Greylock Glen, although formerly farmed and even developed for a failed downhill ski area, consists of 1,000 reforesting acres with intimate views of Mount Greylock. The town of Adams has become the developer and construction is under way for an outdoor recreation center. The commonwealth, working with local residents, has also laid out a trail system providing for various cross-country skiing and hiking adventures.
In 1991, incoming Gov. William Weld disapproved of the financial arrangements made by his predecessor, Gov. Michael Dukakis, concerning Heritage’s plans to put up condominiums and so forth at the Glen. That was only the most recent of a series of proposals for the property, beginning in the early 20th century when the New Haven Railroad wanted to run a trolley up the mountain and later when a mega-ski resort including tramway was proposed in the 1960s. All of them seemed to pit efforts to use the land to improve the economy of Adams against those who prioritized the natural setting.
At that point, in an effort to end the struggle of competing interests, Williamstown environmentalist Nancy Nylen sat down at her kitchen table. Nylen, then of the Center for EcoTechnology, drew three rings — three ways of developing the Glen with which everyone could agree. If memory serves, they were environment, education and economy. She took a proposal including a conference center, environmental education center and hiking/skiing trails to the Mount Greylock Advisory Council, which approved it. Rustic camping and tent platforms were mentioned.
The state chose Greylock Management Associates to develop along those lines, but once again a touted developer went off the track through controversy, alleged corruption, financial instability and project overreach. In 2004, the town of Adams said enough and submitted a proposal for it to be named developer, the second step in trying to come up with a happy median.
Almost 20 years later, thanks to Donna Cesan making this project her life work, without controversy a site has been cleared and the first building is taking shape. The town as developer has seemed magic.
The issue is what kind of camping is appropriate. Thirty individuals signed a letter to The Eagle calling attention to Lenox-based developer Share Estates’ concept: $15 million for 35 luxury cabins with heat, electricity and running water; 19 mirror cabins, which the developer claims will not be dangerous to bats and birds; nine Airstream trailers, each 22 feet long; and nine tented campsites. All in all, the heads in beds count would be 267. The location would interfere with a newly created trail hub, according to Heather Linscott, an abutter to the property and a trail designer.
The campsite proposal represents the first bite of the private investment that is supposed to be part of the project. Another project that calls for private investment is a lodge/conference center, but a developer has yet to come forward.
The letter-writers are hoping there will be an opportunity for the public to get involved. The town responded yes, both at Conservation Commission and Planning Board hearings.
Modifying the proposal through those boards might not satisfy the letter-writers, though, who might prefer to undo last month’s Select Board decision that OK’d the Shared Estates proposal. Although finding developers for these projects is difficult, glamorous camping, a way of being outdoors without being outdoors, is a deceptive sales pitch. There have been too many of those at the Glen.
Does glamping at the Glen meet environmentalist Nylen’s “three-ring” test?
At least, that’s the question from the White Oaks.