Spruces, a year later

Wednesday August 29, 2012

A year after Tropical Storm Irene, most Berkshire County communities have picked up the pieces with a few projects here and there still ongoing. One place that hasn't recovered and won't is the Spruces Mobile Home Park in Williamstown, which for years was a disaster waiting to happen. And it happened.

Irene dumped 4 to 9 inches of rain onto ground already saturated because of a rainy August. The Spruces, plagued for years by flooding and drainage problems, was swamped by the Hoosic River, and 159 of the 225 mobile homes there have been torn down or condemned. Morgan Management, the park's operator, claims it can't continue running the park because there are so few tenants remaining but Morgan can't be allowed to walk away from its obligations to its remaining tenants either, which we assume the attorney general's office will not allow.

Ideally, the remaining one-third of tenants at the park pre-Irene will be able to move elsewhere, and the park can pass into history. Those who remain still regard the park as home, but some who spoke to The Eagle acknowledge that it isn't the same with so many of their neighbors gone. The park cannot recover even if an effort was made to restore it to health because it will just be a matter of time until there is another flooding disaster.

Just about every community in Berkshire County has a shortage of affordable housing that will become worse as the substantial population of aging residents competes with those of low income for available spots. In Williamstown, Higher Ground, a community organization formed after the storm, helped Spruces residents with their immediate needs and continues to address the knotty issue of inadequate low-cost housing throughout Northern Berkshire County. In May, voters overwhelmingly approved creation of an Affordable Housing Trust, which with an initial allocation of $200,000 in Community Preser vation Act funds, is able to collect land and money for projects and enter into housing partnerships. There is no rebuilding the Spruces, but Williamstown and other Berkshire communities must address the affordable housing shortage that discourage businesses from coming here and hampers the county's growth.


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