In move to stay hiker-friendly, Cheshire OKs town land for Appalachian Trail campers

Volunteers hike the stretch of the Appalachian Trail leading up to the Cheshire Cobbles lookout point in June 2018.

CHESHIRE — Living up to its moniker as an Appalachian Trail Community, Cheshire will allow hikers of the trail to camp overnight on town property.

The designated campsite on municipal land next to the town Highway Department, immediately off the trail, should be ready for use during the height of the 2020 hiking season, according to municipal officials.

"Basically, it's a place to pitch a tent, then take off the next day," said Select Board member Jason Levesque.

On Monday, Levesque formally proposed the project on behalf of the town to the Cheshire Planning Board. The board unanimously granted the necessary special permit, by a 5-0 vote, so the town could establish the camping area.

Hikers bedding down for the night near the Hoosic River will have access to town drinking water, use of a portable toilet and two picnic tables donated by the Appalachian Mountain Club. The Highway Department will handle the trash barrels provided to the hikers. Only tent camping will be allowed, as the town has no plans for a permanent shelter on the site.

Cheshire's Appalachian Trail Community Committee, working with town officials, has led the effort to carve out an official camping area, replacing the unofficial stopover.

For years, hikers of the trail have found respite on the grounds of St. Mary of the Assumption Church, but the Roman Catholic Diocese of Springfield plans to end that practice, according to church officials. Selec Board member Michelle Francesconi, speaking as the church's business manager, told the town planners that the hikers have been very respectful of the church property.

"We've never had an issue with trash. They policed the area well," she said.

Eileen Quinn of the local Appalachian Trail committee has said Cheshire needs to continue supporting hikers who avail themselves of the town center.

Appalachian Trail hikers often stop in Cheshire to grab a bite to eat, replenish supplies, receive packages at the post office or occasionally pitch a tent for the night, where permissible. Such hospitality earned Cheshire recognition as an Appalachian Trail Community in June 2018. The designation recognizes communities for their part in promoting awareness of the trail as an important national asset.

Cheshire joined Dalton, Great Barrington, North Adams and 42 other such-honored communities along the 2,175-mile-long trail from Georgia to Maine. Berkshire County contains the entire Massachusetts section of the trail.

Dick Lindsay can be reached at rlindsay@berkshireeagle.com and 413-496-6233.