Great Barrington’s newly transformed Lake Mansfield beach and recreation path will open on Monday | South Berkshires







aerial of Lake Mansfield

Years of improvements to the Lake Mansfield Recreational Area are nearly complete. The road has been moved farther from the beach area and measures have been taken to mitigate traffic and runoff into the lake, making it a cleaner and more accessible recreation area. 



GREAT BARRINGTON — Lake Mansfield beach — with its safe and easy drop-off point for families loaded down with coolers and beach toys — will be ready for action come Monday, just in time for the Fourth of July holiday.

The Lake Mansfield Recreation Area, which is reopening to the public after a yearslong redevelopment project, also features more and better parking, and a freshly paved bike and walking path around the side of the lake complete with openings for fishing and a few benches for sitting along the way.







bench

The Lake Mansfield Recreational Area features more and better parking, and a freshly paved bike and walking path around the side of the lake complete with openings for fishing and benches for sitting along the way.



It’s also an ecological engineering wonder, and it took “hundreds of hours” of volunteer time over a decade, said Town Planner and Assistant Town Manager Christopher Rembold, who gave a sneak peak tour of the recreation area on Friday while crews were still installing signs and fencing.


Lake Mansfield recreation area in Great Barrington is about to be overhauled

After years of complex planning, the nearly $2 million transformation that was mostly paid for by grants will be fully completed in the fall when new plantings are added. But apart from those finishing touches to come, the town’s recreation treasure will be ready for enjoyment.

It will now be safer for people and the ecology of the lake.

The problem with the area was mostly the then-two-way street, Rembold said. The north-to-south Lake Mansfield Road was eroding along the lake and pushing that material into water and polluting it. Drainage problems resulted in frost heaves and ice in winter. Stormwater rushing down the hillsides caught everything along the way and dumped it into the lake.

Swales were cut into one side of the road to catch that runoff and filter it through “rock sand” that was placed 6 to 8 feet below the road surface. On the lake side, the road was narrowed and is now being prepared for plantings to stop further erosion.




But it is people who Rembold said will thrive here. The road is smooth and flat for wheelchairs and strollers. It’s all much easier and safer. 

The game-changer was the decision to stop through traffic on the road, he said. The only exception now is for emergency vehicles, and for the people who live in the one home on the road. The beach area can now only be accessed from the north.

“It was an extraordinary decision that was made in order to protect the lake,” Rembold said, noting that a road today would never be permitted where it was originally built, along such an environmentally sensitive area.







aerial of beach

The town beach at Lake Mansfield’s newly restored recreation area will open Monday. The beach area only can be accessed from the north under the new one-way road configuration.



The Lake Mansfield Task Force, a town-run group of volunteers, initially studied how best to solve the various problems here and pay to fix it all. 

Over the years, and particularly during the pandemic, lake area volunteers and town officials saw clearly how critical such outdoor areas and swimming spots are for communities, Rembold said.







lake mansfield

Years of improvements to the Lake Mansfield Recreational Area are nearly complete. The road has been moved farther from the beach area and measures have been taken to mitigate traffic and runoff into the lake, making it a cleaner and more accessible recreation area. 



“We realized that we had to pay special attention to protecting places that are so unique and play a special role in habitat and ecology, and serve people’s recreational needs,” Rembold said.

And he is grateful that residents were so “patient” during construction, which began in November at this place that “is so well loved and so well used.” 


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