By Edward Damon,

POSTED: 04/01/2015 02:25:57 PM

NORTH ADAMS >>With efforts ramping up to restore a section of the Hoosic River, the organization behind that mission has added a staff member and rented workspace in the city.

Hoosic River Revival has secured a desk at the co-working space Cloud85, and hired its first employee ‘ an administrative assistant, which will help the organization work more closely with businesses, other organizations and residents, according to founder and President Judith Grinnell.

Richard Doucette, a 2014 Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts graduate and current board member, was hired earlier this month on a part-time basis, Grinnell said. He will report to the 17-member board and subcommittees, working at the space eight to 10 hours a month.

“Given the expanding professional scope of work HRR is undertaking and given the modest cost of Cloud 85 space, the board decided it was a good time for us to move our administrative work space out of a private home,” Grinnell said.

Since 2008, the nonprofit has led efforts to restore the river to a more natural state, envisioning adjacent biking and walking trails, while maintaining flood control. Community members and organizers have also stressed a need to replace the current concrete flood control chutes that were constructed by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in the 1950s.

The organization reached a milestone last year when $8.8 million was included in former Gov. Deval Patrick’s environmental bond bill; $500,000 has been approved for design and permitting phase of the project.

Hoosic River Revival is set to proceed with schematic designs for its pilot project along the river’s south branch ‘ from Heritage State Park to Hunter Foundry Road off Curran Highway (Route 8) to the south, a section that runs along Noel Field.

In January, the state selected Inter-Fluve Inc. and Sasaki Associates to create designs for the first phase.

Consultants gathered input at a meeting in early March attended by local government officials, representatives from Mass MoCA and abutters to the river, according to Grinnell. The goal was to find out what people want or don’t want, as a way to guide the preliminary sketches.

She noted consultants are mindful of other developments near the river ‘ the redevelopment of the Heritage State Park, the Berkshire Scenic Rail, and planned extension of the Ashuwillticook rail trail.

“It’s like putting the pieces of a puzzle together,” Grinnell said.

The organization plans to review rough designs at a future board meeting, with a presentation of more solid designs planned for sometime in June.

Board meetings will continue to be held once a month in the city hall second floor conference room. The next is at 9 a.m. April 13.

“It’s a river city, it’s here because of the river,” board member Brian Miksic said. “But when you’re downtown, you forget the river is here.”

Both he and Vice President Dave Willette spoke of economic and recreational benefits that could come with restoring the river, results that have been celebrated in cities like Providence, R.I. and San Antonio, T.X.

“Why not us,” Willette asked, referring to North Adams.

A city native, he said he can remember when the river ran different colors from pollution. He dreams of a future where visitors and residents could fish in the city center.

“It’s something we need to take care of,” he said. “Our natural resources are our No. 1 asset.”

Contact Ed Damon at 413-770-6979.