Pleasant Valley ‘Opening Doors’ to Greater Engagement With Community
Michael P. O'Connor
LENOX—The trails at Mass Audubon’s Pleasant Valley Wildlife Sanctuary are welcoming visitors from western Massachusetts and well beyond, while its Berkshire Nature Camp—one of the few outdoor children’s programs in the area open this summer—is helping young people connect with the natural world (all while following safety guidelines).
There could not be better reasons for supporting Pleasant Valley’s Opening Doors to Nature capital campaign, which will help ensure the sanctuary’s aging facilities are brought up to date, with a focus on accessibility and related amenities.
Through the generous donations of many supporters and funders, including the Massachusetts Cultural Council and Lenox Community Preservation funds, the campaign is now within $220,000 of its $1.12 million goal. With construction scheduled to begin next week, Pleasant Valley staff and sanctuary friends are urging people to contributing now.
“This project is ready to go, and that’s why we need the community’s support now to close the Opening Doors to Nature campaign funding gap,” Mass Audubon President David O’Neill said. “Let’s all help ‘open the doors’ to new and updated facilities at Pleasant Valley.”
The sanctuary has been a popular destination for birders and other outdoors lovers, O’Neill noted, and the improvements will allow it to serve as a 21st-century “base camp” for contemporary programming and outreach into the region’s varied and diverse communities.
“Pleasant Valley has long been regarded as a hidden gem,” he added. “As a result of this project, it will offer both increased capacity and accessibility, while allowing staff to more fully realize the sanctuary’s potential as a respected resource for the greater Berkshire community.”
The project is impressive enough, physically: The centerpiece will be an energy-efficient addition to the 18th-century program barn that includes a lobby area with interactive educational displays, expansive decking, new restrooms, and a small, accessible kitchen.
Yet even more inspiring is what the improvements will bring in terms of broadening opportunities and experiences for visitors of all backgrounds, ages, and abilities, as they connect with nature. In response to the pandemic, not only are more people noticing the natural world right outside their windows, more are venturing forth to explore such natural oases as Pleasant Valley.
The project is designed to help meet this opportunity by accommodating the diverse needs of visitors interested in outdoor recreation and nature-based programming. With a new emphasis on positioning the Berkshires as a destination for recreational activities, Pleasant Valley is poised to become an even more relevant resource for information on the outdoors and nature.
Currently, visitors can learn about local natural history through the sanctuary’s extensive public programming and discover trails (and up-to-date conditions) as well as appropriate uses, by speaking with knowledgeable visitor services staff.
The new building will enhance these offerings through the addition of interactive educational displays, trail maps of local properties, and access to modern restrooms. These amenities will be available daily from dawn to dusk for visitors enjoying the sanctuary or stopping by on their way to other natural areas in the Berkshires.
Mass Audubon is the largest nature-based conservation organization in New England. Founded in 1896 by two women who fought for the protection of birds, Mass Audubon carries on their legacy by focusing on the greatest challenges facing the environment today: the loss of biodiversity, inequitable access to nature, and climate change. With the help of our 160,000 members and supporters, we protect wildlife, conserve and restore resilient land, advocate for impactful environmental policies, offer nationally recognized education programs for adults and children, and provide endless opportunities to experience the outdoors at our wildlife sanctuaries. Explore, find inspiration, and take action at www.massaudubon.org.