Although the Hoosic River Revival Coalition hasn’t been very visible in the last few months, we’ve been hard at work. For the past six months we have been following through on the request of many of you to find out how North Adams can maintain flood protection, and at the same time have a river downtown that is healthy, and inviting to the public.
We hope you will take a moment to read this short summary of the work we have done since our beginning in 2008, and the exciting news about the research being done by our consultants right now. They have assured us that their comprehensive report will be ready by this fall; we will then have a public meeting open to anyone in the city, so they can discuss this report with us and with the consultants.
How it all began
Four years ago, about 30 North Adams residents, all with an interest in our city, met to discuss this question: "Would you like to explore the possibility that the Hoosic River flowing through the con crete flood chutes in North Adams might be revitalized, while at the same time maintaining flood protection for the city?" The answer was a resounding "yes."
Since that time, the Hoosic River Revival Coalition (the name we gave ourselves) has dedicated itself to learning whether it was indeed possible to do river revitalization and flood protection in North Adams. After giving many pre sentations to business, civic, and non-profit organizations to learn of the community’s interest in this project; we began raising money, and soon hired a firm to do research for us. They were a good choice; for a quarter cen tury Milone & MacBroom has been specializing in flood control and river revitalization.
To share what the consultants had learned, we sponsored a public all-day "Com munity Conversation "at the St. Elizabeth of Hungary Church. Over 85 residents spent that day discussing the information and photos the consultants shared with us.
Recommendations from the community
The primary conclusions of the Community Conversation attendees were:
* We want North Adams to be safe from flooding and to have a clean, accessible Hoo sic River that is healthy and aesthetically pleasing, so that our city is alive with recreational, cultural, and economic opportunities for residents and visitors;
* The 60-year-old flood chutes still function well, but they separate us from the river, prevent us from having any recreation in the river, degrade water quality and have serious signs of ‘wear and tear’;
* There are many cities a round the country, such as Low ell; Greenville, S.C., and San Antonio, which improved their flood control systems, made their rivers accessible to the public , and in the process created an economic boon for the downtown areas near the river.
* Find out if we can revitalize our river so it becomes an economic development catalyst for the city with a bike path, parks, river-front cafes, businesses, and recreational activities for residents while making the river healthier.
Given all this, the attendees encouraged the members of the River Revival to hire an engineering/ ecology / urban planning firm to do more re search. They asked us to provide city residents with more analysis on the condition of the flood chutes, and detailed facts and figures on exactly how North Adams might benefit from a flood-controlled but more accessible, healthy river.
The Hoosic River Revival’s intention from the beginning has been to include the Army Corps of Engineers in the plan ning for this project. In fact, Asst. Secy. of the Army, Jo-Ellen Darcy, and officers from the Albany, N.Y., office accepted our invitation last year to take a river tour. She and her colleagues are im pressed with the work we have done and look forward to working with us when we have more definitive plans.
The Army Corps of Engi neers designed and built the flood chutes; they also retain control over any changes that might be made to the chutes, so we can be sure flood protection will not be compromised.
Where we’re headed
Recently, we have been raising money to pay for the more comprehensive research that members of the business community, city officials, outdoor enthusiasts, interested residents, and the Community Con versation attendees have requested. With most of this financial support in place, we have signed a contract with Milone & MacBroom to have them begin what we are calling ‘The Hoosic River Op tions Assessment’. No city moneys are being used for this contract. We have received fund ing as a Massachusetts eco logical restoration Priority Project, and from individuals and businesses, which are supporting us because they see how beneficial it will be for the future of this community.
We expect to receive a 20- 25-page options assessment report that will show us, with text and illustrations, if and how the Hoosic River might be revitalized, made healthier, and be come an economic engine for the city, all within the context of maintaining flood protection, as required by the Corps of Engineers. The consultants will also conduct another public community meeting, at which time residents will have an opportunity to learn about and discuss this report.
While you are waiting for that options report, we hope you will enjoy some of the following:
* Historical Hoosic River Walking brochure, available at Gallery 51, the North Adams Public Library; Mass MoCA and the North Adams Museum of History and Science
* Our website, www.Hoosic RiverRevival.org, which is fill ed with information and photos
* "A Tour of the Hoosic River Flood Chutes," a video produced by students at Drury High School, which will be shown in May on Northern Berkshire Community Tele vision and will also be available on our website.
* The new riverside community gardens being developed on River Street and Sperry Avenue.
* A short PowerPoint presentation / Q & A we will gladly do for your friends, family, civic organizations.
In closing, we invite you to join our email list of Hoosic River Revival Friends so you can receive updates on our activities. To become a ‘Friend’ and to contact us with your comments or questions, send an email message toHoosicRiverRevival@gmail.com or call us at 413-221-2996.
The Hoosic River Revival Steering Committee includes: Al Bashevkin, Lisa Bassi, Blair Benjamin, David Bond, Ralph Brill, Harold Brotzman, Bob Collins, Cindy Delpapa, Anne French, Steve Green, Macken zie Greer, Judy Grinnell, Howard Itzkowitz, Tom Jorling, John Law, Jason Ostrander, Joe Overlock, Diane Parsons, Gary Polumbo, Lauren Stevens and Elena Traister.