Our Opinion: Nor. Adams bike trail can work for all

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Change can be intimidating; when people are happy with they way things are, their first reaction to the idea of altering the status quo is to resist it, regardless of whether the change might result in a benefit. Why fix something if it ain't broke?

In other words, most of us can empathize with residents of Chenaille Terrace in North Adams who currently enjoy the serenity and privacy of the open spaces behind their houses. They've been told that a bike path connecting Williamstown with their city will skirt the rear of their properties before making an eastbound turn at Harriman and West Airport (Eagle, August 25). Not In My Back Yard (or NIMBY) syndrome means something to these homeowners, because we are talking literally about their back yards.

That said, their reaction, while expected, may be more fear- than fact-based. The multi-use path, 12-feet-wide, will carry bicycle and foot traffic between the two towns. It will encourage exercise, promote fitness among the citizenry, and will cut down on fuel used by car-borne commuters and other travelers. Moreover, the path will bring the dream of a county-wide fully connected bike and pedestrian path network closer to reality.

It isn't as though the one-mile connector is the home stretch of the Lebanon Valley Speedway. Bike paths are quiet, eco-friendly and have little or no impact on their environment. The state, which feels such a path is important enough to provide $4.9 million in transportation funding to build it, will include fencing in the design and has even agreed to provide access points to property owners who abut it. The latter feature alone would be enough, for some, to offset again possible loss of privacy resulting from the path's installation.

Planners have provided good reasons for the route behind the Chenaille Terrace properties being the most practical; other proposed routes faced too many physical obstacles. Clearly, this is a case where the quality of life of two communities, and more significantly all of Berkshire County, will be improved after construction of the connecting stretch of path.

The Ashuwillticook Rail Trail that runs between Pittsfield and Adams has become a precious resource to the communities situated along it. In places, it comes within a few feet of residents' front doors, and it isn't even cordoned off by a fence. When one considers that Ashuwillticook used to be a railroad bed, a bike and pedestrian path with occasional benches for enjoyment of the scenery is a definite improvement.

No one is expecting Chenaille Terrace residents to make an unnecessary sacrifice or asking them to give up their way of life. Instead, every effort should be made by all interested parties, including the Massachusetts Department of Transportation (that will be implementing the plan) to mitigate to the fullest extent possible any negative impact of the path and to heed the residents so that they feel their concerns have been addressed. They may ultimately discover that having a bike path behind them is really no sacrifice at all, and might well be an enhancement.

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