Hikers, dirt bikers and snowmobilers in the Berkshires can expect better trails in the future, the upgrades funded through $252,000 in state grants.
The Massachusetts Department of Conservation and Recreation has awarded a total of $1 million for 30 projects — nine in the county — courtesy of the DCR's Recreational Trail Program.
Each recipient matches their grant with a minimum 20 percent in funding or in-kind services, this year adding up to $1.6 million.
The trail grant program funds construction and maintenance of hiking, bicycling, snowmobile and off-road vehicle trails throughout the commonwealth.
Three DCR projects in the Berkshires received funding; the other six awarded to private organizations that either help maintain state or municipal trails or have their own trail system.
The single largest Berkshire grant, nearly $74,000, will go toward improving a one-mile section of the Finerty Pond trail on October Mountain State. The DCR will also spend nearly $50,000 to hire a seasonal trail crew to work on Off-Highway Vehicle trails (OHV) in the West Region that includes the Berkshires.
OHV state coordinator Scott Morrill, based out of Pittsfield State Forest, says the additional trail work will take place next April into November, with repair or rebuilding worn out brook and stream crossings a top priority.
"We have so many bridges that are catered to the crossing," he said. "Some need to support heavy grooming equipment and others just ATVs."
Given the two largest state parks on in the Berkshires, trail upkeep is vital, according to West Region Director Michael Case.
"We've got October Mountain and Pittsfield so this money is crucial," he said. "The nature of OHV trails is they get ripped up, so we must maintain them as they are fragile."
Case says one-fourth of the $1 million in grants coming to the Berkshires shows the DCR values the outdoor recreational uses in the county.
Since Gov. Charlie Baker named Leo Roy DCR commissioner last December, the Vermont native has led the charge to enhance the state parks recreational uses.
"The Baker-Polito Administration remains steadfast to protecting, promoting, and enhancing the state's natural, cultural, and recreational resources for the well-being of all," he said in prepared remarks.
Four of the nine local grants went to snowmobile clubs, volunteer groups Case says are vital to the upkeep of state park snowmobile trails, especially given the state's fiscal constraints. The Know Trail Sno-Riders snowmobile club of Otis landed a $71,250 grant to keep working on the trails in Tolland and Otis state forests.
In addition, about 20 club members also work on private trails, keeping them clear of natural debris and grooming them in the winter if Mother Nature cooperates in an effort to bolster the local economy.
"When we have snow here, there's a buzz," said Knox Trail spokesman Jim Richard. "Snowmobiling used to be a hobby — now it's an industry."
Contact Dick Lindsay at (413) 496-6233