Three proposed bike paths would form a continuous link between North Adams and Bennington, Vt. The most aspirational would follow an old interurban trolley route from Williamstown to the shire city. The portion across Williamstown will be under construction beginning this summer. The North Adams segment is a private initiative of the Tourists hotel.
The Hoosic River Watershed Association’s State of the River webinar — to be broadcast 7 p.m. Wednesday live on Zoom, on WilliNet channel 1303 in Williamstown and later on Bennington and North Adams public television — is titled “Tricycle: 3 Bennington/Berkshire Bike Path Proposals.” It will feature proponents Catherine Bryars and Mark Anders of the Bennington County Regional Commission, Williamstown Select Board member Andrew Hogeland and Tourists lead partner Ben Svenson. There should be time for questions and comments.
Joe Hall’s illustrated lecture on Bennington’s trolley lines for the Bennington Historical Society, some five years ago, sparked the idea of investigating 100-plus-year-old rights of way in the Route 7, 346 and back to Route 7 corridors for biking. The land has reverted to the abutters but for the most part lies open. Remains of berms, cattle crossings and bridges stand as placeholders. A committee has formed to pursue the project.
In August 2011 Tropical Storm Irene left the Spruces Mobile Home Park unusable for housing. Among the unexpected outcomes of that unfortunate event, a long proposed, already funded bike path was able to cross east-west trough Williamstown on only two, willing landowners’ properties: Williams College and the town itself. As a result, the route has been flagged, the plans drawn up and permits obtained. Come construction season, the digging and smoothing will begin, including bridging over the Green River.
Due to topography, railroad line and neighbors, multiple public efforts to bring a bike path from the Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art west have foundered, so the owners of Tourists have hired a planner who has drawn a possible route. This route is mostly on Tourists’ land, although it does require permission from some private landowners. And, of course, it requires funding. Can a private initiative, which would be open to the public, succeed, where public efforts have failed?
These three routes have in common that they run whole or in part along the Hoosic River. Even the Bennington path follows the river through Pownal. All routes are entirely within the Hoosic watershed, which includes the Walloomsac and its tributaries.
The watershed association believes that the more people get to know their rivers, the more they will take care of them. Pedaling beside rivers is a good way to meet rivers, their beauty, their song and their creatures. Bikers see things that those speeding by in automobiles miss. A river exists in its setting. The Hoosic watershed contains wooded mountains: Greylock, Anthony, the Greens, the Hoosacs, the Taconics. It contains town centers separated from each other and individual. It contains farmland. And a few stiff hills.
The Bennington/Berkshire route would accommodate transportation without carbon for those who wish to bike tour, commute and run errands.
At least, that’s how it looks from the White Oaks.