous peoples' representative, but there was some discussion on the best way to approach the addition.
Art suggested that instead of seeking out individuals, the partnership works through an indigenous peoples organization, specifically the Ohketeau Cultural Center in Ashfield and the Stockbridge-Munsee Community in Stockbridge.
"Before taking this to the full board, I think we have to have an organization on board," he said. "I think we need to do a little more due diligence to make sure they would find this agreeable and are enthusiastic about it."
Member Kate Conlin felt the increased representation was important and noted that she has had unofficial discussions with the Ohketeau Center, which is interested.
Some board members feared that only working through these organizations would be somewhat limiting.
"What if there is a representative from a tribe who is not part of these organizations? Do they still have a voice," board member Alain Peteroy said. "So maybe we want to dig a little deeper. I think this is a good way to do this, but I want to make sure it is the right way to do this."
Art agreed and felt inviting representatives from the Ohketeau  Center and the Stockbridge-Munsee to their next meeting was a good place to start.
Administrative Agent Lisa Hayden provided the board with details on the  Congressionally Directed Spending of $540,000 "Action on Forest Climate Resilience" project
She said they had requested $1.11 million of which a portion was included in the omnibus bill that had passed in December.
She said of the list of proposed uses, Action on Forest Climate Resilience was chosen. She said she has to now "repackage" and submit their plan in order to get a program up and running. She said they have three years to spend the money.
There was a sense among a few board members that some funds should be put toward private land conservation.
"That doesn't seem to be happening, but that is what we are all about," Keith Ross said
Hayden said private land conservation was on their list but was not what the state had selected for funding.
The board agreed that private land conservation was an important part of their mission and felt it was important to continue to advocate for it.
Before closing, Hayden said Savoy shared an interest in joining the partnership. She said she planned to send along article information they can include on their upcoming town meeting warrant. 

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BRPC Developing Action Plan for Safer Roads, Crosswalks

By Tammy DanielsiBerkshires Staff
NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — A countywide effort is developing a systematic approach to roadway safety for motorists and pedestrians. 
Three public sessions were planned with the third is set for 10 a.m. Friday at the Great Barrington firehouse on State Road. There is also a Zoom option.  The first two were held Thursday: at North Adams at noon and in Dalton at the public library at 5:30.
The sessions are being hosted by the Berkshire Regional Planning Commission for the Safe Travel and Equity Plan for our Streets (STEPS) initiative.
The nation, overall, has seen an uptick in the number of crashes, injuries and fatalities over the last decade, after tracking comparable to the European Union. Nicholas Russo, senior transportation planner at BRPC, said that's true of Berkshire County as well as fatalities have increased over the past five years. 
Pedestrian and bicycle accidents only make up about 2 percent of all incidents but 20 percent of the serious and fatal crashes.
North Adams has the No. 1 "intersection by severity" with 16 injury crashes and two serious injury crashes within a five-year span. No surprise, it's where Hodges Cross Road meets Curran Highway. The intersection became much busier over the past decade with the opening of the Walmart Supercenter and a Cumberland Farms. 
The initiative has also developed a dashboard highlighting problem traffic areas that will be available for the public to comment on. 
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