Our Opinion: Greylock Glen may have landed on key to success

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If anything, the latest plan to develop Adams' Greylock Glen is a triumph of small thinking and sensible stewardship. The 1,063-acre parcel of mostly wilderness land adjacent to the state's tallest mountain possesses all the attributes that make the Berkshires a destination for those who love the outdoors. If there has been a shadow cast across the streams, meadows, trees, lakes and trails that make up this natural treasure, it was from the limited imaginations of those who were unable to conjure a way to generate economic benefit without destroying it in the process.

A series of false starts and failed projects have characterized Greylock Glen for the past 54 years: a resort, golf course, alpine ski area, convention center, a hotel, condominiums, a housing development, even a funicular ride to the top of Mount Greylock. All were ambitious; all raised the ire of local environmentalists who rightly warned that such moves would diminish the pristine quality that lay at the heart of the parcel's attraction.

On Friday, Adams officials unveiled the latest plan, and its manageable scope may ultimately be the key to its success (Eagle, June 22). The new plan, besides leaving 94 percent of the total parcel intact, seeks to enhance Greylock Glen as a center for outdoor activities — which has the added advantage of being able to claim success at whatever stage the long-term plan may eventually reach. The plan is to begin with a seed project — the Greylock Glen Outdoor Center, which at $6.5 million would create a minimal footprint that project backers hope will act as a magnet to draw those seeking outdoor recreational activity to the area. As such, it would join the region's more well-known cultural attractions to offer a broad menu of activities that exploit Berkshire County's natural beauty while diversifying its appeal.

One of the more sensible aspects of the plan is that it builds upon an existing asset: Greylock Glen already attracts its share of outdoor aficionados. The star of the show — the parcel's natural attributes — will remain largely untouched. The new building, which will cost $5 million in addition to $1.5 million in site work, will be financed largely from public sources and still requires funding before it can break ground, but as local state Representative John Barrett III told members of The Eagle's editorial board, he anticipates the accumulation of a critical mass of interest over time that will eventually bring private investment as the Glen develops a reputation as a destination outdoor playground. Greylock Glen in its enhanced form will be an asset for the state as well as the Berkshires; this should help persuade Beacon Hill to come up with funding.

The planned outdoor center, which could begin construction as soon as next year, will contain a cafe and cross-country ski equipment rentals, both of which will help generate some tax revenue for Adams. It won't be much at first, but Representative Barrett and Donna E. Cesan, Adams' director of community development, are taking the long view. Both see the critical mass developing over a period of as long as 20 years, but in the meantime, a selling point of the Greylock Glen project is that can declare victory at any point and stand on its own without further development. Moreover, there has been critical buy-in from local organizations and institutions that will support the first step — the Outdoor Center — with their activities. The Massachusetts Audubon Society will bid to run environmental and camp programs there, the Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts foresees a symbiotic relationship with the Glen that will enhance its own environmental studies and research programs, and the leadership of Mass MoCA understands the interdependency of multiple destinations appealing to varied interests in luring tourism.

The new incarnation of Greylock Glen is a project few will object to and many will embrace; its viability lies in its simplicity. While visionaries anticipate hundreds of jobs and millions of dollars in tax revenue, all that is a long way down the hiking trail. In the meantime, we welcome yet another jewel in the Berkshires' crown and wish it all — albeit gradual — success.

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