Letter: A clear best option for Lake Mansfield road

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A clear best option for Lake Mansfield road

To the editor:

The Lake Mansfield Recreation Area is a beautiful part of Great Barrington, traversed by a badly deteriorated road, bits of which repeatedly fall into the lake, a markedly eroded shoreline with a now nearly nonexistent buffer zone and unsafe conditions for pedestrians, fishers and bicyclists.

The Boston-based KZLA design group, hired by the town's Lake Mansfield Improvement Task Force, was mandated to obtain public input and then create design alternatives for the road, the boat launch and the parking lot. I will address the road alternatives.

It should be noted that KZLA met the heads of all local emergency services — fire, police and ambulance — and none of them had any preference among any of the four road alternatives listed below.

* Least expensive — leave the road as is, fixing potholes but not addressing major issues of safety, run-off of water and sediment into the lake, and continuing deterioration of the natural environment.

* Rebuild a two-way road. The present road originated as a dirt road, closed in the winter. At some point it was paved, without the necessary substructure to handle a rising water table and freeze-thaw cycles. Thus, to rebuild the road it would be necessary first to tear it up and and then rebuild it properly to code.

Since the current road is in places only 17' wide (code for a two-way road is 22')a new two-way road would in some places have to take land from buffer zone or wetlands on either side. It will be virtually impossible to obtain permits for such work because of wetland regulations. Furthermore, unlike the last two alternatives, road-building without any benefit to the natural environment would be unlikely to qualify for grant support and the great cost would have to be borne by taxpayers.

* Make a one-way road with adjacent pedestrian/fisher/biker path, converting the road into part of a linear park running the length of the lake. If the road runs south to north there could be a turnaround in a reconfigured parking lot. North of the lot the road would remain two-way. Because of the enormous consequent improvements to water quality, habitat, park esthetics and public safety this alternative is likely to attract large grants to defray much of the expense and be able to obtain the necessary permits.

* "Close" the road. There still would need to be a one-way road kept passable in winter for access of emergency vehicles, abutting residents and the swim club. There would be all the benefits of option (3) but it would probably cause significant parking problems at the boat launch and on all the neighboring streets.

I believe that the one-way road option greatly enhances the safety, beauty and natural environment of this town jewel.

Nina Evans, M.D., Great Barrington


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