Trails organization receives grant for conference

  • Allison Smith rides her bike on the Manhan Rail Trail in Northampton, Aug. 1, 2017. Gazette Staff/Caroline O’Connor

For the Gazette
Published: 5/24/2018 1:50:40 PM

NORTHAMPTON — The Friends of Northampton Trails and Greenways has been awarded a Recreational Trail Education grant of $9,460 by the Massachusetts Department of Conservation and Recreation.

According to Craig Della Penna, volunteer coordinator for the Mass Central Rail Trail Coalition, the grant comes from the federal gas tax, revenue from which is distributed amongst the states. In Massachusetts, the money is mainly used for conservation and transportation efforts.

The organization will use the grant money to host a summit called the Golden Spike 2018 Conference, which, according to organization president George Kohout, is intended to “build community among rail trail advocates and raise awareness of the missing segments of the trail corridor.”

The conference will include trail advocates from Connecticut and focus on an uncompleted section of the trail from New Haven, Connecticut, to Northampton. Only 40 miles of that trail are currently in use. The Conference will be held on July 28, at Union Station in Northampton, almost exactly halfway between the 190-mile total rail line from Boston to New Haven.

According to Della Penna, even though only 40 miles of trail are open to the public, around 80 percent of the land on which the trail sits is publicly owned. The remaining 20 percent is owned by various private entities, individuals and organizations. Della Penna estimated the trail would be completed in 6-8 years, citing the need to buy the remaining land the east-west trail lays on and construction on the trail.

This will be the sixth Golden Spike Conference of the past 16 years. Previous conferences have taken place across Massachusetts in communities such as Somerville, Holden and Clinton. Della Penna said that this year’s Golden Spike Conference will be slightly different than in previous years, as rail advocates from Connecticut will participate.

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