PITTSFIELD -- A popular, rustic camping area usually filled with hearty campers on Labor Day weekend is closed and will remain off limits for the rest of the year.
The 13 campsites on Berry Pond at Pittsfield State Forest have been vacant since July 28, when heavy rains washed out part of the only road leading to the remote recreation area.
The deluge -- about 6 inches of rain -- seriously damaged a 1.5-mile stretch of Berry Pond Circuit Road along Lulu Brook and its drainage system, nearly stranding people at two campsites, according to state park officials.
The campers were evacuated before the water cascading down the mountain gouged out the west side of the paved road, pushing dirt and gravel onto the pavement or filling several culverts with the earthen material.
The damage forced the state to close 4 miles of the 6-mile one-way road that loops around the picnic area/campground. The closure cuts off Berry Pond to vehicular traffic between Lulu Pond on the ascending side of the road and the remaining campsites on the descending side.
The estimated $120,000 repair of the road and replacement of the 11 stone culverts built 80 years ago during the Great Depression hinge on the Department of Conservation and Recreation receiving state funding and local permission to do the work, according DCR District Manager Paul Adams.
"We really want to get the work done this fall before winter sets in," he said Tuesday. "Every time we have a storm, we'll have more damage.
Adams noted the Pittsfield, Lanesborough and Hancock conservation commissions must sign off on the project as the section of damaged road runs through all three municipalities.
DCR is also facing a hefty repair bill for the asphalt road leading to Balance Rock State Park on the Lanesborough side of Pittsfield State Forest. Adams said heavy summer rains have worsened the pothole situation on that half-mile of pavement, forcing it to be closed until further notice.
He noted that the estimated repair cost depends on whether the state wants to spend $173,000 to just resurface the macadam, or do a complete rebuild costing up to $277,000.
Pittsfield State Forest Supervisor Chris Hajjar said Tuesday that while the Berry Pond access road is closed, people can still hike up to the pond to fish or enjoy a late summer day -- as two sunbathers did Tuesday afternoon, relaxing on the grass by the water.
And he said 25 other individual and two group campsites unaffected by the road closure are still available for the remainder of the camping season that ends after Columbus Day weekend in mid-October.
Nevertheless, Berry Pond -- known for its serenity and spectacular views -- drives attendance at the state campground.
"Every weekend we fill up because of those  campsites," he said.
To reach Dick Lindsay:
or (413) 496-6233.