By Jennifer Huberdeau, North Adams Transcript
POSTED: 06/13/2013 10:23:13 AM EDT
NORTH ADAMS — The last time the Hoosic River Revival held a “community conversation,” the all-volunteer group was just beginning its journey — gathering community input and ideas about how and where changes could be made to the river’s cement flood chutes to improve accessibility.
On Saturday, the group is hosting another community conversation, from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m., at the St. Elizabeth Parish Center, but this time around, it will be sharing design concepts for improvements along different sections of the Hoosic River.
“The reason for the conversation, is not only because we have drawings to share, but it’s very important to us that the general public have opportunity to hear from the consultants about why the flood chutes might be modified in a certain way to maintain protection and provide access,” Hoosic River Revival (HRR) President Judy Grinnell said Wednesday. “It’s an opportunity for the public to ask questions and share their ideas with their friends and neighbors, as well as their concerns and their dreams with our board.”
Since holding the first community gathering in 2010, the HRR has been busy raising funds — about $150,000 from a variety of sources, including donations from private citizens, businesses, trusts and foundations and state grants — to hire consultants to craft its conceptual designs and study the river. Grinnell stressed that no decisions have been made on these designs, rather what people will see Saturday are conceptual drawings of what could be done.
“Behind everything we’ve done has been the idea of moving forward with a plan for the river that maintains flood protection, creates accessibility and serves as an economic engine,” she said. “We also paused a little over the last three years, as we waited to see what was happening with the city’s comprehensive [master] plan and with the Partnership for North Adams. It slowed down our movement toward a pilot project, but we felt it was important to work in tandem with the city and the Partnership.”
The slowing of the HRR’s momentum allowed the group to ensure that its plans were in line with “the bigger picture” and plans being made for the city’s future, volunteer Ramona Fabregas said.
Grinnell added, “We’re complementing and cooperating with our partners. We all have our ‘eye on the ball’ and the ball is economic development.”
But the community’s input is still a vital part of the HRR’s decision-making process, as it begins looking at the possibility of a pilot project in the city. That’s where the community conversation comes into play.
“The day will start with a welcome from Mayor Alcombright and myself,” Grinnell said. “Then we’ll have an hour-long presentation from the consultants, who will explain the drawings and our options and answer questions. They’ll be a large screen and posters all around the room.”
Following the presentation, participants will be broken up into three groups to discuss different sections of the Hoosic River — the north branch, the south branch and the downtown stretch. Childcare will be provided for those who need it.
“We’ll have three 30- to 40-minute sessions, with the idea that people will be able to move from one group to another,” she said. “We’ll break at noon for some refreshments, which will give our consultants and note-takers a chance to summarize what was said in each group. The whole idea is to learn from the community what they would like us to do next.”
The HRR board will take the community’s opinion into consideration as it works with the city and Partnership for North Adams in the coming months.
“We have many partners that we are working with, including the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and state agencies,” Grinnell said. “We want to get a sense of direction from the community, but we also have to determine what is feasible economically and what is feasible for the Army Corps. As we discuss the next steps with local and state leaders, the board will decide which pilot program to go with and then we’ll start the process of permitting and fundraising.”
For more information, visit www.hoosicriverrevival.org.
What: Hoosic River Revival’s community conversation
When: Saturday, 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.
Where: The St. Elizabeth Parish Center, North Adams
More information: www.hoosicriverrevival.org