|Springside Park Cleanup Going Strong 30 Years Later|
|By Andy McKeever, iBerkshires Staff|
06:15PM / Saturday, April 20, 2019
|It was a rainy, miserable day but that didn't stop volunteers from cleaning up Springside Park.|
Volunteers spread out throughout the park on Saturday during the cleanup.
PITTSFIELD, Mass. — At 9 a.m. the rain was pouring down heavily. And despite that, some 30 people volunteered their time to go into Springside Park and clean up litter and debris left behind.
The annual park cleanup has hit a milestone with this being its 30th year. The effort is all volunteer and organized by the Friends of Springside Park.
"We are happy people are coming out even on a day like today. It shows how much interest we have," Friends of Springside Park President Bernie Mack said.
Throughout the day volunteers stopped in and took on a section of the sprawling 275-acre park. Mack estimated that at least 50 different volunteers would tough out the rain to pitch in, and that's on the low end of what the cleanup has traditionally had when the weather cooperated better.
"Usually we get 50 to 100 people," Mack said. "We will probably get 50 or 60 today, which is impressive considering it is going to rain all day."
The goal of the cleanup is straightforward: to make sure the park looks nice. And the effort is needed, Mack said. He said park is getting easier and easier to clean by the year because of the efforts. The volunteers have even expanded from having just one clean up day to having one in the fall and one in the spring.
"Early on in the cleanup we saw all kinds of major, giant equipment that was in here. Cars. I saw a Chevy Vega that was up in the field, parts of a truck, a chassis, all kinds of furniture and all kids of construction debris, sheetrock, people would leave in the park. Since we've been doing a lot more activity in the park and cleaning up the park, we've seen it a lot cleaner over the years," Mack said.
"Now the kind of debris we are getting is really small stuff, bottles and cans, that kind of stuff."
The first cleanup was very informal. Royal Hartigan had grown up in the Lenox Avenue area and would often use the park. But, it became a spot for dumping and litter. Hartigan and his friends got together to focus on preserving the beauty of it.
"It started with Royal Hartigan and a few other folks, before my time. Royal is a music professor at UMass Dartmouth and he was able to come out here up until the last five or six years. He was the initiator. He lived on the fringes of the park and played here as a child and became enthralled with park as a great resource. At 275 acres, it is the biggest park in Berkshire County," Mack said.
Mack soon got involved himself and he said when General Electric left the city, the need grew because the city no longer had as much for resources to maintain the park. The volunteers took it up themselves.
It used to be based in the north portion of the park but has expanded to two locations -- the north park and the area of Rotary Park.
And it isn't just an annual clean up for the volunteers. Multiple organizations and more than 100 volunteers are all part of the Springside Conservancy that is spearheading multiple projects throughout the property.
The clean up used to be focused only on the north park but has expanded to include the southern end as well.
Arborist Bob Presutti has been active in the Hebert Arboretum and the chestnut tree orchard. Recently, the volunteers and Presutti have been doing a lot of tree planting of various species in the park. In the chestnut tree orchard, efforts are being made to breed American chestnut trees with resistance to bring the population back.
The Berkshire Environmental Action Team's greenagers program hires teenagers to work during the summer on various projects. The greenagers will be taking on an effort to block off hiking trails that have been identified as areas to allow grow back, and building and clearing trails that should be encouraged.
Five years ago, a master plan had been created for the park. The groups have been advocating for and overseeing the renovation of the Springside House, which has seen some exterior repairs and the work is eyed to renovate the inside in the near future. A study on what is needed to restore the pond was completed and the volunteers are working with the city to get that work done.
Meanwhile, efforts are being made to bring more people to the park to enjoy what is offered. Events such as the winter carnival and the summer gala have been put on to showcase the park.
"We are trying to have as many activities as we can," Mack said.
But before the weather warms up and people are there more frequently, volunteers toughed out a downpour to make sure there is no rubbish left behind.