Pittsfield Park Commission refines policies, OKs Springside master plan


PITTSFIELD — The Park Commission has approved policy changes covering the naming of city parks and on permits to serve alcohol at events, while further refining a policy on no-trespassing citations for persons arrested or cited for violations of law or park regulations.

The commission on Tuesday also approved a master plan document for Springside Park, which will soon be posted online.

Interest in permits to serve alcohol during events has grown since the recent major renovation of The Common on First Street, commissioners said, leading to a need to formalize alcohol policy requirements covering all parks.

City Open Space and Natural Resource Manager James McGrath said that since he began working for the city, "there has been a non-alcohol policy" for events in the parks. "I think the interest is generated by The Common," he added. "The question is, how can we manage this appropriately?"

Reflecting sentiments also expressed by others, Commissioner Michele Matthews said at one point, "I don't think we want to promote alcohol in the parks, especially during multiple events," such as a concert series.

"We should be very careful about wine and beer at The Common," Clifford Nilan said. "It should be a family oriented place."

The policy approved Tuesday brought together several suggestions that have been under consideration by the board. These include a requirement to fill out an application to the commission to serve alcohol at least 90 days prior to the event, meeting with the commission and obtaining a one-day sales permit from the city Licensing Board while showing proof of liability insurance.

There was discussion of requirements for having a police officer on duty, a fee schedule depending on the type of event; maintaining a separate section in which alcohol is sold, assuring servers follow liquor sales regulations, and a last call of 30 minutes prior to the end of the event.

In all cases, according the policy, the commission will have flexibility to add or subtract requirements or fees and can reject an event deemed unsuitable for a park.

The park naming or renaming policy was updated in the wake of the renaming last year of Pitt Park to honor Rosemary and Willard Durant and a request in February to rename Highland Park to honor the late Christopher Porter, who died in July 2015.

The policy version approved Tuesday requires that a park name should remain in place for at least 30 years before changes are considered. If the person to be honored is deceased, naming of a park or facility could not be considered before five years after their death.

And for a park or facility named after a local elected official, they would have to be retired for at least one year before that could be considered.

Decisions on naming or renaming parks or other facilities will likely come down to whether there is "a lot of support" from the community, said Simon Muil.

He said the overwhelming support shown for renaming Pitt Park to honor the Durants is a good example of what should be required.

In addition, the policy seeks to encourage donations of benches, tree plantings or more expensive park features to honor individuals or groups, and that could include donations of new park land. That option will remain open in many cases when naming or renaming an entire park is not feasible, commissioners said.

Concerning plantings, benches and other features, the policy also specifies that "the Parks and Recreation Department is not responsible for any cost involved with naming or renaming process."

A request for naming a park or park feature should be submitted in writing to the city department. The policy also lists a number of basic requirements for an honoree, such as having "made a major, overriding contribution to the city and whose distinctions are as yet unrecognized."

The policy on issuing no-trespassing citations to individuals arrested at a park or cited for violations of park rules continues to evolve. The effort followed an incident in December at the skate park across Appleton Avenue from Pittsfield High School that resulted in minor injuries from a stabbing and the arrest of two juveniles.

McGrath said the policy, which still is being clarified or further researched on a few points, would allow the commission to approve a no-trespassing notice for up to one year at one or more city parks for someone recommended for such action by the Police Department.

Such a recommendation would have to follow an arrest or citation by police involving a park site. If a weapon or a felony charge is involved, McGrath said, a ban of up to one year from all city parks would be a possibility, although commissioners expect most issues that develop will involve less serious crimes or rule violations.

The Police Department would make such recommendations and handle enforcement issues, he said.

The 37-page Springside Park Master Plan was approved Tuesday after commissioners had reviewed a draft plan since their prior meeting. The proposal was accepted as written.

The document "will be a great asset" in helping to manage the park and plan for upgrades and improvements over the next several years, McGrath said. He added that "this is a flexible plan" that can be updated over time.

He said the park "is really in decent shape," not having "succumbed to inappropriate development."

The general recommendations in the plan also are "not out in left field," he added, and call for continued collaboration between the city and local organizations that have demonstrated an interest in the park and its facilities.

Commissioner Joseph Durwin, who with the Springside Park Conservancy helped spearhead the master plan beginning in 2014, said it is primarily "a vision of what the park should be" and brought together all the existing data on the 238-acre park while seeking input from residents, park stakeholders and volunteer consultants.

The report breaks down the master plan into proposals for nine separate sections of the sprawling park, he said, with some areas needing little work or funding and some requiring fundraising or grant and city funding to be realized.

A major proposal has been to restore the historic Springside House mansion for reuse, and use of grant and city funds to repair and stabilize the roof and foundation is the next expected project in a multi-year effort.

McGrath said the intent is to create a separate webpage on the city website for Springside Park — and possibly for other large city parks — that would include the master plan, maps, event and related meeting listings and other information.

Contact Jim Therrien at 413-496-6247.


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