By Chris Rembold, Great Barrington Town Planner
Many of you know that the Town of Great Barrington and Lake Mansfield Alliance have been working for over a decade to clean up and improve the Lake Mansfield area. Because of your volunteerism and your support, we have made great strides. Thank you!
Last summer we completed the boat launch improvement project in a partnership with the Massachusetts Department of Fish and Game (DFG). This project has solved a huge stormwater problem at the southern end of the lake, where gravel and sediment (nonpoint source pollution) from the parking lot would wash directly into the lake during a storm. The paved parking area, stormwater retention basin, and native plants are helping to keep most of this pollution out of the lake.
Last fall we began the Knob Hill Road improvements project, where we are installing catch basins in order to capture and treat large quantities nonpoint source pollution that runoff from the hill. This project began in October 2018 and advanced steadily through the rock that underlies the road. The project will start up again in the spring. Some water mains need to be relocated to make room for the new drainage system, the last few catch basins will be installed, and finally the road will be paved. We anticipate this to be completed by summer. This project is funded in part by a grant from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection (MassDEP) under section 319 of the Clean Water Act. Thank you for your patience as we undertake this important project.
Lake Mansfield Outlet:
Many of you are aware of the periodic flooding that occurs when the outlet pipe, at the north end of the lake, gets blocked. This situation is potentially dangerous for the road. The Town has designed and permitted a plan to install a larger pipe that will accommodate overflows and is less likely to be jammed with debris. When installed, the water level of the lake will remain the same, but it will require the section of road over the outlet pipe to be higher, and narrower, than it currently is, requiring drivers to yield to oncoming traffic. The Town has yet to identify the funding necessary to make this improvement.
Watershed-Based Plan (WPB):
This past December the Town and the Lake Mansfield Improvement Task Force completed a Watershed-Based Plan with the assistance of MassDEP. This plan identifies incremental improvements we can
continue to make in order to protect and enhance the long-term health of Lake Mansfield. And, while we already knew that nonpoint source pollution is a major factor that leads to weed growth and damages the water quality in the lake, we learned from the WBP that improvements can stop major sediment loads from entering the lake. Improvements to the beach area parking lot could stop up 270
pounds of sediment per year and improvements to Lake Mansfield Road could stop 600 pounds of sediment per year. Needless to say, the next steps in improvement planning will be to stop pollution in these two areas. This spring the Town will apply to MassDEP for a planning/design grant in order to develop improvement plans for the beach parking lot area.
Lake Mansfield Road:
Implementing improvements to the road, specifically correcting the drainage problems and filtering runoff before it enters the lake, will be more of a challenge. After several years of outreach, comprehensive planning, and engineering, the Improvement Task Force is ready to recommend a solution to the Selectboard. Primarily, we have learned that the road (specifically the section from the beach area south to the boat launch) must be made narrower than it is now. This is because the bank along the lake edge must be stabilized and new vegetated buffer must be installed where no vegetation exists between the pavement and the lake. This will reduce the width of the travelled way to a maximum of 18 feet. Within this narrow space, walkers, bicyclists, and cars will have to co-exist. Over the coming months the LMITF and the Selectboard will finalize a preferred design and begin to identify potential funding sources. It is conceivable that if funding could be approved at the 2020 town meeting, work could begin in 2021.
The overarching goal for all of this work is “to provide improvements for the Lake Mansfield Recreation Area that will support the health of the environment and provide safe access and recreational opportunities for all.” Although each area presents complex challenges, we have made steady progress and our comprehensive improvement planning allows us to continue to move forward.
More information is available at: