Pittsfield Kayak Kiosk Proposal Withdrawn After Pushback

By Brittany PolitoiBerkshires Staff
Print Story | Email Story

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Whenever Watersports has withdrawn its proposal for a kayak rental program at Onota Lake.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for determination for the kiosk at Burbank Park located within the buffer zone associated with the inland bank was withdrawn.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.

Brown had been working closely with the Whenever Watersports to develop a memorandum of understanding for a yearlong pilot program before the pushback.

"There seemed to be agreement and excitement around that so we were moving forward with an MOU that would govern how this would all work," McGrath explained.

"There was some conversation around the the MOU and Whenever Watersports at the last council meeting and following that meeting, Whenever Watersports called up the city and indicated they were pulling back. They were withdrawing their requests to site the kayak kiosk at Burbank Park."

Brown explained that it wasn't a "never situation."

"They were very open to exploring this in the future if it's something we want to come back to," she said. "So it's a pause for now and hopefully we can revisit in the future and at a different time."

McGrath added, "For now they have withdrawn so that's the end of the road."

At the late 2023 commission meeting, Brown reported that a Connecticut branch of the company came to the city looking to establish a kiosk with no startup costs, which would also mean that there are no revenue shares.

Liability is signed away through a waiver on the rental app and the contract would be for a yearlong trial period with the possibility to have a revenue split in a future contract.  

According to the company website, Whenever Watersports partners with cities, parks, waterfront businesses, and other organizations to "help improve access to outdoor recreation in their communities." All renters must agree to a "comprehensive waiver" before using the equipment and this is said to release the company and any partners from all liability.

"Our general liability insurance policy also automatically covers all organizations we enter into agreements with. Organizations can be added as additional named insureds on the policy upon request," the website states.

Tags: boating,   onota,   parks commission,   

If you would like to contribute information on this article, contact us at info@iberkshires.com.

Lanesborough Has Hot, Quiet Election Day

By Brittany PolitoiBerkshires Staff

Voting was slow but steady at Lanesborough Town Hall.
LANESBOROUGH, Mass. — The town had a steady and sweltering election day that saw Deborah Maynard elected to the Select Board. 
Maynard outpolled Joseph Trybus 181-87 to fill the seat left vacant by longtime board member John Goerlach.
About halfway through polling hours, about 150 people had turned out in the 90-degree weather to cast votes for the Select Board, Finance Committee, Planning Board, library trustee, and town moderator. In total, about 400 votes were cast out of the 2,515 registered voters, or about 16 percent.
"It's been kind of slow but steady," poll worker Sheila Parks said. "No exciting news, which is good."
Town Clerk Ruth Knysh guessed that many would vote after work. Polls opened at noon at Town Hall and closed at 8 p.m.
"It's going great. It's been steady since we opened the doors at noontime. No issues at all," she said. "So we're hoping for smooth sailing until eight o'clock tonight."
Earlier in the day, there was road construction in front of the town offices that could have been a deterrent, she observed.
View Full Story

More Pittsfield Stories