Berkshire County Outdoor Recreational Plan for 2020 Announced
Mill Town and the Berkshire Regional Planning Commission announced today a formalized outdoor recreation plan for the Berkshire area starting in Summer 2020 and beyond.
Highlights include 150+ new rock-climbing routes, an outdoor recreation festival and the opening of the Mahanna Cobble Trail among many other initiatives.
Click here for the complete Berkshire County Outdoor Recreational Plan 2020. It is filled with detailed information from major projects to activities such as; biking, camping, hiking, hunting, fishing, outdoor athletics, skiing, water sports and others.
Below is the press release from Mill Town and the Berkshire Regional Planning Commission.
PITTSFIELD, MASS. (July 7, 2020) – In an effort to foster economic growth and a higher quality of life in the region, Mill Town and the Berkshire Regional Planning Commission (BRPC) have teamed up to produce an extensive 210-page Berkshire County Outdoor Recreation Plan. The plan outlines analysis of the existing outdoor recreation landscape of the Berkshires as well as recommendations for growth in key areas such as infrastructure improvements, communication and marketing, and growth in activities like biking, camping, hiking, hunting, fishing, outdoor athletics, skiing, and water sports. The plan also references several key development projects that are designed to further contribute to the region’s appeal as a major outdoor recreation hub for residents and visitors alike. Berkshire County has 605,637 acres of open space – 221,205 acres of which are protected and 179,009 acres are open to the public.
The Berkshire County Outdoor Recreation Plan was developed based on several data collection efforts to include a county-wide 600+ outdoor recreation asset inventory and an online public survey which attracted over 2,000 responses, mostly from people ages 30 to 60 who are highly motivated to use the Berkshires’ vast natural resources. Improving accessibility for all ages and ability levels, developing stronger outdoor recreation-focused marketing, and securing increased funding for both asset maintenance and development stand out as vital, priority next steps for outdoor recreation in Berkshire County as outlined in the plan’s recommendations.
“The Berkshire County Outdoor Recreation Plan demonstrates the wide range of current outdoor recreation opportunities in the Berkshires and identifies improvements that would expand what the area has to offer and raise our profile as a true outdoor destination,” said BRPC Senior Planner Laura Brennan. “We look forward to continuing our work with Mill Town to pursue recommendations within the plan. We’re already seeing many exciting improvements to the outdoor recreation landscape in the region.”
Some of the major projects outlined in the plan include Greylock Glen, a 1,063-acre site that will include the future Greylock Glen Resort on 56 acres with plans for a lodge and conference center, campground, and 18 miles of trails which could generate more than 330 full time positions and nearly $20 million in revenues for the area. Also cited is Berkshire Natural Resource Council’s (BNRC) The High Road, which is a county-long trail resembling the European-style long-distance walking networks, and will link towns and cities together throughout the Berkshires to include a newly opened section accessed via Bousquet Mountain.
Since the plan’s completion in late Spring of 2020, new outdoor recreation projects have already launched. Mill Town, a Berkshires-based private community investment organization, has taken some immediate steps to act on the recommendations outlined in the plan with several recent investments and project launches.
“We have observed the high-impact growth of the outdoor recreation industry across the United States as a major economic driver and quality of life driver for communities similar to the Berkshires,” noted Carrie Holland, Managing Director at Mill Town. “Several of us in the Mill Town office spend a lot of our free time outside hiking, cycling, skiing, skating, running, camping, and we often cite easy access to great outdoor activities as a reason for choosing to live in the Berkshires - it’s a great differentiator we enjoy in the attraction and retention of residents. With the strength of our existing arts and culture-focused visitor economy we already have a robust infrastructure to support excellent visitor experiences. We believe that bolstering key elements of the outdoor recreation infrastructure, communication, accessibility, and variety of activities will encourage the growth of a new sub-set of Berkshires visitors focused on quality outdoor sports and activities.”
One example of Mill Town’s outdoor-focused projects is the purchase and revitalization of Bousquet Mountain. Having purchased the property in May 2020, Mill Town immediately kicked off major renovations and an operations overhaul of the iconic Berkshires outdoor recreation asset. Mill Town is currently executing a property revitalization project that includes the installation of a new triple seat chairlift, an overhaul of the snow-making infrastructure, and improvements to the base lodge facilities and customer experience which will be ready for the public in time for the winter 2020/2021 season.
In addition to discussion of the content of the Berkshire County Outdoor Recreation Plan, the following events and projects will be announced and discussed in further detail during the press conference:
- Western Mass Climbers Coalition purchased Hanging Mountain in Sandisfield in partnership with the Ragged Mountain Foundation and Access Fund. The organization will make 150-200 rock climbing routes available across 14 acres.
- Berkshire Outdoor Recreation Festival – Mill Town and Hancock Shaker Village are teaming up to host this inaugural celebration of all things outdoors. The October 2-4th event will bring together national brand vendors, local vendors, Berkshire outdoor stakeholders, speakers, authors, films, and organized outdoor activities and competitions.
- The Mahanna Cobble Trail – Beginning at the base of Bousquet Mountain, this path is a 2.8 mile hiking trail with gradual elevation gain. BNRC and Mill Town plan to collaborate on developing a permanent, four-season Mahanna Cobble trailhead at Bousquet Mountain and they have placed temporary signage at Bousquet to highlight an access route for hikers from the mountain’s base lodge and parking area up a ski hill to the new trail.
- Bousquet Mountain – Mill Town purchased the historic ski mountain in May of 2020. The purchase includes 155 acres across four parcels, including the summit of Yokun Ridge, 22 trails, multiple buildings, and operational equipment. Mill Town plans to invest in the ski operation infrastructure and the lodge as well as work with partners to enhance the on-mountain experience year-round.
- 1Berkshire, Berkshire County’s official Regional Economic Development Organization and primary regional tourism council, will outline their communication and marketing efforts to attract outdoor recreation visitors to our region. As 1Berkshire launches its marketing campaign for late summer and early fall the messaging will evoke, “Let the Berkshires Be Your Backyard.” Focusing on outdoor recreation, 1Berkshire is helping to keep the Berkshires top of mind throughout the year as an all seasons outdoor destination
“Over the last year, we have incorporated outdoor recreation as a major investment theme across our community development work which led us to the partnership with BRPC to execute this first-of-its kind county-wide outdoor recreation plan for the Berkshires,” said Holland. “Anecdotally, we felt there was a lot of potential in building up the outdoor recreation economy of the Berkshires, and now we have actual data pointing to its value as a high-potential growth area for our region with resounding benefit for both residents and visitors.”
ABOUT MILL TOWN:
Mill Town is a private investment group based in Pittsfield, Massachusetts, in the heart of the Berkshires. Mill Town’s mission is to expand and improve the quality and quantity of opportunities to live, work, and play in the Berkshires. Founded in 2016, Mill Town focuses on improving the region through impactful business investments, visible real estate projects, and broad community development efforts. Mill Town works to collaboratively improve our community and region by investing in valuable projects, building connections, and empowering entrepreneurs and community organizations.
ABOUT BERKSHIRE REGIONAL PLANNING COMMISSION:
Berkshire Regional Planning Commission is the official region-wide planning agency in Berkshire County providing comprehensive planning services to municipalities which include land use, transportation, community and economic development, public health and environmental planning. BRPC promotes regional collaboration among communities and works to increase coordination between all levels of government.