Silver Lake in Pittsfield has been a punch line for many years, a lake you can walk on or set fire to, a lake harboring mutant creatures like those near the nuclear plant in the Simpsons' mythical Springfield. All untrue, but nonetheless the lake has long been a prominent symbol of the Pittsfield's post-General Electric years, when all that was left was PCB pollution.
That is changing, just as Pittsfield is changing as it moves -- haltingly and sometimes grudgingly -- past its factory town era. A prominent symbol, in this case a positive one, of this change will be the pedestrian walkway to be completed next month along Silver Lake's north shore, from East Street to Fourth Street. Preparation work for the paving of the walkway along with remediating the contaminated lake itself are now in their final stages (Eagle, September 27).
The crumbling, hollow buildings that also represented the post-GE years are now largely gone and while the lake remains it has a chance to represent what a lake should, as do its far larger brethren, Onota and Pontoosuc. According to Corydon Thurston, executive director of the Pittsfield Economic Development Authority (PEDA), the walkway will be connected via city sidewalks and over authority land to the Woodlawn Avenue railroad bridge, which the state is expected to fund reconstruction of next year. One of the reasons this section of Pittsfield looks forlorn is because of the relative absence of people, and any amount of pedestrian traffic that can be created in the year ahead will be welcome and beneficial.
The Consent Decree that led to General Electric's funding of the cleanup of the city section of the Housatonic River and the PEDA property is more than a decade old, and while progress has been slow and the William Stanley Business Park is yet to reap anticipated benefits and is a source of debate, progress has been made. The rejuvenated Housatonic River is proof of that, and the revived Silver Lake area will provide further proof.