Development of Greylock Glen, part one: the opposition’s case

The issue of Greylock Glen is one that Williams students may have been hearing about it in small circles or on certain listservers in the past few weeks. Although the publicity about the issue seems to have dwindled in the past week or so, the struggle is far from over.

While the conflict may seem clear to those who have listened briefly to the arguments, the separate sides are quite complex. This article serves to present the side of the opposition to development in the Greylock Glen area; next week’s article will present that of its proponents.

Greylock Glen is a part of Mount Greylock, the tallest mountain in the state of Massachusetts. A proposal surrounding the area was developed in the 1970s, but failed due to bankruptcy of the developer.

The newest proposal calls for development of the area, and includes plans for an 18-hole golf course, a conference center, an environmental education center, a trail plan and a site for 300 vacation homes to be built, to be known as the Greylock Center. The new proposal seems to have met with more conflict than its predecessor, perhaps since it occurred after the advent of the environmental movement.

The campus environmental group, known as the Purple Druids, has been involved in anti-development activism, along with other local conservation groups, such as MASSPIRG and The Massachusetts Audubon Society.

Purple Druids member Becky Sanborn ’01explained that most environmental groups opposed to development of Greylock Glen, including the Druids, believed the most flawed aspect of the proposal to be the suggested building of the 300 vacation homes. Sanborn noted that the Druids had collected over 250 signatures on petitions calling the proposal “ill-conceived,” and the petitions were then sent to Governor A. Paul Cellucci, in addition to Massachusetts Secretary of Environmental Affairs Robert Durand.

The petition highlighted the natural assets that Greylock Glen claims, including “beautiful vistas and a wide variety of plants and animals.” The bulk of the email concentrated on the possible effects of development on the area, arguing that development “would destroy much of the natural value of the Glen, exposing it to widespread pollution and degradation and damaging its value as a recreation area.”

Sanborn asserted that another issue at stake was that of tax dollars and whether they would be spent fairly. Reportedly, $6.5 million in tax dollars are to be used in the project, and the petition asserts, “The taxpayers of Massachusetts deserve better than to see their tax dollars being used to build second homes and golf courses for the wealthy, even as the state cuts funding for low-income housing programs.”

Futhermore, opponents of the proposed Center question whether the site is economically feasible. Sanborn explains that many think the proposal takes for granted the demand for vacation homes.

The most recent economic profile of Berkshire county by the Commonwealth of Massachusetts estimated tourism as bringing in 1,000,000 to 1,500,000 visitors per year to the area. Among the draws are The Clark Art Institute, the Hancock Shaker Village, and the Rockwell Museum. Newly-opened MassMOCA in North Adams is expected to contribute significantly to tourism, as well. Some believe that the Greylock Center proposal is Adams’ attempt to capitalize on growing tourism.

However, second-home residents are a different category than tourists. The same Massachusetts study reported that in 1991, there were 6000 second-home residents, “who play an important and growing role in the Berkshire economy.”

Yet, the Druids’ petition claims, “The state’s own market study found that there is absolutely no market for vacation housing in the Adams area.”

Past activism has had some effect on the proceedings. In 1998, the Department of Environmental Management, which heads up the project, announced that it had redefined the original site plan to make the golf course more compact, and to circumvent wetland and stream crossings in order to minimize ecological degradation. Its estimate for the total cost: $100 million.

Still, environmental activists were not satisfied, emphasizing that the new boundaries of golf course meant clear-cutting of more mature trees than originally projected. A new report was submitted, and a public hearing and final environmental impact reportwere to follow.

As the webpage for Environmental Studies 302 notes, “One can see clearly the state’s concern to strike a balance between job creation and environmental protection in this place, so sensitive because the Glen is part of the state’s most valuable natural area.”

Next week’s article will focus on the pro-development argument, how well different sides perceive their interests to have been addressed and whether the state has indeed offered a fair compromise for development of Greylock Glen.

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