Hoosic River Revival, a nonprofit in North Adams working to reconnect the community with a flood-controlled river to enhance the cultural, recreational, and economic vitality of the area, recently announced that Jason M. LaForest has been named executive director.
LaForest succeeds Al Bashevkin, who served as part-time interim executive director for the past eight months. Matthew Miller had joined as the first full-time executive director of Hoosic River Revival (HRR) in July 2017, but stepped down in December. LaForest will serve full time in the position.
Anne Valk, HRR board president, said, “Jason is well prepared to take the Hoosic River Revival to the next stage in its plans to update flood control and increase residents’ access to the Hoosic. His knowledge of the city and his dedication to North Adams’ renaissance, combined with his understanding of how to get things done, will enable us to grow from a small organization with a half-mile Phase One design to one creating a major revitalization of the entire two-mile, inaccessible, unattractive North Adams section of the Hoosic River.”
HRR said LaForest, who has been a nurse manager at Berkshire Healthcare for the last six years, is “returning to his first love: community enhancement through community projects.” He recently was elected to the North Adams city council.
“The Hoosic River has been at the heart of our cultural and economic spirit for centuries,” said LaForest. “The ability to use twenty-first century flood control measures and reclaim the river for educational, artistic and recreational opportunities is a gift we should all embrace.
“The Hoosic River can and should be a part of regional economy and increase our quality of life here in the Northern Berkshires. I am thrilled to play a part in returning the river to the community as the new executive director.”
Based on his volunteer work Haiti following its devastating earthquake 2010, LaForest became a nurse, according to a report in The Berkshire Eagle.
HRR was founded in 2008 with the aim of reconnecting the people of North Adams with a restored river that will help revitalize the economy of the area. While concrete chutes and levees have contained flood waters for more than 60 years, HRR said the flood management efforts have resulted narrowed the river to a trickle that is barren of wildlife.
HRR is currently working to restore the South Branch of the Hoosic River, serving as a connecting feature in North Adams that will improve access between Main Street, MASS MoCA, Heritage State Park, and the Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts. Plans call for the South Branch to be open for recreation by 2020. It also aims to restore the North Branch.