Adams Picks Mass Audubon for Glen Educator

By Tammy DanielsiBerkshires Staff
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Senior Regional Director Stephen Hutchinson, left, Regional Education Manager Dale Abrams and Regional Director Becky Cushing Gop explain Mass Audubon's plans on Wednesday.
ADAMS, Mass. — The Massachusetts Audubon Society has been part of the visioning process of the 1,063-acre Greylock Glen development for well more than a decade. 
Now it will be providing environmental educational opportunities at the glen as the first service provider at the soon to open Outdoor Center in the 50 acres being developed.
The Select Board on Wednesday voted unanimously to enter into negotiations with the nature nonprofit to offer year-round programming. 
"The Outdoor Center has always been designed to be occupied by two in particular operators, one being the educational programming provider and the restaurant operator," said Town Administrator Jay Green, adding that "in addition to [Mass Audubon] being a part of that visioning process, they've always said, we really want to be the educational provider. They stayed true to their word and they're here tonight."
The presentation by Senior Regional Director Stephen Hutchinson, Regional Director Becky Cushing Gop
and Regional Education Manager Dale Abrams touched on the broad details of what the town could expect from them. 
"Mass Audubon is extremely excited about this opportunity. That's been something we've been working towards, along with the town of Adams, for many, many years," said Hutchinson. "And we feel that Mass Audubon is uniquely set to provide this environmental education, conservation and climate awareness to the people that come visit Greylock Glen."
Mass Audubon was the sole respondent in September to the town's request for proposals to provide "place-based environmental education" at the Greylock Glen Outdoor Center.
The Lincoln-based non-profit returned an in-depth plan with a six-year project timeline. An ad hoc committee has been reviewing its plan and recommended it to the Select Board. 
The 130-year-old independent organization has more than 160,000 member households and hosts some 725,000 people annually at its sites, camps, school programs and other educational and environmental activities. It protects more than 41,000 acres and 210 miles of trails, including 16 accessible trails. It is funded through its members, grants, donations, paid programming and a sizeable endowment.
"So why Mass Audubon at Greylock one Outdoor Center?" said Cushing Gop. "Well, for one the integration of conservation education and outdoor recreation that's so key and at the forefront of our work is also the intention of the Greylock Glen Outdoor Center. The conservation has already happened. And so the education and the opportunities for outdoor recreation and expansion on that is something that aligns so strongly with our mission and our work."
Abrams noted how the organization had been working in grant-funded programming in the Hoosac Valley school district for years. Glen programming would expand as the Outdoor Center opened, as the campground opened to bring in more people to the site to avail themselves of the recreational opportunities.
Once the campground is in place, Abrams continued, "that will allow us to then really build out the youth and family programming during the seasons that folks are there." He anticipated even more robust programming and education when the eventual conference center comes to fruition.
At the glen, Mass Audubon would run hikes, nature walks and snowshoeing, and stewardship, nature identification and climate awareness events. 
"Climate change, it just permeates everything that we do. It is it is addressed through every single one of our action agenda goals," said Cushing Gop. "We have such a depth of experience working with, partnering with communities in the Berkshires, so eight-plus decades of working in schools, working with community centers, working with libraries and having our sanctuary, over 90 years old in Lenox, Pleasant Valley Wildlife Sanctuary."
All three said they looked forward to utilizing the educational wing at the Outdoor Center.
"The programs revolve around the outdoors, but having emergency shelter space is critically important," said Abrams. "And having amenities that we can partner with are really important. So the thing I love most is that we can walk out the back doors or side doors, the many doors of the educational space and be immediately on the trails that lead to this diverse ecological area."
Green said the negotiating committee, which will consist of himself, Special Projects Director Donna Cesan, the Community Development Office and attorney Jay Sabin will be pinning down the nuts and bolts of hours, space usage, timelines and other operational issues in developing the lease for the Select Board to approve.
"This is a project that no other municipal local government probably in the entire Commonwealth of Massachusetts is doing," he said. 
Integral to the success of the educational arm is the development of the campground that will bring in a population to use the service. The town selected Shared Estates as the campground developer last year and went into executive session on Wednesday to review a leasing contract. 
In other business, the board agreed to set a public hearing on a dangerous dog for its next meeting after some previous conditions on the dog had not been met.

Tags: Greylock Glen,   

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How can women bridge the retirement gap?

Submitted by Edward Jones

March 8 is International Women's Day, a day for celebrating all the accomplishments of women around the globe. But many women still need to make up ground in one key area: retirement security.

Women's challenges in achieving a secure retirement are due to several factors, including these:

  • Pay gap – It's smaller than it once was, but a wage gap still exists between men and women. In fact, women earn, on average, about 82 cents for every dollar that men earn, according to the Census Bureau. And even though this gap narrows considerably at higher educational levels, it's still a source of concern. Women who earn less than men will likely contribute less to 401(k) plans and will ultimately see smaller Social Security checks.
  • Longer lives – At age 65, women live, on average, about 20 more years, compared to almost 17 for men, according to the Social Security Administration. Those extra years mean extra expenses. 
  • Caregiving responsibilities – Traditionally, women have done much of the caregiving for young children and older parents. And while this caregiving is done with love, it also comes with financial sacrifice. Consider this: The average employment-related costs for mothers providing unpaid care is nearly $300,000 over a lifetime, according to the U.S. Department of Labor — which translates to a reduction of 15 percent of lifetime earnings. Furthermore, time away from the workforce results in fewer contributions to 401(k) and other employer-sponsored retirement plans.

Ultimately, these issues can leave women with a retirement security deficit. Here are some moves that can help close this gap:

  • Contribute as much as possible to retirement plans. Try to contribute as much as you can afford to your 401(k) or similar employer-sponsored retirement plan. Your earnings can grow tax deferred and your contributions can lower your taxable income. (With a Roth 401(k), contributions aren't deductible, but earnings and withdrawals are tax free, provided you meet certain conditions.) At a minimum, contribute enough to earn your employer's matching contribution, if one is offered, and try to boost your contributions whenever your salary goes up. If you don't have access to a 401(k), but you have earned income, you can contribute to an IRA. Even if you don't have earned income, but you have a spouse who does, you might be eligible to contribute to a spousal IRA.
  • Maximize Social Security benefits. You can start taking Social Security at 62, but your monthly checks will be much bigger if you can afford to wait until your full retirement age, which will be around 66½. If you are married, you may want to coordinate your benefits with those of your spouse — in some cases, it makes sense for the spouse with the lower benefits to claim first, based on their earnings record, and apply for spousal benefits later, when the spouse with higher benefits begins to collect.
  • Build an emergency fund. Try to build an emergency fund containing up to six months' worth of living expenses, with the money kept in a liquid account. Having this fund available will help protect you from having to dip into your retirement accounts for large, unexpected costs, such as a major home or car repair.

It's unfortunate, but women still must travel a more difficult road than men to reach retirement security. But making the right moves can help ease the journey.


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