Berkshire County Planning Takes a Regional Approach
Federal funds are helping Berkshire County take a big picture look at its growth in the coming years. From economic development to housing to a county-wide energy plan, a consortium of Berkshire community groups, environmental advocates and planning agencies are working on a comprehensive master plan to help map the longterm sustainability of the region. Strategies are needed to deal with decade-long trends like a declining population and fewer high-skill workers, says Amy Kacala of the Berkshire Regional Planning Commission.
"Youth that are leaving, educational attainment levels—how do we start to compete in the global marketplace as a rural region?"
The effort, called Sustainable Berkshires and led by the Berkshire planners, is nearly two years old, part of a three-year, five hundred and ninety thousand dollar Federal grant from the Department of Housing and Urban Development. The grant is part of an interagency effort also involving the Environmental Protection Agency, USDA, and others. Shep Evans, with the Housatonic Valley Association, an area environmental group, has attended public forums to speak up for protection of endangered animals. He notes the project must consider the interrelation of not only humans and wildlife, but of overlapping elements like the farming economy and climate change.
"Talking about the sustainability of lots of different things, lots of different aspects of sustainability, not only of the living environment but the working environment."
Public forums on the county's housing needs are planned for the new year. A final sustainability plan is expected in early 2014.