North Adams Transcript, Monday June 17, 2013

Picture it: As the long Northern Berkshire winter descends on the city, children begin to look forward to ice skating — at the Peter W. Foote Vietnam Veterans Memorial Skating Rink, yes, but also at one of the ponds in an “Emerald Necklace” of parks constructed along the Hoosic River.

This and many other novel concepts for the city’s stretch of the Hoosic River were brought forward by residents and members of the Hoosic River Revival (HRR) during the group’s second “community conversation” Saturday at the St. Elizabeth Parish Center.

Roughly 75 people turned out for the 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. event, which was held so HRR and its consultants — Milone & MacBroom; and Crosby, Schlessinger and Smallridge — could gather community input on conceptual schematics for its vision of transforming the river’s current flood-control chutes into a modernized system that maintains current flood protection while increasing accessibility and interaction with the river, along with spurring economic development.

The input received will then help HRR determine its next steps, with the eventual goal of a pilot project to bring to life some of the group’s ideas on a piece of the river.

“We all have one goal of making this a really vibrant city,” HRR President Judy Grinnell said in her opening remarks, following a welcoming by Mayor Richard Alcombright.

Some of the engineering concepts in the consultants’ schematics include flood-control chutes with stepped sides and a narrower channel, allowing the public to come down to the water’s edge; abundant green space constructed around the chutes, which could also be interchanged with development opportunities; and channels that would leave the chute system so residents could interact with the river before it returned to the chute, where floodwaters would continue to be restrained.

“These designs have two inviolable principles: maintain existing storage and conveyance flood protection, and they must be technically feasible,” said Skip Smallridge, of Crosby, Schlessinger and Smallridge. He added that the schematics were only malleable concepts and not set in stone.

The event was a continuation of HRR’s first community conversation in 2010, and allowed for group discussions on the city’s sections of the river — the North and South branches and the portion running through downtown — following Smallridge’s presentation on design options.

Among the points discussed in group conversations between residents and consultants were the options for flood-control chutes allowing access but maintaining flood protection; the amount of green space the city really needed and who would pay for maintaining such parks; adding ponds for ice skating to some of the designs; and the modular nature of the designs, where green space could be switched out in favor of commercial development if there was interest.

Following a “synthesis” presentation where consults compiled each group discussion into a series of highlights, Grinnell detailed the upcoming goals for HRR for attendees.

“We will continue discussion with the [U.S. Army] Corps of Engineers on the conceptual drawings” Grinnell said, adding that HRR will also cooperate with the city’s master plan and the economic development goals of the Partnership for North Adams. Next steps also include considering comments received from the community, discussing cost and feasibility for pilot projects, and then continuing fundraising and beginning permitting for a pilot project.

“So stay tuned,” Grinnell said. “We will have a decision, I hope, by the end of the year on a pilot project.”

For more information, call 413-212-2996 or emailĀ HoosicRiverRevival@gmail.com. To view designs, visitĀ www.HoosicRiverRevival.org.