Clark Art Institute makes trails interactive

Saturday September 22, 2012

WILLIAMSTOWN -- The popular and scenic trails at the Clark Art Institute now have a new level of interactivity and learning. Clark staff, with the help of landscape architects and local horticultural consultants, have installed 11 stations along the trails.

Since 1973, the trails winding through the forest and pastures on the 140 acres Clark campus have been popular with both locals and visitors.

"The trails make Clark a unique museum," said Matthew Noyes, horticulturist and grounds manager at the Clark. "Most museums are in urban areas. But here, there's a certain tranquility in walking though a museum viewing artwork, and there's also something tranquil about wandering along a trail in the forest."

Noyes and his crew posted numbers at each station, which cues the walker to check the trails brochure for the corresponding number. There they will find a short description of what to look for and how it relates to the area's biological history or the surrounding habitat.

"This has always been a passive experience," Noyes said. "The idea now is to engage our visitors on a whole new level. And it fits very well with the expansion project that is so focused on sustainability, which makes the local ecosystem so much more important."

Some of the trails have been built off existing paths that date back to the 1930s or even earlier, all the way back to colonial times.

In 1973, the Woodland trail was established with local help from Hank Art and Hank Flynt. The landscape architectural firm of Reed Hilderbrand developed the landscape master plan and the Howard and Nan Trails, Noyes said.

Local school classes, and even Williams College classes, visit the trails regularly in their quest to better define their surroundings.

"We should take advantage of any chance we have to engage young people in their natural surroundings," Noyes said. "It only benefits us all."

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