Development of Greylock Glen, part two: the proposition’s case

Last week’s article about the proposal of Greylock Center focused on the opposition’s view and actions; this week’s installment will explain the argument and actions of the pro-development side. The timing of this, the second of two articles, is appropriate, as Greylock Glen closes this week for the winter season. Yesterday saw the annual hike up Greylock Glen, featuring thousands of hikers. As many there may have noticed, anti-development activists were out in full force, looking to engage hikers in a postcard-writing campaign to Massachusetts Governor A. Paul Cellucci.

Activist groups are pressing for a complete rejection of the Greylock Center proposal, which seeks to develop an 18-hole golf course, a conference center, an environmental education center run by Nature’s Classroom and, most notably, a 300-home vacation complex.

The Department of Environmental Management (a subset of the Executive Office of Environmental Affairs) is responsible for all state forest and parklands and was appointed head of the Greylock Center project in 1985. DEM reports claim that one of its primary goals all along has been to create a scene that could be replicated in other areas as a model of sustainable development. By this it is meant that the natural environment would be maintained at a healthy level, since it was the central focus of tourism to the development. Indeed, the 1994 DEM plan requires developers to employ sustainable technologies and management practices.

Over the past few years, a Williams course has been centered around the Greylock Center proposal. Environmental Studies 302, “Environmental Planning,” developed a practical layout of a sustainable model for both a golf course and winter recreation, and presented their findings to the DEM.

The DEM’s written material points out that their model of development is not analogous to that of a commercial developer; instead, the DEM plans to continue ownership of the land after development, and, unlike many other private developers, has expressed no interest in the pursuit of a downhill skiing course. It is also clear that the DEM has valued citizen and community opinion as a part of the development process.

Local community members have mixed feelings on the issue. Adams resident Mary Schneck explained that she believed the Adams economy would benefit from the development, drawing more tourists to the area during summer as well as winter. “Adams has to take an active role in recruiting tourists,” she said. “Williamstown has the Theatre Festival and North Adams now has MassMOCA. Adams needs a stake in [tourism], too.” Schneck’s friend Karen Dossier, also a resident of Adams, echoed the sentiment put forth by a member of Williams’ Purple Druids: “I am just not convinced that there is a need for all those new homes.” Dossier did say, however, that she was in favor of the development as a whole.

Profiles of the area compiled by the Commonwealth of Massachusetts and posted on its webpage state that tourism is expected to be a growing part of the economy in the Berskhires. The most recent data on the page notes that tourism is responsible for 18.5 percent of total private employment in the county. The report states that, despite the struggles development proposals have run into in the area, “employment gains are expected in tourist-related industries as the economy begins to grow.”

In addition, according to the webpage for ENVI 302, some supporters of development in Adams “feel they have a large implicit ‘ownership’ right in Mt. Greylock.” Indeed, the town government’s stationery boasts a picture of summit’s tower and bears the phrase, “Home of Mt. Greylock.”

The final recommendation by the DEM has been written and submitted to the Executive Office of Environmental Affairs, and only time will tell the effect that vocal environmental activists and pro-development residents have had on the process.

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