Get Outdoors Day transforms Springside Park into mecca for fun, exercise

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PITTSFIELD — Acoustic and classical music acts on a stage, a Zumba class by a fountain and a mock sword fight conducted by actors on a lawn.


They all took place Saturday as the city participated in the national Get Outdoors Day initiative at Springside Park.


The event was also held to bring citizen awareness to the largest of the city’s 29 parks, and to the future of historic Springside House, the mid-19th century, three-story wood-frame mansion that is in need of repair.


“It’s one of our great assets in the park system,” said the city’s Park, Open Space and Natural Resources Program Manager James McGrath, referring to the 246-acre site in the middle of the city. “Now, its time to turn our attention on what people want to do with this park.”


In May, the city estimated that restoring Springside House, which has been vacant for several years, could cost $2.2 million. Inside the structure on Saturday were places where people could leave written comments on their ideas for both the park and the house, and a treasure trove of memorabilia that was on display.


Those items included a Civil Defense uniform from the World War II era; a copy of a long-range park and recreation study performed for the city in 1947 by a New York City consulting firm; and a 1954 city playground manual.


There was a “picnic kit,” a trunk full of items that residents could rent from the city to hold their own gatherings.


And, there were several historic black and white photographs of long-ago activities that once took place in recreational areas around the city. Sue Barnes of Dalton took particular interest in a photo of a swimming area that was once laid out in Pontoosuc Lake.


“I like old things,” said Barnes, who grew up in Pittsfield, and moved back to the Berkshires a decade ago after living in the Washington, D.C., area for 30 years.


“That was the area to be in,” she said, referring to the lake. “I was up there the other day and I found two dirty diapers.”


Also on hand were members of the Springside Park Conservancy coalition, which is made up of members of various groups that use the park.


Conservancy member Bernie Mack referred to Springside Park as “a jewel of the city.”


“I just think it’s a great asset,” Mack said. “I love jogging through here and (cross country) skiing.”


Jose Paredes and his wife, Claudia, of Pittsfield, had come to the event to see their 10-year-old daughter, Leila, play with Kids 4 Harmony, a children’s classical music group.


They were unaware that so many city artifacts were on display inside of Springside House.


“It’s a nice place,” Jose said.


National Get Outdoors Day was founded in 2008 by the USDA Forest Service and the American Recreation Coalition to encourage healthy activities at outdoor sites across the country. This is the second time that Pittsfield has participated in the initiative. There were 171 sites that participated in this year’s activities including three in Massachusetts.



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