Smith, Northampton, BID in deal to plow key rail trail link

Last modified: Friday, December 07, 2012

NORTHAMPTON — A roughly 1-mile stretch of the Manhan Rail Trail from Main Street to King Street will be plowed this winter for the first time since it was constructed two years ago, opening up the trail for year-round use.

That will be welcome news to residents who called on the city to clear snow off a highly used section of trail, Mayor David J. Narkewicz said Friday, in announcing a collaboration between the city, Smith College and the Business Improvement District.

“We’ve had a lot of community input from people who feel we should be doing this,” Narkewicz said, adding that he’s pleased people will be able to access and use the trail year-round.

“In the last two years, the rail trail network has transformed bicycle and pedestrian travel around downtown Northampton, for eight months,” Narkewicz said in a press release. “This link will allow these new travel opportunities to continue throughout the year.”

The previously unplowed section, completed by the state in the fall of 2010, provided the missing link from downtown to Leeds. While the city is able to plow the rest of Manhan Rail Trail in the winter, it lacked the resources to buy the equipment needed to plow this smaller section of trail — until now.

In announcing the agreement Friday atop a pedestrian bridge that spans Main Street downtown, Narkewicz said Smith is selling the city a 2009 Kubota RTV (rough-terrain vehicle) it no longer needs for $5,000. That price is significantly lower than what the city would have paid for a comparable vehicle, he said.

The city will pay $4,000 for the vehicle, and the BID will kick in the remaining $1,000. The vehicle is equipped with a five-way power angle plow and a sand and salt spreader. It will be used to clear the section of trail from about Union Street downtown to behind Taco Bell on King Street.

The BID will provide the staffing to remove snow as part of its downtown snow-clearing operations. Executive Director Dan Yacuzzo said he is excited to be able to remove the snow for trail users, many of whom reached out to him in the last two years asking why the BID wasn’t doing so.

The BID also may use the tractor as part of its downtown snow removal and in other seasons to water flowers downtown without having to climb in and out of trucks.

Smith College said the agreement is a way for it continue to support bike access projects that serve its students, employees and the community.

“We are glad to be able to facilitate greater year-round use of this key section of the bike path,” said Laurie Fenlason, Smith’s vice president for public affairs.


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