Mohawk Trail up for national recognition

  • The Mohawk Trail is recognized by the Massachusetts Department of Transportation as a scenic byway. Now, the Franklin Regional Council of Governments hopes to have the road be recognized on the federal level. STAFF PHOTO/PAUL FRANZ

  • Vehicles head west up the Mohawk Trail in Greenfield near the Shelburne town line. STAFF PHOTO/PAUL FRANZ

  • The Mohawk Trail looking east in Greenfield near the Shelburne town line. STAFF PHOTO/PAUL FRANZ

Staff Writer
Published: 5/27/2020 10:42:56 AM

The Mohawk Trail is being submitted for consideration for inclusion among America’s Byways, a prestigious list of the most scenic roads in the country kept by the U.S. Department of Transportation.

The road commonly called the Mohawk Trail is the section of Route 2 running from Athol westward through Franklin County and into Berkshire County, ending in Williamstown.

If it is accepted, it will be the second road in Massachusetts to make the list. According to the U.S. Department of Transportation’s website, the only Massachusetts road now on the list is also a local one: the Connecticut River Byway, which runs along the Connecticut River from the top in Vermont and New Hampshire, then into Massachusetts via Routes 63 and 47, ending in South Hadley.

The Mohawk Trail is already recognized regionally as a point of interest. The state Department of Transportation includes it in a list of seven scenic roads in western Massachusetts, citing the cultural-historical value of several of the places it passes, as well as its natural beauty and its outdoor recreation spots. The road also frequently appears in online travel guides of Massachusetts and New England.

This is not accidental: When it was built in 1914, it was designed as a touring road, according to Beth Giannini, a senior transportation planner at the Franklin Regional Council of Governments, which is coordinating the submission to America’s Byways.

“It has a long history as a scenic touring road,” she said.

America’s Byways rarely solicits submissions, Giannini said. But this spring, the U.S. Department of Transportation put out a call for state government-recognized scenic roads to be nominated for federal recognition, she said. In the past, inclusion in the federal list has sometimes come with grant funding. This year it does not; it is only honorary, she said.

Giannini said she chose to nominate the Mohawk Trail because it already has such a strong reputation as a touring road.

To strengthen the application, she is asking towns along the road to contribute letters of support. She is also working with the Berkshire Regional Planning Commission and the Montachusett Regional Planning Commission. Giannini said feedback has been very positive.

In Orange, for example, the town’s Select Board endorsed the submission to America’s Byways. Community Development Director Alec Wade noted during a Zoom meeting last week that the road already has a local designation as a scenic byway.

“This would be putting it on a national scale. So it would bring national exposure to the region,” he said, noting some tourists make conscious efforts to visit designated National Scenic Byways.

The Franklin Regional Council of Governments’ application will be submitted by June 1 to the Massachusetts Department of Transportation, which will in turn select which applications to send to the U.S. Department of Transportation, Giannini said. There is no date for when the federal department will make a decision.




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