Editorial: On the right trail in Belchertown

  • Robert Frost Trail at Mount Toby STAFF PHOTO/ANDY CASTILLO

Published: 7/17/2019 5:25:51 PM

Along-held vision to build a fully accessible sensory trail around Lake Wallace in Belchertown — a crucial step toward a larger townwide network of “heritage trails” — is just one of several exciting developments for trails in our region.

Another is the Robert Frost Trail, which stretches through 10 towns, including Amherst and Sunderland. One way to appreciate the beauty of New England’s quaint woods is to walk through them. Trails, such as the Robert Frost Trail, cultivate an appreciation for Hampshire and Franklin counties’ charming landscape.

That’s why we’re happy to report that both the Robert Frost Trail and the Lake Wallace Sensory Trail in Belchertown are two of 71 trail projects across the state to receive a portion of $5 million in grant money from the Department of Conservation and Recreation’s capital budget and the state’s motor fuel excise tax for off-road vehicles. To qualify, recipients must match their awards with a minimum of 20 percent of the total grant. Including those contributions, about $14 million is expected to go toward trail and footpath upgrades statewide.

It’s a good step down the right path for both Belchertown and the Robert Frost Trail.

Belchertown will use its $50,000 grant to construct the Lake Wallace Sensory Trail, a 5-foot-wide recreation trail around the lake. The trail will connect to the Christopher Heights assisted living community, Belchertown senior center, Belchertown Public Schools, Belchertown Recreation Center, and planned residential development within Carriage Grove on the former Belchertown State Hospital grounds.

The trail will serve as the hub for a larger recreation project that the town is working on — a network of trails throughout town called the Belchertown Heritage Trails.

Located less than a mile away from Belchertown’s public schools, the trail will have many features that promote environmental education, such as gathering spaces, interpretive kiosks, learning stations and a dock extending into the lake for ecological research, called a “living laboratory.”

Meanwhile, Robert Frost, the renowned nature poet who taught at Amherst College for more than a decade in the 1930s, would have certainly approved of the trail in his name were he alive today.

The Robert Frost Trail’s improvement project, which will be overseen by the Kestrel Land Trust, seeks to improve 37 miles of the trail, which traverses publicly owned conservation land.

Elsewhere in the region, the Franklin Regional Council of Governments in Greenfield and other planning agencies, including the Pioneer Valley Planning Commission, received $100,000. The organizations will use their portion, along with a match of $25,200, to create maps for the mountain biking trail networks throughout Berkshire, Hampden and Franklin counties. The project will serve as a pilot to determine the best process for completing additional mapping of the mountain biking trail network in western Massachusetts in the future.

The state also awarded $39,799 to the Worthington Snowmobile Club for equipment necessary for trail maintenance. The club will purchase a tractor that will help it remove fallen trees, make repairs to bridges and trim overgrown brush, as well as maintain trails in the winter months.

Updating trails and investing in the betterment of our region’s landscape is a smart move by the state. Hampshire and Franklin counties, which are popular outdoor destinations, could benefit economically from improved footpath infrastructure. More than that, better footpaths could encourage residents and tourists to more frequently enjoy the beauty of our region’s woods — developing an appreciation that lasts.

As Frost, the Sunderland trail’s namesake wrote in “Hyla Brook,” a poem published in 1920, “We love the things we love for what they are.”

Daily Hampshire Gazette Office

115 Conz Street
Northampton, MA 01061


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