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Lake Mansfield: Vehicular short-cut or community treasure?

In her letter to the editor, Sharon Gregory writes: "This recreational area is nearby town, linking walkable areas from Main Street to the Lake and incorporates a hiking trail in between. It is a unique feature."

To the Editor:

Lake Mansfield Improvement Task Force (LMITF) has done an excellent service delineating the issues related to Lake Mansfield, the recreational and hiking areas, the road and ecological system. The community needs to make a clear choice between preserving this area or letting vehicular traffic override human safety and environmental sustainability. Will it be a community-wide short-cut or a community-wide treasure? Our decision will determine the fate of this unique resource for decades to come and merits our attention. The outcome will clearly reflect our community values.

Heather Bellow has an excellent description of conditions on Lake Mansfield Road and the adjacent environment, published in the Berkshire Edge on February 7th.

LMITF has outlined four major options, each of which provides for emergency vehicular passage. In fact, “Fire, Police and ambulance service chiefs said that no emergency service issues are posed by any of the proposed options,” as reported by Christine Ward, Chair of the Committee.

Of the first four options offered by LMITF, Option D, perhaps modified with even less road construction, has several distinct benefits:

  • Offering the greatest protection of Lake Mansfield and its beach, playground, picnic facilities, bicycling, fishing, boating and hiking areas. This proposal includes expanded parking and drop-off areas from both entrances to Lake Mansfield Road, but only allows through-traffic for emergency vehicles.
  • Saving taxpayer dollars by creating an economical plan that will minimize both initial expenditures and long-term maintenance costs.
  • Preserving Lake Mansfield as an area-wide resource, similar to other recreational facilities whether at Town Hall or Housatonic. This recreational area is nearby town, linking walkable areas from Main Street to the Lake and incorporates a hiking trail in between. It is a unique feature that attracts young families and people of all ages into Great Barrington.

In contrast, the first option in the survey would maintain the road as a two-way street requiring investment in road construction and maintenance to fight erosion from underneath the road. A letter from Jonathan Hankin, Chair of the Planning Board and long-time real estate broker has unfortunately supported a two-way road, based on an off-season vehicular traffic study not representative of more intense seasonal traffic, nor of emerging demands and safety issues.

The traffic situation will worsen due to the 40+ residential lots sold at Barrington Brook, just one-quarter mile from Lake Mansfield Road, many of which are being built now. One only needs to drive up Christian Hill Road and Long Pond Road to see other residential developments. Lake Mansfield Road has become the popular bypass for trucks along with cars which will escalate in the next two years. (A 16-wheeler lumber truck from Hudson fishtailed through the beach area last summer, heading to (and from) nearby developments.)

Two other survey options include a call for one-way access which, as Mr. Hankin also agrees, will encourage more speeding and more vehicles.

The implication that this facility is not used by the broader community is misleading. It is readily apparent that many families who do not live in the immediate area use the barbeques, picnic tables, playground and beach. Bicyclers from other areas ride through. Employees and visitors in town use these paths to/from work or as healthy walks and hikes.

Please review the options in the questionnaire, which will available through February 22 at https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/lkmansfield-pf2. To help save Lake Mansfield as a resource for all, please consider voting for Option D (adding your design suggestions where desired) and attend the final LMITF forum on Wednesday, March 2, at 6 p.m. at the Fire Station on State Road.

Sharon Gregory

Great Barrington

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