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Historic Valley Campground Opens in May; Commissioners Get Update

By Tammy DanielsiBerkshires Staff
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NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — The Windsor Lake Recreation Commission has been charged with researching fees and amenities at campgrounds.
"We haven't looked at the fees have been in a long, long time," said Mayor Jennifer Macksey at Monday's meeting. "So I would love for this commission to do some research. However, the flip side of that is I feel very guilty about going up. There are sites where sometimes you have electricity and sometimes you don't. Sometimes you're underwater and sometimes you're not. I just feel like we've haven't added enough of things back to the campground."
Commissioners agreed that it was worth looking into rates, noting that costs overall have been rising, and that the experience at Historic Valley Campground had to be worth the price.
"I know last year when this topic was brought up, I did do a little bit of research and spoke to some people at the campground," said Commissioner Beth Choquette. "And basically the consensus that I gathered was that for what we offer, that's what people are willing to pay. 
"And people flat out said we'll pay more to be here if things are upgraded. But if we start charging more before they're updated ... ."
Commissioner of Public Services Timothy Lescarbeau said some significant work has been put into the park and that the electrical system is on the priority list.
"When I first came here, I put the sewer and water in because I thought we should do it. I want to do the electrical but that's a little more, probably half a million dollars," he said. "Just know that Public Services is committed to the lake. But we don't always have the time for it."
Right now he has three people dedicated to all the city parks and fields. The mayor said staffing has been an issue and the lake had been dependent on seasonal, younger, workers for maintenance. 
The city has hired a permanent maintenance person who will work at the skating rink during the winter and the lake and campground during the summer. 
The commission also discussed fixing the pavilion at the lake, which has been deterioting for years. The mayor said there had been plans to fix the roof last year but the July 10 storm and the rainy summer had delayed those plans. 
Commissioner James Holmes asked if McCann Technical School students could take it on. Lescarbeau said McCann is very good at doing small projects but it's also a teaching program so students' ability to get projects completed in an 8-hour day is "non-existent."
McCann students could, however, possibly take on signage project since it could be done in school. The commissioners are concerned about the lack of directional signage for the campground, with Holmes saying one couple missed the turn coming up Bradley Street and kept on going. 
They also spoke on informing visitors of other prohibitions, such as no dogs or fishing at the beach. Macksey said she didn't want a lot of negative signage: "I don't want to be a facility that's the 'no-no fun zone.'" Commissioner Jennifer Dunning suggested mimicking the format at Cascades — one large sign with all the rules. 
Macksey said the city will again advertise for lifeguards but didn't have much hope since it was unable to find any last year. Lescarbeau said there was less liability on the city's side if it was swimming at your own risk. 
Plus, he noted, the beach area is very shallow now. Holmes asked if it could be made more attractive and larger. 
 "What happened is years ago, they used to drain the lake, drop the level, pick up around the perimeter all the trash and that would help the weed problem," Lescarbeau said. "DER came in and said if you're going to drop the lake, we're not going to stock it. ... 
"That's why you have a weed problem. That's why the sand on the beach, the sand's gone. It's all in the lake. We used to drain it, pull [the sand] back and replenish the beach."
He said the sand from the Eagle Street Beach Party can't be used because of the lyme content. 
Choquette said there may be opportunities for new playground at the campground through the Fiegenbaum Foundation and that Gabriel Abbot Memorial School just got some money. Lescarbeau asked if it would appliable to campground since people pay to stay there. Choquette said she'd look into it further. 
Campground manager Bonnie Cirullo expressed concerns about ATVs on the trails and a pattern of motorcyclists "flying" through the campground from West Shaft Road. The mayor asked her to report any incidents to the police to at least get a paper trail going. 
Cirullo said the season starts on May 3 and that the campground will be "packed to the gills" for Solid Sound in May and Freshgrass in September.
The commissioner talked about how they could get more events and people up at the lake and Cirullo said she had been contacted about possibly hosting the annual powwow from Charlemont.
"They need to find a new location," she said. "I'm thinking maybe they should do the powwow over more the main lot to get the public up there instead of just using my small parking lot."
The mayor and Lescarbeau thought it would be good to meet twice a year like this to hash out any issues and update the commission. 

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North Adams High School Athletes Place Flags on Veterans Graves

By Jack GuerinoiBerkshires Staff

Raegan Keil, daughter of VSO Mitchell Keil, participates in placing the American Flag on veterans' graves. The first flag she placed was in the marker of Michael Kline, her grandfather.
NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — Athletes from Drury High School and McCann Technical School gave up the rare free Saturday morning to place flags on veterans graves in Southview Cemetery.
"I was very humbled when I saw the cars coming in, and I actually had to go over to the corner and put my sunglasses down and hide my tears, because it was very, very humbling to see everybody show up," said Travys Rivers, the city's veterans grave officer.
Rivers, a firefighter and veteran, said he sent out the "bat signal" and called John Moore of Drury and Robin Finnegan of McCann to see if any of the sports teams were free.
River said he was unsure what to expect, knowing many student athletes likely had games or practice. But come Saturday morning, around 100 students showed up with coaches and high school athletics administration. 
"I am amazed by these kids. They gave up a Saturday morning. They could have slept in if they didn't have practice or whatever," Rivers said. "They did not have to do this but instead came down and busted their butts."
Northern Berkshire Veterans Service Officer Mitchell Keil added that he often hears that the youth do not participate in civic activities. He said Saturday proves the opposite.
"As a veteran, it is heartwarming to see this type of participation from today's youth and encouraging for the future of the community. They may not understand the impact their involvement has on those that see them in action or those family members that visit a departed loved one's grave and see them continuously honored," he said. "Our city has a large group of individuals that are dedicated to honoring those veterans that have passed. This long tradition is in good hands, and as we move forward I encourage all to take part in the pursuit of honoring our veterans daily."
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