Berkshire Natural Resources Council has expanded its conservation holdings in Lanesborough and North Adams with purchases of land totaling 118 acres.
Last week, BNRC purchased two properties this week that expand existing reserves in Lanesborough and North Adams. The newly added acres improve public access for outdoor recreation and conserve historic sites.
In Lanesborough, BNRC added 52 acres to its Constitution Hill Reserve, expanding it to 304 acres. The parcel lies just across Town Brook from the scenic Bill Laston Memorial Park off Route 7.
In North Adams, BNRC purchased 66 acres from the city to complement its Hoosac Range Reserve, which now totals more than 846 acres.
"Both of these projects are about expanding recreational opportunities and making connections," said Narain Schroeder, BNRC director of land conservation.
In Lanesborough, crossing Town Brook to connect Laston Park with Constitution Hill will require building a bridge, said Schroeder, "and we look forward to working with the town to do just that."
In addition to protecting natural resources and open space, both projects have a historical component. The high point on BNRC's Constitution Hill Reserve was the location of a signal fire in 1788, notifying the surrounding towns that the United States had ratified the Constitution. In 1921, a red oak was planted at the site to honor local men killed in World War I. It still stands near a large white quartz rock.
The North Adams parcel contains a section of the historic Mahican-Mohawk Trail and early versions of today's Route 2 that replaced the trail. This section of steep switchbacks now sees the occasional intrepid hiker, but it was once a bustling foot path connecting trade between the Hudson and Connecticut rivers.
The new acquisitions and the reserves they expand are open to the public for passive recreation and both reserves have improved hiking trails.
BNRC received a Massachusetts Conservation Partnership Grant for the North Adams parcel that covered 50 percent of the $65,000 purchase price. The other 50 percent was provided by BNRC's supporters, with lead support from the Nion Robert Thieriot Foundation.
"We received overwhelming support from individual donors," said Schroeder. "These reserves will forever be preserved for wildlife and open to the public for hiking, hunting, walking and quietly enjoying."