Push on to get money released for Greylock Glen Outdoor Center project

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ADAMS — Greylock Glen's proposed Outdoor Center has a new look, but also, it appears, a new timetable.

Because Gov. Charlie Baker has not yet released bond funding, hopes expressed a year ago to begin construction this summer or fall may not come to pass.

But officials insist the project off Gould Road is moving ahead, with full construction drawings expected to be ready by late summer.

State Rep. John Barrett III, D-North Adams, says he has a commitment from Baker to propel the Glen project by including the roughly $6.5 million center in a statewide capital improvements plan.

"He's waiting to see final plans. Every time I see him, he asks, `How's it coming?'" Barrett said. "A commitment has been made to make a substantial contribution to this project. He's the first governor who's committed to finally get the project going and put the first building up on that property."

In a rendering of the roughly 11,000-square-foot environmental center, Maclay Architects of Vermont adjusted the look this spring of what it terms a "Rustic Park." The center will serve as an event space and portal into recreation at the Glen.

Though it changed aspects of the center, the firm continues to pay tribute to nearby Mount Greylock, the state's highest peak. Windows inside the future center's main room still gaze up toward the Greylock beacon, which remains a lodestar after decades of failed private efforts to cash in on the Glen's scenic beauty.

The Glen includes woodlands, open land, ponds and wetlands. It lies to the east of the 12,500-acre Mount Greylock State Reservation.

Officials in Adams are in charge of the Glen project. Their plan puts access to nature first. They hope to set the stage for future interest by private developers.

A full build-out would cost $50 million, most of it from the private sector, and include a 140-site campground with restrooms, hot showers, rustic cabins and what's described as "eco-tents," as well as a lodge and convention center.

"Heads in beds" — meaning hotel rooms — remains a mantra among economic development officials.

"It will rejuvenate the economy and, most importantly, be a job creator," Barrett said. "I believe that this is the most important economic development project in the northern Berkshires. The governor is behind it, as is the lieutenant governor."

A Chicago consultant has estimated that businesses operating within the Glen, including a camping concession, would generate $15 million a year in spending locally. If fully developed, the project could create 670 jobs, the consultant said.

All major permits are in place, including approvals under the Massachusetts Environmental Policy Act, wetlands reviews and a special permit from the Planning Board.

Donna E. Cesan, director of community development in Adams, acknowledged that the timetable slid a little this past year because of changes in Town Hall staffing. For a time, Cesan was also managing the town's public works department and serving as interim administrator.

"It's been kind of a heck of a year," Cesan said in a recent Town Hall interview, joined by Jay R. Green, Adams' new administrator.

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The year also saw leadership changes at the state level that might have slowed progress. Baker lost two cabinet secretaries whose portfolios overlap with projects like the Glen — Jay Ash of housing and economic development and Matthew Beaton of energy and environmental affairs.

Local officials have been reaching out to Mike Kennealy and Kathleen Theoharides, who replaced Ash and Beaton. Kennealy visited the Glen in late April.

"The detail of the conversation has increased — and that's a good sign," said state Sen. Adam Hinds, D-Pittsfield.

Hinds said that once the Glen project makes the cut in Baker's capital plan, work can start on the long-awaited project. "That's what we're waiting on right now. That's the key point," Hinds said.

Cesan and Green say that the development now on the table, of a relatively small part of the 1,000-acre Glen, will spur economic growth in the region.

"We're primed to step into that next chapter," Green said. "It is time for this project to go. It feels close."

Funding for the Glen's Outdoor Center was included last year in both the environmental bond bill and economic development bond bill. But it is up to the governor to decide when to allocate use of those monies, and under what conditions, if any.

Last August, $500,000 was freed up to pay for the architect to design the Outdoor Center.

A $2 million MassWorks grant paid for new water and sewer systems and work on Gould Road.

The state Department of Conservation and Recreation has been a key ally for Adams. The agency has made upward of $3 million available to the town. Residents of Adams have also committed nearly $1 million in local funding over the years.

Infrastructure work now in place will simplify the rollout of the Outdoor Center, as well as provide an incentive to private developers interested in bidding to build other elements of the Glen. Water supplies have been brought to the Outdoor Center site.

"We've made it shovel-ready," Cesan said. "We took away all of those hurdles that caused developers major issues."

Green, who started work in Adams this spring, expressed confidence the project will move forward.

"There's no reason it can't be developed," he said.

More information can be found on the Glen's new website, greylockglenresort.com.

Larry Parnass can be reached at lparnass@berkshireeagle.com, at @larryparnass on Twitter and 413-496-6214.


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