Berkshire Woods and Waters: Benches at Gould Meadows dedicated in honor of Darey and Wislocki

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Last Sunday afternoon, members of the Gould Meadows Restoration Committee held a ceremony at the waterfront of Gould Meadows on Stockbridge Bowl to dedicate two benches in honor of George Darey and George Wislocki. They were honored for their hard work and dedication in enabling the transfer of land from the Gould Family to the town of Stockbridge back in 1981.

After short talks by both men, paper weight plaques were presented to them with the same wording as on their benches: "To George "Gige" Darey/George Wislocki in recognition of George's work in regard to the purchase and sale agreement from the Gould Family to the town of Stockbridge in 1981." A toast of bubbly was presented by Tim Minkler of Interlaken, with the words "Hail! Hail! The two Georges for all their efforts preserving this land for future generations!"

According to a historical note prepared by Wislocki, there were plans back in 1981 to subdivide the 94.8-acre meadow into building lots. Committee member Minkler remembered that there were plans to build 60 homes on this land.

"If this development had ever taken place, we could have seen 60 mega mansions on this land polluting Stockbridge Bowl. Thank God the two Georges stepped up to the plate to save this beautiful tract of land," he said. (Darey was a member of the Lenox Board of Selectmen and Massachusetts Fish & Wildlife Board at the time and Wislocki was the executive director of the Berkshire Natural Resources Council).

In 1979, when Darey got wind that the Gould Meadows was going to be put on the market, he contacted Stockbridge Selectwoman Mary V. Flynn and soon thereafter a meeting was called. At that meeting, it was decided that the town of Stockbridge should attempt to secure an agreement to purchase the property from the estate of Lee Higginson Gould for the sum of $250,000.

The plan was to seek a grant from the state's Division of Conservation Services for 50 percent of the cost and a second grant of 25 percent from the U.S. Department of Interior. The remaining 25 percent was to be raised through a private fund drive. The Friends of Gould Meadows was formed to raise these funds.

The Boston Symphony Orchestra donated $22,000. Other major contributors included the Laurel Hill Society and the Stockbridge Bowl Association. Joseph Kruger of Camp Mah-Kee-Nac contributed greatly and rallied the Bowl's summer residents, as well. During the next 24 months, the Friends raised over $62,500 from 492 contributors, with most of the credit for raising the monies going to Flynn, whose affection for these lands appeared boundless.

Wislocki attended to securing the state and federal grants. State Senators Jack Fitzpatrick and Peter Webber as well as State Representative Dennis Duffin supported the endeavor. Unfortunately, there was a glitch. President Reagan's Interior Secretary James Watt "froze" the entire allocation of the Land and Water Conservation Fund with the consequence that the "federal share" came into doubt. Committee Co-Chair Henry Williams and Jack Fitzpatrick urged congressman Silvio O. Conte to override Watt's efforts.

However, it was not necessary, as Rep. Duffin and Sen. Webber filed a bill in Massachusetts General Court which amended the State's Open Space Grants Program. It was approved and the state could then contribute up to 80 percent of the purchase price of conservation land to be acquired by towns.

At its March 9, 1981 town meeting, the voters approved the necessary bonding authorization to acquire the property and keep it forever as conservation lands. On Aug. 19 of that year, a ceremony was held at Gould Meadows to honor Selectwoman Mary Flynn's contribution to the purchase. A single oak tree was planted in the middle of the meadow and Bishop Leo O'Neil of Springfield blessed it. Governor Edward King flew in by helicopter and music was provided by a small gathering of Tanglewood musicians. Beneath the tree, a small plaque was installed which read: "This tree shall be known throughout time as the Mary Flynn Oak. Her wisdom, political skills and love of Stockbridge served to protect these meadows."

The plaque has disappeared, but the oak remains. Arthur Dutil of Stockbridge kept a watchful eye on the tree, watering and trimming it, and now it is sturdy and healthy. Every summer, Gary Johnston of Interlaken mows the meadows around it. The Gould Meadows Restoration Committee is at the meadow most every Saturday morning doing various tasks. Volunteer helpers are always welcomed. Contact Tim Minkler at 413-644-3590 or 413-298-4630 if you wish to help out.

As Wislocki commented, the project wasn't dominated by wealthy people, but rather ordinary people and sportsmen who loved the Berkshires.

Talk about a beautiful meadow. It is on the southeast side of Route 183, across from Kripalu, with signage and a small parking area. Access is free and open to the public. There are about 95 acres of open meadows and woods, with around 1,000 feet of frontage on Stockbridge Bowl which comprises the area between the Tanglewood and Kripalu beaches.

Congratulations and many thanks to the two Georges!

Shad study

According to a recent news release, MassWildlife is teaming up with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Vermont Fish and Wildlife, and New Hampshire Fish and Game to better understand juvenile American shad production in the Connecticut River. The study focuses on three major dammed sections of the river.

Forage fish like American shad are important prey resources for numerous freshwater predators popular with anglers, including small and largemouth bass, walleye, and channel catfish. However, little is currently known about juvenile shad production.

Using electrofishing sampling, biologists are learning about the relationship between the number of juvenile shad and the number of adult shad returning to the river to spawn. This coordinated effort will help biologists understand which areas of the Connecticut River have a higher supply of prey fish for predators and where anglers may find better fishing opportunities. Data may also be used to inform re-licensing of dams and provide perspective on how current shad production compares to historical populations which existed before dams were installed.

East Branch Westfield River

If any anglers are wondering why the fishing isn't that great this fall in the East Branch of the Westfield River, there is a reason. MassWildlife decided to skip stocking the river this fall due to the low water conditions.

Reach outdoors columnist Gene Chague at berkwoodsandwaters@roadrunner.com or 413-637-1818.

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