Bernardston collecting survey responses to inform vulnerability planning process

Staff Writer
Published: 5/27/2020 1:37:41 PM

BERNARDSTON — After a planned eight-hour workshop was canceled in March, Bernardston’s Municipal Vulnerability Preparedness (MVP) planning project is moving forward through the collection of community survey responses.

Bernardston, which was awarded a $20,000 grant to support the creation of the plan, is one of several Franklin County municipalities researching and addressing local effects of climate change. Project Manager John Lepore said the plan is meant to address areas in town that could be affected by climate change.

“Some of these concerns include flooding in Center Village and beyond, threats of forest fires during droughts and loss of valuable biodiversity from exotic invasive species,” Lepore said.

The costs and impacts from climate-related issues remind towns of the need to increase their resiliency to effectively deal with and bounce back from extreme weather events. By working with the Franklin Regional Council of Governments (FRCOG), Bernardston will identify ways to reduce the impact of such hazards.

“The goal is to educate the public on how to prepare their homes, their land and their families for fires, floods or other natural disasters,” Lepore explained.

The $20,000 grant funds a Community Resilience Workshop where businesses and community members are invited to share their concerns based on experiences and local scientific information. A draft of the plan is then developed and publicly presented during a Community Listening Session.

Finalizing the plan will then qualify Bernardston for further grants to complete projects identified in the process.

“In a perfect world, by now, the grant would be in its final stages,” Lepore said. “Needless to say, concerns over COVID-19 changed the process, and, like many other present-day situations, adjustments need to be made.”

As a result of the pandemic, the Massachusetts Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs, which awarded Bernardston the $20,000 grant, has extended the deadline for the planning process by one year. Instead of holding a Community Resilience Workshop at this time, the MVP Committee — consisting of FRCOG’s Kimberly Noake MacPhee and Allison Gage, Bernardston Planning Board Chair Christina Wysk and Lepore — has mailed out packets with local data and survey questions.

Lepore said the packets were sent to about 50 businesses, farmers, town departments and committees. Follow-up phone interviews are now underway. The data from these interviews will be compiled and summarized so it can later be presented during the Community Resilience Workshop.

According to Lepore, an official workshop will most likely be held early this fall. At this time, it is unclear whether it will be an in-person or virtual meeting. The same holds true for the required Community Listening Session.

Updates to the Municipal Vulnerability Preparedness plan will be added to the Bernardston town website at townofbernardston.org.

Zack DeLuca can be reached at zdeluca@recorder.com or 413-930-4579.

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