Jacob's Ladder Trail Scenic Byway soon to be home to entrance for Barlow Farm trailhead

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LEE — After six years of planning, securing permits and fundraising, the Lee Land Trust has finally broken ground on an entrance to an established hiking trail through one of the town's historic homesteads.

The preservation group is constructing a short driveway and small parking lot of a section of Route 20 providing formal access to a 1.5-mile loop trail off the section of the state highway known as the Jacob's Ladder Trail Scenic Byway.

The 33-mile byway is the designated historic section of Route 20 from Exit 2 of the Massachusetts Turnpike in Lee to Russell.

"That [hiking] trail has been in place for several years, but without any access," said Linda Cysz, project coordinator for the nonprofit group.

The entrance and rustic pathway is part of a public recreation area for 35 acres of the 100-acre Barlow family farm bisected by Route 20. The remaining 65 acres is across the road and remains undisturbed.

The Barlows were among Lee's earliest settlers of "Dodgetown" in 1760, which would later become part of Lee when it was incorporated as a town in 1777.

The trail reaches a vista overlooking Goose Pond and is close to the Appalachian Trail, but doesn't connect to either recreational use.

"It's nice and quiet up there and the trail is close to town for all to enjoy," Cysz noted.

The Lee Land Trust hired HMA Contracting from the Albany, N.Y. area to create the enhanced trailhead that will include a picnic area, bike rack and kiosk of information such as a map of the trail loop, history of the property owners and the site's relevance to the scenic byway.

Work began two weeks ago and should be completed before summer, according to Cysz. Federal, state and private money is funding the nearly $200,000 project that was supposed to get underway almost two years ago. Cysz says initial bids were well above the budgeted amount of $170,000, requiring the land trust to seek out funds from private sources and the Berkshire Regional Planning Commission.

In addition, the Massachusetts Department of Transportation, according to Cysz, was slow to grant permission for the work along the state highway.

The land trust contacted state Rep. William "Smitty" Pignatelli for help and last fall, MassDOT finally gave the go-ahead, according to Cysz.

"We don't want to disturb the site, so we have kept the work to a minimum," she said.

The land trust, assisted by the Pioneer Valley Planning Commission, hired Foresight Land Services to design the driveway/parking area.

The project called for removing a partially caved in century-old home from the site, before the entrance could be built.

The Lee Land Trust acquired the 100-acre Barlow property from Donato E. Cedrone of East Lee and Newtonville who bequeathed it to the trust after his death in 2000. Cedrone had purchased the homestead from the Barlow family in 1956. The land trust project and trail will link the 35-acre preserve called "Barlow's Acres" with the 112 acres of land managed by The Trustees of Reservations that is wedged between the Barlow property and Goose Pond. The Trustees of Reservations is a statewide nonprofit that oversees 102 properties and historic structures, such as the Mission House and Naumkeag, both in Stockbridge.

Reach staff writer Dick Lindsay at 413-496-6233


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