Letter: Local control important for management of Stockbridge's open spaces
To the editor:
When we, the residents of Stockbridge, think about our large, still undeveloped tracts of land, we should consider the large pieces that have already been developed. Which of them are private? Which are public? Which of them are an asset to the town?
In Stockbridge and neighboring Lenox, subdivisions with a private road such as Windham Hill, White Pines and Bishop Estate are essentially private. Other large pieces, former Gilded Age estates such as Tanglewood, Kripalu, Chesterwood, Norman Rockwell Museum, Naumkeag, Canyon Ranch, Wheatley and Blantyre, are open to the public during specified hours for the price of admission.
By contrast, some lands offer less-restricted access — the 350 acres owned or managed by the Laurel Hill Association, the 11,000 acres owned or managed by the Berkshire Natural Resources Council, the 1,000 acres of the Pleasant Valley Audubon Sanctuary (free to residents), the 135-plus acres comprising Bullard Woods and Gould Meadows all fit into this category.
The Gould Meadows story is an inspiring account of what can happen when residents put their hearts and energy into preserving a piece of land. Back in 1981, there were plans to subdivide the 95-acre meadow bordered by the Stockbridge Bowl and Tanglewood into 60 building lots. When two local activists discovered this plan, they contacted Stockbridge Select Board member Mary Flynn. The three decided that the town of Stockbridge should try to purchase the land. The plan was to get grants from the state and the U.S. Department of the Interior for 75 percent of the cost. The remaining 25 percent would be raised through private funds. With the aid of Mary Flynn's persuasive skills and love of Stockbridge, more than 492 contributors raised the balance. In the middle of the negotiations, although the federal share was reduced, the Massachusetts Open Space Grants Program was amended allowing the state to contribute up to 80 percent of the price.
Gould Meadows, free and open to the public, is still managed by the town of Stockbridge with the help of many local volunteers (Friends of Gould Meadows). It's a shining example of a successful open space project.
In adopting a new Cottage Era Bylaw for Stockbridge, we should think about the purposes lands developed under a new bylaw would serve. Would they be controlled exclusively by a developer for his profit? How accessible would they be? Would parts of the land be freely accessible or preserved as wilderness?
At the moment, this question is in the hands of the townspeople. As the Planning Board ponders the relationship of open space to future development, we residents should let them know our feelings. Let's think carefully before we relinquish management of our open spaces to the control of developers.
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