Pittsfield Conservation Commission explores future of city's conservation areas

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PITTSFIELD — The future management and use of four city-owned conservation areas hinges on a master plan municipal officials, residents and landscape design students hope to craft in the coming months.

The Conservation Commission, in collaboration with the Conway School of Landscape Design, began working on the plan three weeks ago, and Thursday night the project moved into the public in-put phase at City Hall.

Nearly 30 residents weighed in on how best to balance the ecological nature and human interaction with the Barkerville, Wild Acres and Tierney conservation areas on the westerly side and Brattlebrook Farm to the east.

Following a second community meeting on March 1 at City Hall, the Conway team will rely on the feedback, along with research and current state of the four parcels totaling 411 acres to develop recommendations for a master plan.

"You're our experts; otherwise we would be relying on reports," said Corrin Meise-Munns, co-leader of the Conway team. "Without your input we couldn't move forward."

City Conservation agent Robert Van Der Kar noted Pittsfield currently lacks a specific document to guide the Conservation Commission on managing the conservation areas.

Part of the nearly 90-minute session included differentiating between conservation areas and park land.

"In conservation areas, there's more exploratory activities, in parks they are more defined," said James McGrath, the city's open space and natural resource program manager.

For at least one conservation area, it's a mix of both, according to Conservation Commission member Thomas Sakshaug.

"Wild Acres has always had buildings, and fishing derbies go way back," he said. "It has a park use, but also has marshes and a pond — kind of a combo use."

On poster board next to aerial photographs of each conservation area, the residents gathered listed dog walking, hiking and bird watching are among the more regular uses for each parcel.

Later, several suggested more educational programs and agriculture as additional ways to learn from and manage the lands all connected to the Housatonic River Watershed.

"A farm can be a good tool to maintaining a parcel," said Daniel Miraglia.

As for ongoing detrimental uses, the group identified all-terrain vehicles, illegal dumping, drinking parties and vandalism.

McGrath also pointed out that owners who don't curb their dogs or keep them on a leash have prompted a constant battle in conservation areas and parks.

Good or bad practices, human interaction with the conservation areas is inevitable in an urban setting, according to Chris Horton.

"These [properties] will be affected by people, no matter what we do," he said.

For an online survey on the process, go to the city's website at http://www.cityofpittsfield.org/news_detail_T3_R616.php

Contact Dick Lindsay 413-496-6233.

• Second community meeting regarding master plan for four Pittsfield-owned conservation areas: March 1, 7 p.m., City Hall.

• Comments/questions concerning the plan can be emailed to the Conway Team at Pittsfield2016@csld.edu and/or Robert Van Der Kar, Pittsfield Conservation Commission at RVanDerKar@pittsfieldch.com


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