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Look Ahead, Pittsfield

What goes around, comes around as Springside Park bike course saga ends the year on agenda (it began it there, too)

11:16:21 Mountain Bike plans.jpeg (copy)

Alison McGee, the Berkshire chapter president of the New England Mountain Bike Association, will answer Park Commissioners' questions about fencing, parking and building timelines involving the proposed Springside Park mountain bike skills course and pump track, during the final commission meeting of the year Tuesday.

PITTSFIELD — Sometimes this job is about change: meeting new people, covering a new project, or becoming immersed in someone's new passion project, struggle or triumph.

And sometimes this job is about bookends: the symmetry that comes from beginnings and endings. This week this column is about bookends as a local board and commission cap off 2021 with some of the same business they started with. 

Parks Commission

There really is no more perfect way to close out the final Parks Commission meeting of the year Tuesday than with an agenda all about the proposed Springside Park mountain bike skills course and pump track.

The project has consumed the commission this year — all without ever breaking any ground in the much-loved park. 

The plan for the course was brought before the commission in January by Alison McGee, the Berkshire chapter president of the New England Mountain Bike Association, discussions of course and its potential impacts to the park have landed on every meeting agenda for the commission this year. 

During that time, the commission has watched the proposed course shift from a concept to a more-finalized proposal, settling into a corner of the park currently occupied by an old baseball field near Reid Middle School. As the proposal has grown and changed, so has the opposition to it. 

Critics of the course first cited lack of public participation in the commission's early virtual meetings as a reason to slow the process. Then, opponents of the project raised concern over impacts to park wetlands, wildlife and fauna.

In a recent petition to the City Council, Pittsfield resident Dan Miraglia and former Parks Commissioner Gene Nadeau requested a traffic study on the portion of North Street adjacent to Springside Park, over concerns that traffic to the proposed bike course would overwhelm parking and traffic flow in the area.

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The commission has watched the proposed course shift from a concept to a more-finalized proposal, settling into a corner of the park currently occupied by an old baseball field near Reid Middle School.

On Tuesday, all these critiques come together in two "cease and desist" requests filed before the commission by Victor Capelli, a retired ecologist, and Elizabeth Kulas, of the Hebert Arboretum. Capelli and Kulas are looking to stop "all biking" in Springside Park. 

The meeting also features an update from McGee, who plans to respond to several questions from commissioners over her November presentation on the plan for the course. Commissioners asked for more information around parking, fencing and whether the park project could be built in smaller sections, rather than all at once.

Licensing Board meeting

The Licensing Board started the 2021 year with two show cause hearings — reviews by the board of alleged violations of city or state license regulations. On Monday, the board will end the 2021 year the same way.

The board is set to hold show cause hearings for Methuselah Bar and Lounge and Crossroads Cafe. Both restaurants have alcohol and restaurant licenses issued through the board. 

2020-11-06-METHUSELAH (copy)

The Pittsfield Licensing Board will hold a second show cause hearing for Methuselah Bar and Lounge on Monday.

The hearings can result from all kinds of situations: like businesses falling behind on their license fees or being out of date with their building inspections. The hearings have become more common over the past year as a list coronavirus public safety rules has been added to the list of potential violations that business owners face.

But, few businesses have had repeat hearings. 

Methuselah, which is owned and managed by outgoing At Large City Councilor Yuki Cohen, had one show cause hearing in January, over alleged violations of coronavirus safety standards. As a result, the Licensing Board voted to issue a two-day suspension of the bar's liquor license.

It was unclear from the agenda documents available Friday whether the hearings involving Methuselah or Crossroads were related to a coronavirus public safety violation or another kind of infraction. 

Heads-up

There will be no Look Ahead this week, loyal readers. I'll be headed to the Midwest to spend the holidays at home with my family in Kansas City, Mo. The news never stops in Pittsfield, and I'm passing off Pittsfield coverage to the rest of the capable team at The Eagle. 

If you miss this column in the meantime, take a moment to send me an email this week with topics you'd like covered, issues you'd like explained, or just oddities about city business you'd like to share. You never know, it could be the star of the first Look Ahead of the new year.

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

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