Hikers, mountain bikers and snowmobilers can expect more-accessible Berkshire trails, thanks to new state funding worth more than $421,000.
The MassTrails Grants program has awarded tens of thousands of dollars to 11 Berkshires projects. The money will cover new or repaired equipment, upgraded trails, new natural pathways and improved access to trailheads.
The $421,000 is about 10 percent of the $4 million the state doled out to 55 projects. All recipients had to provide a partial monetary match.
Despite the Berkshires' relatively small share, state Sen. Adams Hinds, D-Pittsfield, welcomed the financial support for ecotourism.
"This creates an infrastructure for all to enjoy the natural beauty at our back door," Hinds said.
Three snowmobile clubs were the big winners, garnering four of the 11 Berkshire grants, amounting to $208,000.
The Savoy Kanary Kats Snowmobile Club landed two grants, one for $46,851 to help pay for a new utility vehicle and its upkeep. In addition, the grant will fund the replacement of decking on three trail bridges. The club maintains 74 miles of trails in Savoy, Hawley, Plainfield and Windsor.
The Kanary Kats also will spend nearly $52,000 toward the hardening of the Tilton Brook and Shaker trails. Club President David Purple says part of the path with the worst erosion and washouts will be firmed up.
"The two sections of trail we will work on tend to be wetter and have poor drainage. Users in the summertime have a mucky mess," Purple said.
Scott Fortini, president of the Florida Mountaineers, says that club's $67,000 grant will pay for repairs and upkeep of three large track machines used to groom snow.
Fortini says the groomers, more than 20 years old, take a beating on the 50 miles of trails that the Mountaineers manage.
"Our trail system has challenging terrain. It's more about the steepness and rocks," he said.
Fortini says the trail maintenance benefits all users, not just snowmobilers, especially in Monroe.
"The Monroe State Forest is used by mountain bikes and hikers and has a popular overlook," he said.
The Berkshire Snow Seekers was the third local snowmobile club to get a MassTrails grant, worth $42,300, to buy parts for the club's Tucker Sno-Cats — trail grooming machines.
The other seven Berkshire grant recipients for 2020 are:
- $50,000: The Department of Conservation and Recreation will use the grant to rebuild about 3 miles of the Washington Mountain Marsh Trail. The work will increase accessibility, including a quarter-mile section that is handicap-accessible.
- $36,911: Funding will aid the Berkshire Natural Resources Council's improvement plan for the Old Mill Trail on its 127-acre reserve in Dalton and Hinsdale. The project includes an upgrade for the parking area and connecting the lot to the trailhead.
- $34,350: The DCR plans to buy a year-round vehicle for maintenance and emergency rescue, especially in remote sections, of October Mountain State Forest. At 16,500 acres, October Mountain is the largest of the commonwealth's state forests.
- $32,861: The Williamstown Rural Lands Foundation will use the grant to realign the lower section of Berlin Pass Trail, which follows a badly eroded former roadbed dating to the 1700s.
- $25,000: The Western Massachusetts Climbers Coalition will use the money to expand and improve public access to land it owns as part of Hanging Mountain. The coalition is developing a public rock-climbing area and trails.
- $21,410: In summer 2021, the young adult group Greenagers-Berkshires will construct an interpretive hiking trail through property owned and maintained by the Bidwell House Museum in Monterey.
- $13,005: The Massachusetts Appalachian Trail Ridge Runner Program will hire a seasonal worker to provide hikers with information, as well as help volunteers maintain the trail and its overnight facilities.
Dick Lindsay can be reached at email@example.com.
This story has been amended to correct the percentage of the total state allocation coming to Berkshire projects.