Could 52 acres on Pittsfield's western edge become a riverwalk? Officials think so, if they pin down final funding – Berkshire Eagle

Saw Mill School Nominee Realty Trust owns a little more than 52 acres along Barker Road the city is eyeing to purchase and transform into a riverwalk.

Pittsfield Reporter
Saw Mill School Nominee Realty Trust owns a little more than 52 acres along Barker Road the city is eyeing to purchase and transform into a riverwalk.
PITTSFIELD — City leaders say for nearly two decades they’ve wanted to create a public greenway through the western side of the city — building a river walk that would connect land around the Pittsfield Airport with Clapp Park through a series of trails and preserved land along the Housatonic River.
That dream is closer than ever to reality.
The land at the center of that vision is three properties of more than 52 acres owned by the Saw Mill School Nominee Realty Trust. The lots are undeveloped, primarily forested and include a fourth of a mile of frontage along the southwest branch of the river.
Officials hope to have a sale agreement with the trust for $400,000 signed within the first half of 2023. Most of the funding is lined up.
In September, the city received $280,000 from the state’s Local Acquisitions for Natural Diversity (LAND) grant program. The Conservation Commission has agreed to contribute $50,000 from its trust fund and another $20,000 would be pulled from Pittsfield’s capital funds. Which leaves a funding gap of $50,000.
For this money, officials have submitted an out-of-cycle funding request to the Community Preservation Committee.
The committee started the year with nearly $880,000 to use on community projects. The committee has allocated all but about $104,000 of those funds, including to two other out-of-cycle requests.
Representatives from the city had planned to come before the committee Tuesday night to pitch the project. That meeting was canceled over quorum issues and is being rescheduled.
Last Wednesday, Jim McGrath, the city’s park, open space and natural resource program manager, submitted the project application to the committee. McGrath says the parcels would represent “a strategic acquisition” in the city’s goal of developing an urban greenway.
McGrath writes in the application that once the properties are purchased, the city would turn to the community for input. But early plans call for “several well-marked woodland trails, with a small parking area with kiosk and map along Barker Road” and the cleanup of several small areas on the property that have been used for dumping.
The application says the city is hoping to head off “the very real threat of a haphazard and misguided development proposal to these parcels.”
In 2019, a solar developer proposed clearing the lots along Barker Road to create a 4-megawatt solar facility. Neighbors along Velma Avenue pushed back against the development proposal and a month later the city banned solar developments in residential neighborhoods. Failure to secure the required wetland permits ultimately led the project to be nixed.
McGrath writes that the city hopes to permanently protect the three parcels. “To allow neighbors and others to use this unique property for recreational activities such as hiking, bird watching and fishing at the river’s edge,” he wrote.
Meg Britton-Mehlisch can be reached at or 413-496-6149.
Pittsfield Reporter
Meg Britton-Mehlisch is the Pittsfield reporter for The Berkshire Eagle. Born and raised in Kansas City, Missouri, she previously worked at the Prior Lake American and its sister publications under the Southwest News Media umbrella in Savage, Minnesota.
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