Hoosic plans to be revealed

Tomorrow from 1:30 to 2:30 PM a special announcement will be made about the revival of the Hoosic River. The event will take place at Noel Field on State Street in North Adams.   Guests will include State Senator Benjamin Downing, State Representative Gailanne Cariddi, Department of Fish and Game Commissioner Mary Griffin and Mayor Richard Alcombright.

In an October 28 news release, it was announced that the Board of Directors of the Hoosic River Revival (HRR) has chosen the location for the first phase of its restoration of the Hoosic River.  A mile-long focus of their revitalization work will be the South Branch, from Foundry Road to the bridge connecting the former Sons of Italy to Heritage Park, one of seven potential restoration locations recommended by their consultants.

The release went on and reported that “Although the project is still in the ‘conceptual drawing’ phase, it is likely that the primary restoration work will be on the northern half mile.  Once completed, this revitalized section will:  maintain existing flood protection; feature a much wider river with recreational opportunities; ensure a continuation of the Ashuwillticook Bike Path; provide access to downtown (North Adams);  the Greylock Market (renovated Heritage Park), and the future Scenic Rail; and include a large plaza with amphitheatre steps to the river and space for the North Adams History and Science Museum and the Hoosac Tunnel Museum.  Mayor Alcombright expressed his enthusiasm for the pilot project choice of the River Revival, “City residents and visitors will love the close proximity of all these exciting projects, and enjoy looking at our beautiful Hoosic River“.

Since its start in 2008, the HRR has participated in more than 40 public meetings, sharing information about the condition of the 60 year-old chutes, the benefits of restoring a river, various systems for maintaining flood protection, and options for the North Adams section of the Hoosic.  At these meetings, residents have consistently highlighted five qualities for the Board of Directors to include in any project: flood protection; a healthy, accessible river; economic development opportunities; neighborhood, historical, and cultural linkages; and overall improved quality of life in the city. The Board felt it had additional factors to consider:  cost, feasibility, Corps of Engineers requirements, available property, environmental damage, relevant City projects, the new 2030 Vision Plan, and the plans of the North Adams Partnership.

Board President Judy Grinnell praised the extensive cross-section of area residents who participated in this long-term process of deciding how and where to begin the restoration: “Our Board of Directors and Advisory Council members, the Mayor and his staff, and of course the people of North Adams deserve so much credit for giving this 2.5 mile, complex, challenging project such serious consideration for the past 6 years. There were many issues to consider in choosing just one section of the river to restore.  However, we believe the Board’s choice of the South Branch incorporates all of the primary goals highlighted by the community”.

“Funding the pilot project is the next big challenge for the River Revival.  Thanks to the persuasive efforts of our State representatives, Senator Ben Downing and Representative Gailanne Cariddi, there is $8,775,000 allocated in the 2015-19 Massachusetts Environmental Bond Bill for this first phase of the project.  However, funding is not assured.  To receive that State support, the project needs to be considered a priority by (Governor Baker); not all items in the Bond Bill will get that designation.”

(If I may interject, let’s hope that Governor Baker will remember the strong endorsement received from former North Adams Mayor Barrett in his pursuit of the governorship.)

According to Ms Grinnell, if these State funds are not offered to the River Revival, the non-profit Hoosic River Revival will continue its fundraising efforts with individuals, businesses, grants, foundations, as well as appropriate State and Federal entities.  She emphasized that the HRR has asked for no financial support from the City of North Adams and it does not plan to request any City funds in the future.

This scribe cannot overemphasize the important role that Judy Grinnell has played in the HRR’s efforts to revive the Hoosic River.  She even drove from North Adams to my home in Lenox to provide valuable information for a HRR article previously written in this column.  On more than one occasion she urged me to attend its workshops and presentations in order to gather information to inform the public through this column.  How fortunate for the North County folks to have such a strong advocate for the revival of the Hoosic River.  The same applies to the dedicated board of the HRR.

At the end of every memo or news release from the HRR is the following quote from Margaret Meade:

“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world.  Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.

I think we are seeing the thoughtful and concerned citizens of the Northern Berkshires bringing this to fruition albeit on a smaller scale. *****

Staying on the subject of revived waters, I received pictures and an e-mail from David Bell of Pittsfield who caught a “pretty decent” largemouth bass from Silver Lake in Pittsfield last month.   It measured 14 inches.  He went on and said that he has caught yellow perch, crappie and sunfish as well as largemouth bass on prior outings, but this is the first legal bass. “For myself I’ve had to really work to catch them, if one can call it that, but given time it can only get better.”   He said.  “Years ago when looking out over Silver Lake from GE Building Thirty Three I never dreamed I’d be kayak fishing on that body of water.”     

Thank you, David, for the great news.   

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