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With a mountain bike course OK'd, Pittsfield city staff and bike group get to work on the finer details

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Pittsfield officials and the Berkshire County chapter of the New England Mountain Bike Association are working on a responsibility-sharing agreement that would bring the proposed mountain bike skills course and pump track at Springside Park a step closer to reality.

PITTSFIELD — City staff and the Berkshire County chapter of the New England Mountain Bike Association are working to hammer out an agreement over how responsibilities for maintenance, insurance and procurement of space will be shared for a newly greenlighted proposal for a mountain bike skills course and pump track in Springside Park.

The course, which was proposed by Berkshire County chapter president Alison McGee, will cover a 2.3-acre space in the park, north of Reid Middle School. The course will have an asphalt pump track, skills course, flow zone and dual slalom track with an estimated capacity for about 40 to 50 mountain bikers.

The agreement between the bike group and city — it’s known as a memorandum of understanding, or MOU — is in the draft phase and was presented to the Pittsfield Parks Commission on Dec. 20 for an initial review. The commission will review the draft document at its next meeting, in January.

City staff said the commission could vote on the document during that meeting, or at the February meeting.

The city has used MOUs for space sharing of other parks’ spaces with groups like the Pittsfield Suns, but Jim McGrath, the city’s park, open space and natural resource program manager, said that a memorandum of understanding for the planned course would be “unique.”

“[This MOU] assigns the maintenance to another entity, and that’s kind of a real anomaly — one that we’re happy to work with and figure out, but again, there is no standard template for this type of MOU,” McGrath said.

The New England Mountain Bike Association, the group behind the planned skills course and pump track, has offered to cover the project’s construction costs and upkeep — with the help of group members and volunteers.

McGrath said the agreement between the city and bike group will cover important details, like whether the course will be constructed by the mountain bike association and donated as a gift to the city, or if the city will bid out the project after the group donates the money for construction.

McGrath said that Parks Commission Chair Anthony DeMartino plans to meet with the city’s purchasing agent and other city staff in the coming weeks “to settle on what the most appropriate procurement pathway is for the project, because that will determine sort of how the project proceeds in the next steps of design.”

The agreement also makes it clear that no matter how the course is constructed, it will function with “nonexclusive use” — meaning that all Pittsfield residents and visitors will have access to the course and track, whether they are a member of the bike association or not.

The document also covers the course’s end of life, and who would be responsible for deconstructing the track if it falls into disrepair or disuse.

The Pittsfield Parks Commission voted unanimously Dec. 21 to approve the designs for a mountain bike skills course in Springside Park, with the caveat that the memorandum of understanding between the city and bike group is finalized.

“I feel strongly that this is a great fit and a great addition to our parks system that needed to be done right, because Springside Park is such a unique entity,” DeMartino said at the meeting. “And I think we did it right — we’re doing it right; the shovel’s not in the ground yet.”

Meg Britton-Mehlisch can be reached at mbritton@berkshireeagle.com or 413-496-6149.

Pittsfield Reporter

Meg Britton-Mehlisch is the Pittsfield reporter for The Berkshire Eagle. Born and raised in Kansas City, Missouri, she previously worked at the Prior Lake American and its sister publications under the Southwest News Media umbrella in Savage, Minnesota.

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