A land conservancy in Great Barrington, Massachusetts is preparing to open a new trail next week.
Janice Kabel is the organization’s president.
“The Great Barrington Land Conservancy is a land trust that began its work in 1992, and we are dedicated to local conservation in Great Barrington, agricultural preservation and the development of community outdoor resources,” she told WAMC.
It’s conserved more than 300 acres of privately owned land, protected over 50 acres of open space for public use and preserved 45 acres of agricultural land for farm production of the town’s roughly 30,000 acres.
“We are known in Great Barrington for the development of the Housatonic Riverwalk, the Pfeiffer Arboretum on Long Pond Road and the trails at the Lake Mansfield conservation forest,” said Kabel.
Now, the GBLC is preparing a new addition to its 3.5 miles of public hiking and walking trails. Kabel says the plan was hatched over 20 years ago by former board members Peter Jensen and Rachel Fletcher.
“Funding was not available at that time, but the plan and the vision to have a trail that went from Bridge Street to Brookside Road and possibly beyond that toward the senior center,” she told WAMC.
Three or four years ago, the plan was resuscitated.
“With the very kind permission of property owners along the way who granted us easements, we were able to begin the work in earnest,” said Kabel.
Supported by local, state and private backers, construction on the trail designed by Jensen began last fall. With an opening date of September 30th, Kabel says the finishing touches are underway now.
“We have completed 2,400 feet that runs from Bridge Street to Olympian Meadows and another section at Brookside, a little more than 900 feet, which we hope will become an important wildlife viewing area and a place for birdwatchers all over the region,” she said.
The path will eventually be a part of the High Road project, which seeks to connect Berkshire County with walking trails. It’s constructed with crushed stone.
“Because we’re in a mountainous area, we don’t have many long stretches, flat stretches for walking," said Kabel. "So this is a nice flat stretch. Because it’s at the river’s edge, it will be accessible and usable by folks in wheelchairs, anyone with a baby stroller. It’s primarily a walking trail and you will be able to get to the river’s edge and see views for the river that have been inaccessible for decades.”
It will also offer views of the back of Searles Castle, the dramatic 1880’s structure built in the French chateau style located just south of the town core that is now home to the John Dewey Academy.
“And quite a bit of wildlife and bird life, especially at the Bostwick area edge," said Kabel. "We have lots of interesting trees and other plant life coming up. We’re always looking for volunteers to help us pull out invasives and help to keep the trail in good shape.”
Another section in Olympian Meadows, scheduled to be built next spring, will be done by the town.
A dedication ceremony for the Great Barrington Land Conservancy’s new Riverfront Trail is scheduled for 3 p.m. behind the John Dewey Academy on September 29th. It opens to the public a day later.