Environmental secretary troves for untapped treasure
State looks to boost outdoor recreation in Berkshires
PITTSFIELD — Mayor Linda Tyer was leading a tour of Springside Park on Thursday when Matthew Beaton, the state's secretary of Energy and Environmental Affairs, stole a glance at neighboring hills.
"That's Bousquet," Tyer said, pointing to ski trails visible between two sets of tree branches. "Greylock's north."
During a recent grant announcement at Berkshire Medical Center, the mayor had invited Beaton back to the city see some of the city's outdoor resources.
"And he took us up on that," she said.
Thursday's mission, he said, was to explore some Pittsfield assets that the state could support. Springside Park was first on the tour. Beaton said he also had his eye on Pontoosuc Lake Park, Westside Riverway, Onota Lake and Burbank Park.
He said the administration is looking to bolster outdoor recreation and — subsequently — economic development in several points west of Worcester.
And he said Pittsfield could play a key role.
"It is an urban center uniquely located within some of the most abundant natural resources the commonwealth has to provide," he said.
Showcasing ongoing renovation at Springside House, the city's park, open space and resource program manager, Jim McGrath, said he hopes to place tenants in the building once it's completed.
He said the house will serve as a "starting point" for visitors of the 238-acre park.
"There's so much that this place has to offer, and we want to share it with everyone," McGrath said.
Tyer said she aims to bolster outdoor recreation in the city, and that mission dovetails with the progress her administration has made with arts and culture. "Outdoor recreation is a big dream of mine," she said.
Beaton said he was eager to meet minds with Tyer, and was excited to see that her vision — using outdoor recreation as a means to spur economic development — matches his.
"The exact way she's thinking about it is the precise way I'm thinking about it on a statewide level," he said.
He said the idea is to bolster existing natural resources in a way that helps attract visitors. People who come to hike or ski will also need to eat, buy gear and otherwise spend money while they're here, he said.
"I very much see Pittsfield being a central hub in the greater Berkshire opportunity," Beaton said.
Tyer said she aims to "elevate this conversation," and Thursday's meeting reflects that.
After all, she said, "we can't do these things by ourselves."
Amanda Drane can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org, @amandadrane on Twitter, and 413-496-6296.
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