State doles out grants for trail work in several area communities

By SCOTT MERZBACH

Staff Writer

Published: 06-28-2023 8:05 PM

An infusion of $320,000 from the state’s MassTrails Grant Program will bring the design and engineering phase for a new 3½-mile rail trail in Southampton another step closer to completion.

Meanwhile, a $60,000 grant will improve the Robert Frost Trail and New England National Scenic Trail, on Mount Norwottuck and Long Mountain, as they run through Amherst, Granby and South Hadley.

The projects are among 68 across the state that will receive $11.6 million in funding to improve, expand and connect the state’s network of off-road, shared-use pathways and trails used for recreation, exercise and environmentally friendly commuting.

The MassTrails Grant Program provides matching grants, technical assistance, and resources to individuals, municipalities, nonprofits and other public entities.

“Outdoor recreation is directly tied to the economic prosperity of our state,” Gov. Maura Healey said in announcing the awards on June 14 in Billerica. “By investing in our trails system, we can give our residents opportunities to get outside, commute for free, and showcase all the natural assets Massachusetts has to offer. This is how we grow our economy, cut emissions and improve health outcomes all at the same time.”

In Hampshire County and southern Franklin County, the largest grant went to the Greenway Bicycle/ Pedestrian Path in Southampton which, when constructed, will connect to Easthampton’s Manhan Trail and Westfield’s Columbia Greenway.

Last year, the town got $300,000 from the same program for rebuilding the railroad corridor that has been inactive for more than 30 years. When the rail line was completed in 1863, it connected New Haven to Northampton and other cities in New England.

Thenew $320,000 grant will be matched with $80,630 in other funding. This grant would allow the town to finish the 75% design plan and get as close as possible to completing the 100% design plan.

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Meanwhile, hikers and walkers who use the Robert Frost Trail and New England National Scenic Trail, which overlap at Skinner and Mount Holyoke range state parks, will see more than $80,000 in improvements to improve the day-to-day user experience. The work, matched with $23,030, will be a partnership between Kestrel and the Appalachian Mountain Club in coordination with state’s Department of Conservation and Recreation. Permitting is underway for the “Long Distance Trail Improvement II,” with trail work to take place next year.

Williamsburg, Deerfield and Whately, along with Conway, Ashfield, Buckland and Shelburne, will benefit from a $68,960 grant, matched with $17,240, that will allow the Conway Snowmobile Club to buy trail-grooming equipment. A 1997 custom power unit and drag that has become unreliable will be replaced by a new utility terrain vehicle and corresponding drag that can be used for both winter trail grooming and for trail maintenance in the spring, summer and fall.

In Goshen, the Goshen Highlanders Snowmobile Club’s grant is for $39,570, matched by $14,403. The club can add a tracked rugged terrain vehicle, a drag and two Milwaukee battery-operated chainsaws to its grooming fleet for maintenance and improvement of Moore Hill Trail, a shared-use path on private and public land. Both safety and quality of the trails will be improved.

For Plainfield, along with Hawley, Savoy and Windsor, the Savoy KanaryKats snowmobile club will get $34,227, matched with $13,020, to conduct the yearly oil and filter change for its grooming and maintenance vehicle fleet. In addition, funding will mean the purchase of a utility terrain vehicle for the safe transport of personnel and equipment to perform yearly trail maintenance. There is also money for small equipment replacement, including a chainsaw and snow groomer battery.

Scott Merzbach can be reached at smerzbach@gazettenet.com.]]>