Saw Mill Hills enthusiasts pony up $5K to help city expand conservation/recreation area

  • A group of Sawmillers on a winter ride at the conservation area last year. SUBMITTED PHOTO/CHRIS EVANS

  • An all-women group of Pioneer Valley mountain bikers at Saw Mill Hills. SUBMITTED PHOTO/CHRISTIN REUTER

  • Winter mountain biking at Saw Mill Hills. SUBMITTED PHOTO/ADIN MAYNARD

Staff Writer
Published: 2/5/2020 12:22:51 AM

NORTHAMPTON — “Sawmillers,” a group of Saw Mill Hills Conservation area enthusiasts, raised more than $5,000 to expand the conservation area with a 20-acre land purchase.

“When we learned that the city needed some additional funds to complete a land purchase that would add to the Saw Mill Hills Greenway,” sawmiller and mountain biker Adele Paquin wrote in an email to the Gazette, “we thought we’d reach out to the community and see if they’d pitch in because we were pretty sure people would be interested in helping out.”

The group, made up of mountain bikers, trail runners and other outdoor recreationists, organized a campaign and raised $5,025 for the land acquisition, according to member and mountain biker Adin Maynard.

“It’s being funded almost exclusively with community donations,” Mayor David Narkewicz said of the city’s acquisition. An anonymous donor contributed $15,000 and the rest came from the fundraiser, he said. The city’s role, he said, is to pay off back taxes on the property.

The city’s goal: “It’s basically to preserve the land,” said city director of planning and sustainability Wayne Feiden, noting that the city already owns land that abuts the property. “Even though it’s only 20 acres of land, it abuts the second largest conservation land in the city,” he said.

“How amazing it is that so many people are voting with their pocketbooks and supporting this land acquisition,” he said.

Friends of Northampton Trails collaborated with the Sawmillers and served as a fiscal agent, as the Sawmillers are not an organized nonprofit, said Mayard and George Kohout, president of the Friends of Northampton Trails.

“Our group’s focus is really to collaborate and support any other organized nonprofits or groups that are trying to expand recreation, specifically outdoor recreation,” Kohout said.

Hikers, runners, showshoers and skiiers all use the conservation area, Paquin said, and it’s also a good place for mountain biking.

Paquin, an employee at Northampton Bicycle, started riding at Saw Mill Hills with a women’s mountain biking group. The terrain can be challenging, she said. “There are sections of trail where there are many small rocks in the trail, and you really just have to relax your body, loosen your grip a little, and allow the bike to roll itself over the bumps in the path with just a little gentle guidance — if you try to fight or control it, you waste energy. It’s a metaphor for life, really!”

“It’s challenging and technical,” Maynard said of the terrain. “It feels very wild, like you’re in the backwoods even though you’re right near town.”

He added, “I think this is really important for the city, for basically all community members, that places like this exist so that we maintain what’s natural with our environment and retain our natural resources.”

Greta Jochem can be reached at gjochem@gazettenet.com.




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