Saturday January 19, 2013

LENOX -- Town government boards are seeking to fast-track a plan to clear a path for Community Preservation Act (CPA) funding for new trails and other recreational opportunities on available town land.

Residents will be asked to offer their suggestions at an informational forum on Wednesday, Jan. 30, at 6:30 p.m. in the Town Hall auditorium. A survey also will be prepared and distributed to voters, according to Selectman John McNinch, chairman of the Open Space and Recreation Committee.

The committee is working with three master’s degree students from the prestigious Conway School of Landscape Design, who are spending time in Lenox this winter to assist in the preparation of the survey.

The five-year plan, which has to win final approval from the state, would need supporting letters from the town’s Select Board, Conservation Commission and the Planning Board, as well as the Berkshire Regional Planning Commission.

Once the state gives the green light, the town would qualify for grants to develop new open space recreational areas, McNinch explained, such as the scenic Post Farm property off East Street, near the Housatonic River, Woods Pond and October Mountain State Forest.

"We need to do this now," said McNinch, because of changes in state law that allow the use of CPA funds for land already owned by the town, such as Post Farm.


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CPA grants, approved by voters at the annual Town Meeting based on recommendations from the Community Preservation Committee, are a combination of property tax surcharges and partial state matches.

The town needs more recreational sites on current town-owned land or on open space parcels that could be acquired, said McNinch, since Kennedy Park is "overused." A prime option is to develop new trails on the properties.

According to Town Planner Mary Albertson, the Planning Board has been working on the issue for several years but is seeking a "living, working document" that would detail prospective sites for recreational development.

"We have to meet the state guidelines because many open space and recreational grant opportunities require a current plan," said Albertson.

"Open space and recreation are extremely important to Lenox residents," she noted.

The availability of CPA funds for open-space enhancements and new opportunities under the revised state laws create the need for town leaders to seek guidance from the public in order to complete a five-year plan "that would not sit on the shelf but would be one that we can turn to," said Albertson.

"This is an intense project," she emphasized.

The Conway School students, who complete their internship with the town on March 30, will make a preliminary presentation before the Select Board this Wednesday at 7 p.m.

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