Mutter’s Field Trail in Easthampton now accessible

Pascommuck Conservation Trust will open Mutter’s Field Trail in Easthampton

  • This is part of the Mutter’s Field Accessible Trail in Easthampton that the Pascommuck Conservation Trust expects to open by the end of April. DAN LITTLE

  • Marty Klein at the Pascommuck Conservation Trust Mutter’s Field Accessible Trail project in Easthampton during February.

  • Marty Klein at the Pascommuck Conservation Trust Mutter’s Field Accessible Trail project during February in Easthampton. DAN LITTLE

For the Gazette
Published: 3/9/2016 11:32:51 AM

EASTHAMPTON — The Pascommuck Conservation Trust this spring will open the Mutter’s Field Accessible Trail, its newly constructed handicapped accessible and ecologically non-invasive nature trail. At the foot of Mount Tom off East Green Street, this universally accessible trail will be the first of its kind in Easthampton.

Trust board member Marty Klein said the trail will be an asset for underserved populations by accommodating people using wheelchairs and other devices that assist with mobility. He also hopes that seniors, and people with any physical difficulties, as well as families with young children, will find the trail inviting, both for its ease of use, and the beauty of the area through which it traverses.

He expects the trail to be open by the end of April.

The area is primarily a large meadow with what Klein describes as “spectacular views of Mount Tom.” He added, “There should be a place in nature for everyone. This is an accessible trail that will provide a place for people who want to be in a natural setting, and can do so without competing with things like bicycles and joggers.” 

Linda Talbot, executive director of the Easthampton Council on Aging, said that she is excited about the trail.

“I think that this is going to be great for some of our people that are less able, as it will help them to get outside and see nature,” Talbot said. “I think something like this really adds to the community and the friendly feeling of a neighborhood.”

The 1,800-foot-long trail loops around the two-acre Mutter’s Field meadow and connects to the conservation trust’s existing Brickyard Brook Conservation Area trail system, which crosses through 15 acres of mixed hardwood forest and streams.

The trail was designed and built by Easthampton landscape architect William Canon, who consulted with the builders of accessible U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Fort River Trail which is part of the Silvio O. Conte Wildlife Refuge in Hadley.

The 1.2-mile, 5-foot-wide Fort River Trail complies with the Americans with Disabilities Act, and allows two wheelchairs to pass one another. It is made of gravel and fine rock enclosed in borders of pressure-treated lumber, called “trail ties.” They form a 2-inch lip around the trail, which assists people who are visually impaired and use a cane for navigation.

“Our trail will look just like theirs,” Klein said. “This way we don’t have to reinvent the wheel.” 

Canon said he had fun building the Mutter’s Field Trail which he believes will be an important addition to the city.

“Like the Fort River Trail, we built this trail right on the surface of the existing meadow rather than excavating and creating a lot of disturbance to the area,” Canon said.

Even the groundbreaking ceremony was a non-invasive “non-groundbreaking,” where a small pile of soil was brought to the site for the traditional turning over of the first shovel of dirt, rather than digging into the ground.

“These types of areas are great for passive recreation trails and there is some interesting wildlife that makes it a terrific place,” Canon said. “The flip side is that it is an ecologically sensitive area and we have to make sure that we do things properly and go through all of the permitting processes.” 

The conservation trust hired Pioneer Landscape in Easthampton to complete a stone retention guard, install benches and a small pavilion nearby, as well as ramps that will connect the parking lot to the trails.

‘Wonderful place’

Nisa Zalta is the director of community relations at Riverside Industries Inc., a nonprofit organization at 1 Cottage St. that aims to empower people with disabilities and perceived limitations.

“The Mutter Field Trail will be a wonderful place for our participants who have physical disabilities and use wheelchairs and other mobility devices,” Zalta said. “I love that it’s a short distance away and it will be a great place to go to meet other people in the community and especially enjoy the outdoors.” 

Matt Lamorie participates in the community-based day services and serves on the agency’s board of directors. He said he looks forward to getting out on the trail when it is completed.

“A nature trail, just a half mile away from Riverside, that is wheelchair accessible is great,” Lamorie said. “I’m running out of interesting, new and exciting places to do my photography — its right in the heart of nature.”

Klein said the project is about two-thirds completed.

“We are now trying to raise money for a butterfly garden adjacent to the trail and for interpretative signage possibly with braille, as well as establishing a maintenance fund for the property,” Klein said.

The Pascommuck Conservation Trust is a nonprofit, charitable organization, formed in 1982. Former mayor Michael A. Tautznik was one of its founding members.

“We protect ecologically important areas and farmland in Easthampton,” Klein said. “We are an all-volunteer organization and we partner with other organizations and land trusts to get the work done.” 

The trust controls a total of 16 properties in Easthampton, totaling approximately 190 acres. This includes 13 conservation areas, one public park, and two conservation areas with Agricultural Preservation Restrictions.

According to the trust’s website, Pascommuck is a Native American word of unknown origin. It was the name of Easthampton’s earliest known settlement in the late 1600s, near the oxbow of the Connecticut River.

To find out more about the Pascommuck Conservation Trust, or to access maps of its eight other trails in Easthampton, visit pctland.org.

Fran Ryan can be reached at Fryan.gazette@gmail.com.




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