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Greylock Glen Called 'Win-Win' For Business And Environment

Town of Adams

The town of Adams and the state of Massachusetts recently signed a lease agreement for the Greylock Glen, a 1,000-acre area at the base of the tallest mountain in the commonwealth. A $40 million master plan for the space is expected to be a boon to the area’s tourism industry.The master plan includes two campgrounds, an environmental education center, a conference facility and hiking trails. Adams’ interim town administrator Donna Cesan who is also director of community development, says the Greylock Glen is part of a vision strategy launched by the town years ago.

“We recognized that outdoor recreation and being at the base of the tallest mountain in Massachusetts were strengths,” Cesan said. “We need to exploit those strengths so the Glen will help us do that and help rebuild our economy from a manufacturing economy to a more tourist-based economy.”

The Massachusetts Department of Conservation and Recreation managed the area before signing it over to the town. The 99-year lease costs Adams $1 a year. Ideas for the Glen have been kicked around for about 50 years with more significant progress in the last 10. Cesan says the town has been frugal throughout, spending $1 million in select permitting and transportation projects to aid development.

“We’ve worked very hard to make the project essentially shovel-ready,” Cesan said. “We have new utilities, a new roadway installed and we’ve done most of the major permitting for the project. So we think this will be more attractive to private entities to make them want to invest.”

The lodge and conference center is expected to account for half of the $40 million plan, a cost Cesan expects a private developer to carry. Berkshire Chamber of Commerce CEO Jonathan Butler was Adams town administrator from 2009 until this September. He says conference venues able to accommodate 150 people are limited in the area.

“We have a few facilities whether it be Cranwell, the Crowne Plaza or Jiminy Peak,” Butler said. “Outside of those anchor institutions in the county there aren’t really specific conference areas or venue. So I think in the planning process for the Glen all along the conference center was seen as an opportunity that would feel a need both in Adams and North County, but also regionally.”

Based on requests for interest that began in 2010, Butler and Cesan say it will be a great place for a hotel developer to offer space for company retreats to weddings. Cesan says the state will put $2.2 million toward the trail system which Butler says will benefit both tourists and residents.

“You’ve seen recently with the development of venues like Ramblewild, certainly the off-season success that Jiminy Peak has had in addition to their ski season,” Butler pointed out. “People that come to the Berkshires, we have so much arts and culture, so many wonderful theatre venues, but there are also tourists that are looking to get their hands dirty. They’re looking to hike, bike, rock climb and get out in the outdoors and enjoy this beautiful landscape. The Greylock Glen is going to be one of the best places to do that in all of Massachusetts. It’s an absolutely beautiful site that connects directly to the Mt. Greylock Reservation where there are hundreds of miles of trails.”

Working with environmental groups like Mass Audubon, development, apart from the trail system, is expected to be concentrated into roughly 60 acres. State Representative Gailanne Cariddi expects to file legislation to protect the remaining land next legislative session.

“We do need to continue to protect lands to make sure that they stay in their natural beauty so that people will want to come here and enjoy that type of recreation,” said Cariddi.

Cesan anticipates the town will pursue state and federal grants for the project. Initial work on the campgrounds is expected to start in 2016.

Jim is WAMC’s Assistant News Director and hosts WAMC's flagship news programs: Midday Magazine, Northeast Report and Northeast Report Late Edition. Email: jlevulis@wamc.org
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