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Initial Results of Berkshire County Sustainability Study to be Revealed

Since 2011, planners in Berkshire County have been conducting  a federally funded study of community sustainability. Now this week,  the first set of findings are being released. WAMC’s Berkshire Bureau Chief Lucas Willard reports…

The Sustainable Berkshires is a long-term plan, being developed by the Berkshire Regional Planning Commission, is intended to help guide investment in private, public, and non-profit initiatives.

Nat Karns, Executive Director of the BRPC, says that the goal of the study starts with a simple question.

And for that to happen in the Berkshires, Karns said a closer look at the long-range priorities needs to be taken.

The plan is being funded by a federal grant under the US Department of Housing and Urban Development’s Sustainable Communities Planning program. A collaboration between HUD, the US Environmental Protection Agency, and the US Department of Transportation, known as the Partnership for Sustainable Communities, brings all 3 agencies together to determine their goals and possible solutions.

Amy Kacala, a senior planner at the BRPC, says that the initial findings of the study that  will be revealed this week come from the input of individuals at a series of topic-specific forums.   

Kacala said the Sustainable Berkshires program builds on an initial long-range plan that began in 2001. But over a decade later, she said the area has seen significant changes that need to be addressed, including the impacts of the economic recession and funding cuts, increased dependence on public-private partnerships, the emergence of the creative economy,  and a changing climate threatening biodiversity. Kacala also used the costs of energy as an example.

Nat Karns added that the Berkshire Region is not unlike many other non-major metropolitan areas across the country, and one of the most significant challenges that should be studied in the plan moving forward is the area’s aging workforce.

Kacala said that Sustainable Berkshires will next take a look at energy, and housing and neighborhoods.

The first set of findings will be presented tomorrow evening in Adams at 5:30 at the Adams Free Library and Wednesday evening at 6:30 at Lenox Town Hall.


Lucas Willard is a reporter and host at WAMC Northeast Public Radio, which he joined in 2011.