PITTSFIELD -- Jim Ciullo and Pat Ricchi, who are both in their mid-60s, grew up in the neighborhood around Silver Lake.
Ciullo rode his bicycle around the lake as a kid during the 1950s. The water was murky, he remembers, "even had an odor to it."
"A couple of times it caught on fire," he said. "Little bits of it. The Fire Department would come around."
So on Friday, when the Silver Lake Walkway between East and Fourth streets was officially dedicated by city and state officials, Ciullo and Ricchi were among those who attended.
They were asked if they thought they would ever see such a ceremony.
"Not in our lifetimes," they both said.
Arguably the city’s most polluted body of water, Silver Lake has been turned into a recreation area, and the new Silver Lake Walkway along Silver Lake Boulevard is part of that transformation.
During the ceremony, Pittsfield Economic Development Authority Executive Director Coreydon Thurston paid tribute to what the lake has become. Silver Lake is located within the 52-acre William Stanley Business Park of the Berkshires, which PEDA administers on the site of General Electric’s former power transformer facility.
"It’s great to recognize a renewed community resource," Thurston said.
James Owens, the director of the federal Environmental Protection Agency’s Boston-based New England regional office, referred to the dedication ceremony as a "beautiful moment.
The remediation of 26-acre Silver Lake was one of the final tasks contained in the 16-year-old consent decree that required General Electric to clean up PCB contamination in Pittsfield. Capping the lake bottom was completed last fall.
"This represents the 18th of 20 non-river projects to be accomplished under the consent decree," Owens said. "It’s a big step forward to completing all of the cleanup at the GE facility."
PEDA conceived the idea of placing a walkway around Silver Lake in 2012, and acquired several parcels around the lake to do so. Most of the land was owned by GE or the Western Massachusetts Electric Co. The final parcel was deeded to PEDA from GE only three weeks ago, Thurston said.
Mayor Daniel L. Bianchi, who also is a PEDA board member, referred to the walkway as a "unique project." He recognized the contributions of former PEDA Executive Director William Hines Sr., saying the board under Hines’ direction took some of the steps that have allowed the recent progress at the park to happen.
Representing the Berkshire’s legislative delegation, state Rep. Paul Mark, D-Peru, said he was amazed at the progress that has occurred at Silver Lake over the last 10 years.
"This project shows what can happen when everyone works together," Mark said.
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