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Great Barrington parks closed until further notice

Giggle Park in Great Barrington is closed. (Evan Triantafilidis)

GREAT BARRINGTON — To further foster social distancing, the town’s Parks and Recreation Commission has closed all gathering spaces in town parks until further notice.
On Monday, April 13, the commission voted to install additional signage and to tape-off parks equipment until the assembly order issued by Gov. Charlie Baker has been lifted.
The vote sends a stronger message to the public that the town takes social distancing during the coronavirus pandemic seriously, said Karen Smith, chairperson of the commission, in a statement.
“It’s clear that in spite of the signage installed last month at the entrance to parks with equipment, that people continue to gather and ignore the social distancing recommendations of the town,” said Smith. “We have a responsibility to our community to keep everyone as safe and healthy as possible at this time.”
The order closes all gathering spaces owned and maintained by the town, such as Giggle Park behind Town Hall, the Skate Park on Bridge Street, Lake Mansfield Park and the Housatonic School Park.
Last week, staff at the Department of Public Works removed basketball hoops from all of the parks.
On Friday, April 10, the town also began enforcement of parking along Route 7 near the Monument Mountain Reservation. The property, owned and operated by the Trustees of Reservations, remains off-limits to the public at this time, but continues to attract hikers despite the closure, said Town Manager Mark Pruhenski.
Selectboard Chairperson Stephen Bannon said that the town is concerned that visitors continue to ignore the closure postings and began parking on both sides of a very busy stretch of highway once the lot was roped-off. Bannon suggested finding alternative trails and open spaces for safe, properly distanced exercise.
“In addition to the safety concerns posed by cars parking along the highway and hikers crossing two to three lanes of traffic, this reservation is a frequent source of calls for hikers needing Fire/Rescue and Ambulance assistance on the trails,” said Pruhenski. “These resources need to be available to respond to residents in need of care and transport due to the COVID-19 outbreak right now. That’s our priority.”
A temporary police order has been issued, “no-parking” signs are being installed, and the Great Barrington Police Department will begin enforcement immediately. The Massachusetts State Police have also agreed to assist local authorities since Route 7 is a state owned highway.
The reservation is not expected to re-open to the public until at least Monday, May 4, according to Brian Cruey, director for the Southern Berkshires at The Trustees of Reservations.
After careful analysis and in consultation with state and local officials, it was determined that 73 properties can be opened in a safe manner, for local visitation only, without requiring additional staffing.
These are sites that did not experience overcrowding prior to the closures, said Cruey.
But at this point, Naumkeag in Stockbridge is not among those properties that have been opened. The second annual Daffodil and Tulip Festival — which boasted a vibrant show of color from more than 80,000 bulbs, including a sweeping array of tulip and daffodil varieties, and other flowering bulbs such as grape hyacinths — that was slated to begin on Thursday, April 23 has also been postponed.
Cruey did hint at the possibility of a reservation-based festival with limited people in attendance in the event that some of the statewide restrictions were lifted. In the meantime though, he mentioned that people could take a piece of the festival home as Naumkeag is hosting a flower and plant sale.
“The grounds at Naumkeag may be closed, but our daffodils and tulips are still growing,” he said. “Each week we’ll be listing fresh cut flowers, container gardens and products from our greenhouses available for purchase and pick up at Naumkeag each Saturday. Orders will be delivered right to your car.”
Naumkeag is also selling seed-starting kits with seeds and instructional how-to videos. Staff at Naumkeag will be growing plants and filming videos that will be shared on a weekly basis.
The Trustees properties that are open in Southern Berkshire County include: Goose Pond Reservation in Lee, Ashintully Gardens in Tyringham, the grounds of the Ashley House in Sheffield and Bartholomew’s Cobble in Sheffield.


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