Lauren R. Stevens: Our outdoor assets can translate to jobs

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WILLIAMSTOWN >> Three groups from the United Kingdom will hike in the Berkshires and check out our culture this fall. They will land in Boston, tour the White Mountains, arrive at The Williams Inn for two nights and then continue to New York City for their flight home. While in Williamstown they will hike on Greylock in the morning and visit the Clark or the Williams College Museum of Art in the afternoon.

This seems a good way, if brief, to take in the pleasures of the region. It is organized by an outfit in England. Does anyone locally organize such outings for people from the States or abroad?

The question arose at a recent meeting at the Greylock Mill in North Adams aimed, among other things, at creating jobs in an area that has suffered employment setbacks. A subgroup huddled to discuss the outdoors as a potential job-maker, such as hiking trips and hiking guides.

AT opportunities

Another example builds on the long-distance hiking trade. North Adams' recent designation as an Appalachian Trail Community suggests that the city might sell itself as a place for family and friends to meet up with hikers en route. Stay over, resupply, take the hiker to dinner and perhaps a show at Mass MoCA.

Or, considering that any hiker on the Long Trail must either begin or end in either North Adams or Williamstown, the traffic from people dropping off or picking up the hikers could present another opportunity. Promote staying over, enjoying cultural events while dropping off. Ditto with another long-distance hiking trail, the Mahican Mohawk, working its way west from the Deerfield Valley.

Of course, long-distance hikers themselves would enjoy in-town amenities, such as a camping area with access to showers and washing machines, which could also be used by those attending MoCA events. At the Redwood? Some of those hikers would take advantage of restaurant offers of reduced tabs.

Numerous bicycling events, on road and off road, are scheduled in the area, and more will be. These, too, have the potential to be stay-overs, with meals and entertainment, not to mention equipment maintenance and rentals. When the Ashuwillticook bike path went in, Berkshire Outfitters added a bicycle wing. As the path is extended, there will be more opportunities.

Fishing in Hoosic

Fishing could be a major outdoor activity, with the Hoosic one of the few cold water fisheries in southern New England — and under far less pressure than the better known Battenkill or Deerfield. Guiding services are already available, but only limited sources of equipment. Hostelries could offer fishing weekends.

Ramblewild in Lanesborough offers locally a concept of tree-to-tree adventure with possibilities for elaboration, as does Jiminy Peak's Mountain Adventure Park.

Berkshire has a history of winter sports, especially skiing. Climate change has challenged efforts to revive skiing on the Thunderbolt, but certainly skiing, if primarily on man-made snow, will continue. And, like the growing season, as the local climate warms, the hiking/biking season will extend.

Ideas for capitalizing on our natural assets are out there. At least, that's how it looks from the White Oaks.

A writer and environmentalist, Lauren R. Stevens is a regular Eagle contributor.


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