Beavers dig Norwottuck Rail Trail in Amherst

  • One of five sections of the Norwottuck Rail Trail near Station and Hop Brook Roads in Amherst where beavers have burrowed beneath the asphalt (helmet places for scale).  SUBMITTED PHOTO

  • Department of Conservation and Recreation employees work to fix some of the damage to the side of the Norwottuck Rail Trail in Amherst where beavers are using the mud to build their dams and lodges. STAFF PHOTO/CAROL LOLLIS

  • A dam being built by beavers by the Station Road section of the Norwottuck Rail Trail in Amherst. STAFF PHOTO/CAROL LOLLIS

  • A section of the Norwottuck Rail Trail in Amherst near Station Road, where beavers are taking mud from the side of the trail to build a dam. STAFF PHOTO/CAROL LOLLIS

  • Department of Conservation and Recreation employees work to fix some of the damage to the side of the Norwottuck Rail Trail in Amherst where beavers are using the mud to build their dams and lodges. STAFF PHOTO/CAROL LOLLIS

  • A biker comes down the Norwottuck Rail Trail in Amherst near the Station Road section where beavers are taking mud from the side to build their dam. STAFF PHOTO/CAROL LOLLIS

  • A beaver lodge near the Station Road section of the Norwottuck Rail Trail in Amherst. STAFF PHOTO/CAROL LOLLIS

Staff Writer 
Published: 4/9/2019 4:07:35 PM

AMHERST — As warm weather thaws out snow and ice in marshy areas near sections of the Norwottuck Rail Trail, beavers have begun to tear up dirt patches near the asphalt path. 

Between mile markers 9.5 and 9.7, near Station and Hop Brooks Roads in Amherst, there are five sections, about 3 feet wide, where beavers have dug into the ground on the side of the trail, which has caused a local cyclist to raise alarm. 

Andrew Morris-Friedman, a former member of the Norwottuck Rail Trail Advisory Committee, said the beavers have put the trail in “imminent threat of collapse.” 

Morris-Friedman said on Friday that he believed the beavers were digging under the trail to dwell beneath it, but the Department of Conservation and Recreation said the beavers were taking dirt from next to the trail to build dams and lodges. 

The rail trail runs close to the water line of the Lawrence swamp at the Brickyard Conservation Area, and beavers have torn up large chunks of dirt beside the path.  

Morris-Friedman noticed earlier last week the freshly dug portions near the Lawrence swamp area. “It’s a common problem,” he said, adding that once the trail “rips and collapses, the repairs are so much more expensive. Not to mention, the gaping holes in the bike trail create a safety hazard.”

The DCR confirmed the damage to the rail trail caused by “beaver activity.” A spokeswoman for DCR, Olivia Dorrance, said on Sunday that cones have been placed near the damaged parts of the trail, and added that visitors are “not in any immediate danger.” 

“DCR staff will continue to monitor the rail trail’s conditions,” Dorrance said. “Staff will begin coordinating solutions for the beaver activity. Once water flow is restored, staff will work to stabilize the bank of the rail trail and DCR engineers will assess the need for asphalt repairs.” 

On Tuesday morning, DCR workers were out on the rail trail patching up the chewed-up patches of dirt next to the path with fresh dirt and stones. 

Roger Cherewatti, of Amherst, biked past the torn-up sections of the trail on Tuesday and said beavers have damaged the side of the path for the past several years. 

“They use it for mud-packing every year,” Cherewatti said. 

Morris-Friedman said he is not faulting DCR for the problem and recognizes that the department has budget constraints. 

“There is a large community of people who use the bike path and are concerned,” Morris-Friedman said. “If enough people wave the red flag, we’ve seen in the past that it really helps DCR take corrective action.

“But if they don’t fix it,” he continued, “it’s going to get worse.”

“The rail trail is the most popular recreation source in the Valley,” Morris-Friedman said. “It’s important that it be functional and safe.” 

Luis Fieldman can be reached at lfieldman@gazettenet.com 




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