Paddlers now have four new canoe/kayak river access sites to launch from the banks of the Housatonic River in the Berkshires.
The project was made possible with funds from the Natural Resources Damages Trustees (NRD) as part of the PCB settlement with GE.
The sites are in Sheffield, Lenox, Lee and Pittsfield. Each site was constructed using low impact design to protect riverbank erosion and to be user-friendly for paddlers. The steepness of the bank and the type of soil and vegetation was considered at each access site.
Webster Ingersoll, Inc., a landscaping firm in Sheffield, Mass., constructed the sites. Signage will be installed identifying that they are public access sites.
HVA Berkshire Program Director Dennis Regan said, “We’re thrilled to have this opportunity to provide an easy and safe way for people to get on the river. It’s appropriate that Natural Resources Damages funds will allow the public to do this since the fear of PCBs originally kept them away.”
The Natural Resources Damages Trustees received $15 million from GE for natural resource restoration projects, half of which is available to Massachusetts and half to Connecticut. The proposal for the access sites is one of three submitted by HVA and approved by the NRD Trustees.
The other two proposals are The Old Mill Trail and the Housatonic Environmental Literacy Program (HELP). The funds have allowed the completion of The Old Mill Trail, a riverside walking trail, connecting Hinsdale and Dalton. The trail incorporates the history of the abandoned riverside mills and the natural beauty of the river.
HVA and the Massachusetts Audubon Society are partners on HELP. The program reaches out to every school in the Housatonic River watershed. It’s a three-year education program that teaches watershed basics and uses field and canoe trips to share the fun of being on the river. To date, more than 12,000 students have participated in HELP.