New report on Berkshire out of doors recreation planning exhibits public assist for creating trails, disinterest in expanded searching

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In 2020, the Berkshire Regional Planning Commission and private investment firm Mill Town Capital released a report on the county’s outdoor recreational opportunities. The 200-page plan provided both an overview of the region’s considerable natural resources and recommendations for their further development. A 2021 addendum to the report has now been released, providing more feedback from the community on the results, as well as updates on the projects outlined in the original plan. WAMC spoke to Laura Brennan, manager of the BRPC Economic Development Program, about the addendum.

BRENNAN: The 2020 plan really covered a wide range of outdoor activities, from biking and hiking to swimming, boating and motorized activities to outdoor athletics. We also addressed a number of key issues that we felt were important to allow the outdoor leisure industry in our region to grow. And that was infrastructure, communication and legislation or regulation. So things that could be done on a national or even national level that would affect multiple types of activity.

WAMC: What role did environmental or conservation concerns play in this report?

So the report is not a complete open space and recreation plan as you may have for a single ward. So we haven’t been very deeply involved in conservation or environmental studies. But it is certainly seen as an important aspect to be considered in terms of impact whenever the development of outdoor recreational activities takes place. That goes without saying for us. But it is also shown in the type of responses we have received to various potential tasks, advancements, or activities that might have to do with the development of outdoor recreational activities. The less impact it had on the environment, the more popular it was with our survey participants.

The addendum was largely shaped by this survey. What kind of questions did you ask people? And can you expand the type of responses you’ve received?

So we actually did a second survey after we published our first plan. And this second poll allowed people to give us a sense of how much they supported or unsupported a particular activity or progress in an activity. For example, someone who responded to the idea of ​​enhanced convenience and information at the starting points might have a very strong belief that it was necessary and may be less enthusiastic about some of the other recommendations. So it really confirmed what we heard on the first run, which will hopefully help us as a region prioritize outdoor recreation investments.

What were some of the less popular responses you got from the survey?

The things that received the lower ratings have expanded some of them ‘s access to hunting, either by adding hunting on Sundays, which is currently not allowed in many states and in Massachusetts. That was not a popular idea with our respondents, nor was the expansion of the hunting area. We can’t say for sure what the people who completed the survey were involved in themselves, but I suspect the responses we received came from people doing other things in these areas during this time want.

The addendum also contains some updates on projects sponsored by the Berkshire Regional Planning Commission and other agencies. What are some of these updates?

So most of the projects are actually managed or managed by other units, so we act as a clearinghouse and information collector. I would say one of the highlights is the acquisition of Hanging Mountain in Sandisfield for a much expanded outdoor rock climbing facility in Berkshire County. This is something that we have not really been able to promote in the past as something that Berkshire County offers in any way. But since they opened the first 70 climbs in October this year, that story may change. And it really expands the kind of high-adventure Berkshire County will be known for.

What is still waiting in the starting blocks for leisure activities in the district? What’s going down the pike?

Well, in the final round of the MassTrails program’s scholarships, there was a pretty long list, I’d like to say maybe 10 or 11 companies that have raised over $ 600,000 in total in outdoor recreational investment to either upgrade the trails or Buying equipment that could help with the maintenance of the trails. This is a Commonwealth program granted by the MassTrails. And then we’re also waiting for some news that hopefully comes soon to the $ 4 billion bill that was passed by the legislature last Friday and is currently awaiting the governor’s signature. If done as described, a significant investment would be required in an outdoor recreational activity website that covers key assets in the area and offers GIS-level maps, safety and condition information, and instructions on the difficulty levels of the various hikes.