Group to detail first phase of Hoosic River restoration project in North Adams

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NORTH ADAMS >> A group committed to restoring access to the Hoosic River in the city is poised to turn the first phase of its vision into a reality.

The Hoosic River Revival project will focus initially on one mile of the river's south branch — from the area of the former Sons of Italy building to Hunter Foundry Road off of Curran Highway (Route 8) to the south, according to HRR President and founder Judy Grinnell.

The organization will present details of the project during a ceremony scheduled for 1:30 p.m. Monday, rain or shine, at the Noel Field Athletic Complex on State Street.

Monday's ceremony also be attended by state and local officials, who will be making an announcement about funding for the project. Department of Fish and Game Commissioner Mary Griffin, North Adams Mayor Richard Alcombright, state Sen. Benjamin B. Downing, D-Pittsfield, and state Rep. Gailanne Cariddi, D-North Adams, all will be on hand for the event.

Grinnell said the group has heard "good news" from the state, but she declined to elaborate.

"It's going to be a good day for North Adams," she said.

The HRR project is a community-based, nonprofit organization that hopes to restore the river to a more natural state while maintaining flood control. Organizers envision adjacent biking and walking trails, and they hope to make the river more suitable for fishing, boating and swimming, according to its website.

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Some 40 public meetings have been held since the group's creation in 2008. Community members and organizers have stressed a need to replace the nearly 60-year-old concrete flood chutes that were built by the Army Corps of Engineers in the 1950s. And restoring the river to a more natural state, they way, will come with economic benefits.

HRR has hired consultants Milone & MacBroom to create a pilot project that envisioned an "emerald necklace" of parks along the river and modified flood chutes that make interacting with the river easier.

The project took a step forward in August when Gov. Deval Patrick signed a $2.2 billion environmental bond bill, which authorizes spending of $8.8 million for the project's first phase. That funding requires approval from the Legislature.

Although the project is in a "conceptual drawing phase," its likely that primary restoration will be done on the selected section's northern half mile, according to a press release issued by the organization on Thursday.

The project would allow for a continuation of the Ashuwillticook Rail Trail, access to the downtown and a renovated Heritage State Park (Greylock Market), an amphitheater with steps to the river, and space for the North Adams History and Science and the Hoosac Tunnel museums.

"There were many issues to consider in choosing just one section of the river to restore," Grinnell said in prepared remarks. "However, we believe the board's choice of the south branch incorporates all of the primary goals highlighted by the community."

The nonprofit organization has requested financial support from Governor Patrick and the Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs, the release states. Grinnell reiterated that the organization hasn't received any city funds, and doesn't plan to in the future.

"If these state funds are not offered... [the organization] will continue its fundraising efforts with individuals, businesses, grants, foundations, as well as appropriate state and federal entities," the release states.


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