Our Opinion: Carousel talk is spinning

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When Mayor Linda Tyer floated the idea of moving the Berkshire Carousel to Wahconah Park it triggered a groundswell of support — for putting the carousel at the Common on First Street.

The carousel should be spinning on these gorgeous summer days, but it has been shut down, a victim of dramatically declining patronage over its three years of operation and a shortage of volunteers to operate it. Pittsfield native Jim Shulman and his wife Jackie initiated the project, but the Shulmans live in Ohio and Jim wants to turn over the nonprofit to someone else who will carry it forward.

A conversation between the mayor and Ernest Welder at Wahconah Park prompted Mr. Weider to propose putting the carousel on property he owns nearby. He told The Eagle that the combination of an old-fashioned merry-go-round and a vintage ballpark would be ideal. The carousel could do well when the Pittsfield Suns are home, but Wahconah Street is arguably more off the beaten path than is the current location on Center Street and attendance could dry up during months other than June and July.

The Common, in contrast, is downtown and already hosts attractions that draw visitors. When the Common was floated as a carousel location three years ago it was asserted that there was no room for it, although the carousel does not have a large footprint. It was also argued that because the Common was given a state grant for renovation it could not host a private business, even a nonprofit like the carousel. It was not clear why this was the case, but this would have to be researched if there was a movement to reconsider the Common — by far the favored location of Eagle letter writers.

Should sites other than Pittsfield be considered? It is, after all, the Berkshire Carousel. North Adams Mayor Tom Bernard told the Eagle's editorial board that the carousel had been discussed in general as a part of a revitalized downtown.

While the current location has not succeeded, should it be given up on? In her Sunday column, Ruth Bass noted that the carousel and the Berkshire Museum are places favored by a visiting granddaughter. The Eagle has floated editorially the idea of a team effort between the carousel and the museum a short distance up the hill, as both attract a young audience. Painted footprints could connect the two and encourage walkers. New Berkshire Museum Executive Director Jeff Rodgers expressed interest in the idea at an editorial board meeting.

The carousel is a work of art and a labor love of thousands of volunteer hours. All options should be kept open to help it not just survive but thrive.

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