The Berkshire Carousel at 50 Center St. in Pittsfield isn't spinning, and it is uncertain if and when it will again. The project, a labor of love triggered by Jim and Jackie Shulman, faces an uncertain future as its founders look for someone to take over the operation.
The Shulmans, who are in their 70s and now live in Ohio, sent out letters last week to more than 20 nonprofits, business groups and community leaders seeking new ownership of the carousel ("Berkshire Carousel founders seek new owners; riding season in jeopardy," Eagle, April 24). Begun as an art exhibit that evolved into an amusement ride, the project, the work of more than 400 volunteers, took nearly a decade to complete. Beautifully hand-crafted, it is a throwback to a more peaceful, leisurely paced era.
The carousel drew 35,000 riders in its first year, but just 6,000 in its second. It has been seldom open lately, but is scheduled to reopen in summer. That is now in jeopardy as the Shulmans seek to hand over the project.
At the time, where the carousel should be located was a considerable debate, and its Center Street spot in a largely industrial area away from downtown is hardly ideal. The Pittsfield Common was considered but deemed unworkable because of space considerations. It may have been more successful there, but its current spot is preferable to another option, the declining Berkshire Mall, which most assuredly would have doomed it.
Assuming someone or some organization comes forward to enable the carousel to carry on, it may be necessary to find another location for it. It could fit in nicely with North Adams' ambitious plans for downtown revival, and at an Eagle editorial board meeting some months ago, Mayor Tom Bernard said there had been general discussions along those lines. We would encourage those talks to go forward, although North Adams' plans are in large part long-term while the crisis facing the carousel is immediate.
The Berkshire Carousel is not, and never will be a moneymaker. That was never its intent, but it still needs to attract a solid ridership base to be a going concern. We hope interested parties emerge to carry on for the Shulmans and for the many Berkshire residents who put time and effort into making their dream a reality. If the carousel stays put, better signage may help, including perhaps painted footprints between the carousel and the Berkshire Museum, which also attracts a young audience. But it may need to pull up stakes to succeed. The carousel is named "Berkshire," and if a home in North or South Berkshire will enable it to not only thrive but survive, then a relocation should be considered.