|Williamstown Select Board Appoints Parks and Rec Study Group|
|By Stephen Dravis, iBerkshires Staff|
06:57AM / Sunday, February 03, 2019
|A portion of the playground near the former Broad Brook School in Williamstown. The town has charged an ad hoc group with ideas to expand the town's recreational activities. |
WILLIAMSTOWN, Mass. — The Select Board has charged a seven-person committee with developing recommendations to help expand and enhance recreational opportunities in the town.
Following the model of the 2015 Economic Development Committee, the ad hoc Parks and Recreation Advisory Committee is being asked to develop a report by winter or early spring 2020.
Select Board Chairwoman Anne O'Connor, who will serve on the Parks and Rec panel, said the idea grew out of discussions at the board's November retreat.
"It came from a sense held by all of us that our parks are a little, sometimes incoherent, a little sometimes neglected," O'Connor said at last Monday's meeting, at which the board approved a slate of nominees for the study committee.
"In our discussions, we talked about varying interests, including playing fields but extending to the town tennis courts [in Linear Park], which are now also striped for pickleball, and how to rationalize the varying needs and interests we have in town."
To that end, the Select Board sought to create a diverse and inclusive panel while still keeping its size a manageable seven.
O'Connor and board member Jeffrey Thomas met with Town Manager Jason Hoch to review possible candidates to ask about serving on the committee. Thomas reported at Monday's meeting that eight people were asked to serve on the parks and recreation group, and that seven, including O'Connor, said yes.
Most of the committee members have no prior experience in town government, which satisfies the Select Board's goal of including new voices on the panel.
The group also is drawn from a wide variety of interest groups, Thomas noted.
"There were several constituencies we wanted to represent: needs for young families, youth sports, outdoor recreation, health/wellness/fitness, the senior community, the ‘eco-friendly' community, arts and culture and the business community because to the extent Williamstown is a destination, it benefits business," Thomas said.
The board also sought to include representatives from Williams College, which is both the town's largest employer and the owner of recreational infrastructure used by town residents, and the Mount Greylock Regional School District.
"We wanted to avoid potential conflicts of interest, so we did not consider staff or board members from any bodies currently funded by the town to provide recreational opportunities for the community," Thomas said. "So there's no staff or board members from Sand Springs [Recreation Center] or the Williamstown Youth Center. That's something I felt strongly about to have good balance."
In addition to O'Connor, who has experience in town government and a history of supporting "eco-friendly" initiatives like Bee Friendly Williamstown, the other six members have backgrounds that cover the constituency groups Thomas mentioned.
Tim Carr is an educator and avid hiker, runner and skier. Lisa Corkins is the director of the Williamstown Community Preschool. Brian Gill is a teacher at Mount Greylock Regional School and coach of the high school track and field team. Danielle Gonzalez is the director of human resources at Williams. Beth McLean is a wellness and fitness expert who works for Spring Street retailer Nature's Closet. Brian O'Grady is the director of the town's senior center, the Harper Center.
The slate of nominees was unanimously approved by the Select Board.
O'Connor emphasized that the study group — like its forerunner the EDC — will look to draw input from an even wider range of voices.
"It's not about that list of seven people," she said in a meeting telecast on the town's community access television station, WilliNet. "It's about the community.
"I'm eager for the process to begin so we can invite the community in to give us feedback on what they think. It's not something these seven people are going to run with without hearing from the community."
The committee is scheduled to meet for the first time on Feb. 13 at 7 p.m. at Town Hall with plans to meet on the first and third Mondays of each month — opposite the weeks of Select Board meetings.
In other business on Monday, the Select Board received a clean audit from Pittsfield's Adelson & Co. And Hoch reported that three local construction projects — the new police station, the new Williams Inn and the college's Garfield House dorm on South Street — are on schedule. Both the police station and inn are on track to be operational this summer.