NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — The Redwood Motel developers are laying the groundwork for a pedestrian bridge over the Hoosic River and hiking trails on the river's north side.
The Conservation Commission on Monday night accepted a notice of intent for the construction of the bridge, which will be in the "inner raparian zone" of the river and bordering the floodplain, vegetated wetland and in the buffer zone. It also found that the Wetlands Protection Act was not applicable to test excavations around the former wastewater treatment plant property where the hiking trails are proposed.
The redevelopment of the old motor court by a partnership largely based in Boston has grown to encompass the former Blackinton Mill and some 45 acres on the north side of the river and the motor court and a single-family home on the south side.
The affiliated projects are operating under different names — in these cases, The Beyond Place LLC for the bridge and Blackinton Backwoods LLC for the trails area — but the completed project envisions an nature-infused motel/hotel experience with a connected rural park and access to the river, the Appalachian Trail and a proposed bike path.
The 210-foot bridge, 300 feet total from side to side, will span the river from behind the 200-year-old farmhouse on State Road at a slight angle to the north side to connect to the proposed trails and park area. The bridge is designed by Daniel Proper of Proper & O'Leary Engineering.
"The bridge itself will have on each end a concrete support as well as a platform that will raise the bridge above the river itself," Brent M. White of White Engineering Inc. of Pittsfield said. "The profile has changed very little from what was originally given to you ... the changes occurred had more to do with the placement of the southwestern abutment."
That had been relocated over concerns by the commission of wetland disturbances on that end of the bridge.
"We actually preserved more mature trees on this side here," he said. "The other alternative had been to move it 30 feet east, get it completely outside this wetlands network but what we found as we were walking along the banks on either side, we would actually have both more disturbance of the bank itself."
White said there would be 1,705 square feet of restoration and a "massive amount of soil removal" for one of the concrete abutments because of poor soil conditions. Wetlands replication would be a 1-1 ratio with an additional 120 square feet. The goal was to disturb as little as possible. The north side is a mowed and mostly cleared area where the former wastewater treatment plant had been located. A set of sycamore trees on an island in the river will be trimmed; a letter from the state's Natural Heritage division is being submitted to support that.
The concrete abutments are expected to be in place this fall. Proper said access on the north side would be easy through an existing dirt road; actual construction of the 25-foot towers and the metal span will require a small boom crane. Construction of the bridge will require approval from the state.
Environmental engineers from Tighe & Bond will begin testing in the former wastewater treatment plant property immediately. A dozen exploratory test pits will be dug for soil testing and be covered back in within an hour or two of being opened. Testing results are expected back in about two weeks, which will allow engineers to focus on any troublesome areas for remediation.
"The site has a long history of dumping but we have no new data," said Jason Perry, an environmental scientist with Tighe & Bond. "We're going out to really assess this property to see what we have, or don't have, so we can use that information to move forward."
Eric Kerns, project manager, said Lake|Flato Architects of San Antonio, Texas, and Reed Hilderbrand Landscape Architects of Cambridge, which designed the new grounds at the Clark Art Institute, have been hired to develop the landscaping and trail system.
"[They] have been hired to do a master plan for the entire island site," he said, with the first phase the environmental testing. "Once we have that information in hand, we'll be able to incorporate that into the larger master plan and we'll certainly be coming before the commission before putting any trails in."
In other business:
• The commissioners welcomed new member Jason Canales.
• A public hearing on a notice of intent by Thomas Frawley of Summit Distributing LLC, based in Lebanon, N.H., for a new convenience store and gas pumps at 140 Eagle St. was postponed at the applicant's request. The commissioners set a date of Dec. 12.
• Commissioners gave a negative determination on an RDA for the state Department of Transportation's changes to the south side of the Hoosic River pedestrian bridge at Phelps Avenue. Amer Raza, a design engineer with District 1, returned at the commissioner's request with more detailed information on the compensatory floodwater storage in the design.
The estimated $1.2 million upgrade will include grading, new traffic signals, curbing, new catch basins, the repositioning of a private driveway that exits into the intersection, and addressing Americans With Disabilities compliance regarding the crossings and the south end of the footbridge. The project is expected to go out to bid next year.
• Michael Kulig of Berkshire Engineering was asked to return on Dec. 12 with more details on grading and material removal for a parking lot project for Holy Family Housing Corp., operating as Berkshire Housing Corp. The applicant is asking for an RDA on the removal and replacement of bituminous pavement, concrete walkways and aprons, installing new lighting, minor landscaping and maintenance and repair of roof drains and drainage within 200 feet of the Hoosic River.
Kulig said the changes in grade are really taking the heaved parking lot and sidewalks back to their original condition. He anticipated removing the top foot of material and replacing it with better subsurface materials and replacing or repairing any damaged piping underneath.
"The infrastructure over the past 20 years has become difficult to maintain," he said. "The primary purpose is to get the parking lot done for the safety of the residents."
• The commission also determined a negative RDA on a proposal by the state Department of Environmental Protection to put in a particulate air-monitoring station in Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Arts' overflow lot on Holden Street near the flood control chute. It will require a new cement pad, installation of a fence and gate, and underground electrical power. The commission asked that hay bales be set out to protect the river during the installment of the pad and trenching of the electrical wires.
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