PITTSFIELD -- Berkshire Regional Planning Commission Executive Director Nathaniel Karns wants to let serious people know, it’s time to face up to some serious problems and challenges in the Berkshires.

Speaking frankly, Karns brought this message to a forum on the agency’s new master plan for the county Thursday.

Anyone reviewing the goals outlined in the document probably would agree, Karns’ message was an appropriate one.

Three years in the works and grand in scale, the plan sets forth visions, priorities and policy guidelines on core county issues.

It identifies needs for more well-paying jobs and affordable housing, comprehensive energy, land conservation and historical preservation plans, improvement of utilities and public transportation and support for Berkshire farming, among other things.

But readers learn many disquieting facts along the way.

"This region severely lacks younger workers and their families," Karns said. "Our job concentrations are increasingly in lower paying sectors. To survive and be sustainable as a region, we have to focus on attracting workers and being a welcoming community."

The Berkshires, the document reads, "is struggling to transition to the new economic model which places a high emphasis on innovation and talent."

Infrastructure -- water, sewer, roads and bridges -- badly need upgrades.

Energy and land use plans must adapt to the new realities of climate change, with emphasis placed on non-carbon power sources.

If the Berkshires is to retain a viable farming community, it will take strengthening the local "economics of farming."

Responding to the stark challenges, an audience member asked, "Is there any hope?"

Karns, apologizing for the "doom and gloom," answered in the affirmative. Places around the globe face the same problems, he said.

"Our issues are not unique. There are best practices we can look around at and say, ‘Gee, why don’t we try that?’ There are ways. The plan’s intent is to provide a framework to guide public and private investment in the area," he said.

"It’s intent and the way it’s designed [depends upon] an all hands on deck approach to implementation," added Amy Kacala, a senior planner with BRPC.

Numerous subcommittees and delegates from across the county took part in sessions, from which the document’s authors gathered much of its content and concerns.

In addition to diagnosing problems, the authors also present hundreds of strategies to pursue -- diverse ideas ranging from green roofs, internships and scholarships to keep local graduates of local schools and promoting a Berkshire farm network linking farms with customers, food businesses and schools. The full document is available to view at sustainableberkshires.org.

The full BRPC commission -- which includes members representing each of the county’s 32 cities and towns -- is poised to vote on whether to accept the plan at a meeting on March 20.

To reach Phil Demers:
pdemers@berkshireeagle.com
or (413) 281-2859.
On Twitter: @BE_PhilD