Recently, I attended the Silver Lake ceremony celebrating its clean-up. The 26 acre lake has been remediated in accordance with the Consent Decree, agreed to by the EPA and GE. The PCB’s have not all been dredged out but rather the lake bottom has been capped, the banks have been cleaned, benches installed, trees planted and a paved walkway has been installed on the north side. “This is not a premiere, pristine waterway by any stretch of the imagination”, said Jim McGrath, Pittsfield’s Park and Natural Resources Manager, “but at the end of the day it is an urban water body that has the potential to be a contributor to the city of Pittsfield. His department will be responsible for the maintenance of the park and walkway on a permanent basis.
Swimming in the lake is not recommended but it is not entirely unsafe to swim in either. “Do we want to see people recreating here around the lake with kayaks and such? Sure if that is something that they desire to do. They can do that here. There is a parking lot on the north side of the lake which is owned by PEDA and should be available for public use. This lake is no different than any of the other publically accessible water bodies in Pittsfield, such as Onota and Pontoosuc lakes”.
The public can fish any of the shoreline owned by PEDA, which is mainly the north side, including a sand bar located there. The southern shore is privately owned and the public is asked that if they fish from the shore, they do so from the publicly owned land. There is no boat launch on the lake but people can launch a boat anywhere they feel that it can be launched. “If you can traverse down the bank safely, and if you want to launch a kayak, feel free to do so”, he said. Due to its size, it is classified by the Commonwealth as a “Great Pond”, available to people of the commonwealth.
“It was a polluted open water body and those who were involved with the project did their best to remediate and restore it. And, in doing so, they provided a very handsome resource. It is one more place for people to enjoy healthy activity. Previously, there was no sidewalk on Silver Lake Boulevard, so if nothing else we have increased the public safety along this half mile stretch along Silver Lake Boulevard and that is important.”, McGrath said.
In a speech at the opening ceremony, Pittsfield Mayor Dan Bianchi said that he feels that this project is a symbol of the next chapter in Pittsfield and a bright future for generations to come. He is delighted that many generations of young people will enjoy Silver Lake.
After the dedication ceremony and ribbon cutting, I took a walk along the adjacent walkway and checked things out. There is an adjacent settling pond which apparently catches the drainage from the former GE property. This little pond in turn drains into Silver Lake on the north side. I could smell oil or something and detected an oily sheen on the water. Too bad the Consent Decree didn’t address that for it appears that PCBs are still entering the lake.
I observed several large tree trunks and limbs in the water along the shoreline. According to McGrath, they were intentionally placed there to provide structure and shelter for the fish and critters. Consultations were conducted with MassWildlife and other environmental consultants on the selection of trees and shrubs planted along the shoreline to ensure they were native varieties and not invasives.
Before leaving, I observed something else…….dimples on the water surface, indicating that perhaps an insect hatch was in progress and fish were taking them. It is claimed that largemouth bass and other fish live there and that was proof enough for me. It almost made me run (er…walk quickly) to the truck and grab my fly rod. No, you don’t want to eat these fish, but catch and release fishing is quite enjoyable. What a great place for the kids in Pittsfield to go fishing, probably within walking distance of their homes. What a great place for the older folks to sit on a bench and take in the scenery.
Like it or not, the lake has been cleaned up in accordance with the Consent Decree.. It is an urban water body with runoff coming in from different sources. It is not pristine, not perfect and it is what it is. But at the end of the day it is better than what it was and the city of Pittsfield has a new valuable resource and every reason to be proud of it. *****
Sixty seven fisherman and fisherwomen entered the Stockbridge Sportsmen’s Club Fishing Derby that was held on Sunday May 18.at Stockbridge Bowl. It was a cool start and windy day but no rain. The following individuals were the winners: Largest Trout- Mike Storie, Pittsfield , 2 lbs, 9 oz, 18 ½”; Largest Bass- Matt Fogarty, Sheffield 3 lbs, 1 oz, 19”, Largest Pickerel- Bob Spence, Austerlitz, NY, 3 lbs, 1 oz, 26 ½”, Largest Bullhead- Jeff Courier, Stockbridge 1 lb, 3 oz, 13”. Ages 12 and Under Winners: Largest Trout – 1st place – Colin Mackie, Becket 1 lb, 10 oz, 16 “; 2nd Thomas Koldys, Housatonic, 1 lb, 4 oz, 13”; 3rd Blake Cella, Lenox, 1 lb, 3 oz, 13’; Largest Bullhead – 1st– Seth Slemp, Lee, 1lb, 2oz, 12’; 2nd – Dylan Trumps, South Lee, 1 lb 1 oz, 12 ½”; 3rd – Ashley Trumps, South. Lee, 1 lb,13”. Largest Rock Bass was caught by Kemp Stiles, Stockbridge, 4 oz, 7’’.
Questions/comments: Berkwoodsandwaters@roadrunner.com. Phone/fax: (413) 637-1818..