Hilltown Voices: Popular Williamsburg hiking trail protected by easement

  • From left, Sally Loomis, executive director of the Hilltown Land Trust, Robin Merritt, Diane Merritt, Philip Merritt, and Melissa Patterson, director of community outreach and education at the Franklin Land Trust. Submitted photo

For the Gazette
Published: 12/3/2018 10:50:02 AM

WILLIAMSBURG — Williamsburg’s popular Big View Trail, with its spectacular vistas of the Pioneer Valley and Mt. Tom Range, will continue to be a popular, public hiking trail for years to come, thanks to the completion of a new public access easement.

Working with the Franklin Land Trust and Hilltown Land Trust, property owners Philip and Diane Merritt secured the easement for the 1.5-mile loop trail, which is located on roughly 100 acres of land off of Unquomonk Road.

The trail runs up to the crest of a1000 foot ridgeline that provides hikers with beautiful views of the region.

“We love the idea of sharing our trail with the public through the VPA Program,” said Diane Merritt. “Partnering with Hilltown Land Trust and Franklin Land Trust on this project means more people will get to know these woods and special views that our family has had the privilege of enjoying for years.”

The Voluntary Public Access Program is a new program led by the Franklin Land Trust, in partnership with the Massachusetts Department of Conservation and Recreation, Berkshire Natural Resources Council, and the Massachusetts Forest Alliance with funding from the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service.

The program encourages landowners to open their land to the public for hiking, fishing, wildlife observation, and or hunting through temporary or permanent easements on their trail or land.

These easements provide landowners with some compensation, helping them keep and conserve these special places.

Sally Loomis, Executive Director of Hilltown Land Trust said her organization is excited to be working with Franklin Land Trust and Merritt family.

“We are always looking for different ways to facilitate connections between people and nature, and to assist landowners in taking care of their land,” Loomis said. “The VPA Program accomplishes both of those goals.”

The Big View Trail will connect with a trail on abutting land being conserved as part of the Hilltown Land Trust-led Brewer Brook Conservation Project.

This collaborative conservation project will conserve 1,000 acres of connected land in the Hilltown region and includes seven property owners in the towns of Westhampton, Chesterfield and Williamsburg and organizations such as the Kestrel Land Trust, the Massachusetts Department of Fish & Game, and the town of Westhampton.

Merritt said that she and her husband appreciate sharing the beauty and outdoor experience their land has to offer.

“Phil has put a lot of effort into developing the trails and he really loves seeing people out there enjoying it,” she said. “It’s a good thing to do, and I hope this encourages other people to do the same thing with their land.”

Students organize “Stop the Bleed” Training

HUNTINGTON - Gateway Regional High School students recently organized a “Stop the Bleed” training, where fellow students and school staff learned techniques that can help stop bleeding after an injury.

Stop the Bleed, is a national awareness campaign and a call to action to train and empower bystanders to help in a bleeding emergency.

According to the campaign uncontrolled bleeding is the number one cause of preventable death from trauma.

Students Ava Auclair, Brandon Lanpher, and Rebecca Herman organized the event with Gateway RN Jodi Cabral-Croke and guidance counselor Jenya Kushin.

The 1.5-hour training was held in November and instructors included nurses, EMT’s, firefighters and first responders from around the region.

The training was well attended and participants said that they found the event to be both educational practical and relevant.

Cummington road closings

CUMMINGTON - The following roads will be closed for the winter through mud season. Closing will take place on December 1st and remain in effect until May 1st 2019.

Stage road from house number 132 to 200, Trow road from number 43 to 88, Tirrell Hill from number 3 to 34, Bug Hill from number 6 to 51, River Road in its entirety, West Hill in its entirety and Bryant Road from Grout Road to Potash Hill Extension.

Ideas for this column on life in the hilltowns can be sent to Fran Ryan at Fryan.gazette@gmail.com.


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