Friday February 1, 2013

LENOX -- In one the biggest recent turnouts for a Town Hall meeting, residents listed their priorities for the community’s Open Space and Recreation Master Plan.

During a one-hour open forum attended by about 60 citizens on Wednesday night, three graduate students from the Conway School of Landscape Design distributed questionnaires and led a discussion on recommendations for enhancing the town’s open space areas.

"We’re so happy so many of you came out," said Amy Wolfson of Fall River, one of the students interning in Lenox to help develop the master plan. "We all care so much about the open space here and we feel lucky that we’ve been brought in to be part of this."

The project could make the town eligible for state grants based on a five- to seven-year action plan, explained Becca Robbins, a student from Waterbury, Vt. "The master plan is a document that encapsulates Lenox’s vision for itself."

Organized by the Open Space and Recreation Committee and Town Planner Mary Albertson, the session was marked by residents’ enthusiastic descriptions of favored destinations such as Lenox Mountain, the Housatonic River portion of October Mountain State Forest, Kennedy Park, Parson’s Marsh, and the town-owned Post Farm, favored by dog-walkers and hunters.

"There’s so much to do along the Housatonic River," said Neal Carpenter, chairman of the town’s Conservation Commission, during the meeting’s discussion among seven groups of citizens clustered at work tables. He listed fishing, canoeing, walking and especially hunting, "which is very important in this area. We don’t want any of this stuff changed. We like it the way it is and we’d like it left like that."

Making Post Farm, just above the west bank of the river near Woods Pond, more accessible to the public is among the goals voiced by Selectman Channing Gibson.

"Parking spaces, cleaning it up so it’s treated more respectfully, organizing it better to be used by all different types of outdoor enthusiasts and improvements to make it the best place it can be," Gibson said.

Gibson also praised Kennedy Park for its four-season appeal: "We like the quiet and the beauty of the place."

Ruth Wheeler, a member of the park’s volunteer committee, listed the town beach at Laurel Lake as needing improvement. Speaking on behalf of her group, she said the beach "doesn’t present very well, so we’d like to see it improved. The parking lot and the building there are rundown."

Stepping up residents’ familiarity with the town’s recreational sites should be a priority, said Kim Graham, director of the Lenox Community Center as well as the town’s parks and recreation director. Her group also listed Laurel Lake, where "so much more work could be done to make it more accessible and enjoyable," Graham added. "Also, there was a large contingent here that really enjoys walking the streets of Lenox."

"There’s a big need for a dog park," said Patty Spector, director of the annual Josh Billings RunAground triathlon. "As everybody knows, Kennedy Park is overcrowded and the most popular thing to do there is to take your dog."

She also advocated consideration of a bike path, improved access to the Housatonic River corridor, better-marked trails in October Mountain State Forest, and enhanced maps detailing the town’s recreational areas.

Coming up for the open space master plan project: A meeting of the Open Space and Recreation Committee on Tuesday night to review the results of the community forum; a survey to be distributed to town residents; another public session in about a month; and finally, a document to be approved by town boards, the Berkshire Regional Planning Commission and the state’s Department of Conservation and Recreation, setting the stage for state grant eligibility.

To contact Clarence Fanto:
cfanto@yahoo.com
or (413) 637-2551.
On Twitter: @BE_cfanto