Southampton Rail Trail Progress

Southampton appears poised to join the greenway parade!

Today’s Daily Hampshire Gazette (subscription required) has an article on p. B3 about last night’s Southampton Select Board Meeting action approving moving the rail trail project forward.

Southampton is the only Massachusetts community along the greenway between Northampton, MA,  and New Haven, CT, which does not have  its portion of the New Haven & Northampton Canal rail trail in at least the design phase. Last week, I wrote about Westfield’s progress in developing their three sections of trail.

The trail goes by many names, Farmington River Greenway in Connecticut, Columbia River Greenway, Manhan Rail Trail, Norwottuck Rail Trail in various Massachusetts communities. But getting them all connected and bikable is a goal that many in the Pioneer Valley share.

Right now, you can cycle the variously named paths from the Amherst-Belchertown line all the way to one mile shy of the Easthampton-Southampton town line. (That mile will be developed this spring.) Along the way, you pass through Hadley and Northampton. In these communities you’ll find hotels, restaurants, shops, bike shops, parks, rivers, urban stretches, and quiet places to view wildlife. Beautiful bike riding. On the south side of Southampton and Westfield, the trail through Southwick, MA into northern Connecticut is completed for 22 miles of uninterrupted biking.

Putting Southampton and Westfield bike paths on line will bring increased tourism, and make the entire region more attractive to prospective home owners. Don’t believe me? Check out this quote from a news report by Springfield, MA, CBS3 when the Southwick section opened last year:

“People are coming from Suffield, [CT] and they are coming to Southwick.” said Daniel Call, Southwick’s Commissioner of the Park and Recreation Department. “They get up here to The Red Basket and Gino’s and they buy something. They buy something here. That’s the economic benefit of it.” [Emphasis added.]

The Gazette article notes that the Select Board study committee is sponsoring an information session on May 17 to present its report and findings.

If you are a Southampton resident, or know of one, please put this meeting on your calendar.  Show your interest by being informed about this bike path and being able to express your informed support to your neighbors.

How exciting to be a cyclist living in Paradise City!


About Pedal Paradise

Cyclist, Mom, Travel Nut, Bike Riding Empower-er!
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11 Responses to Southampton Rail Trail Progress

  1. That is correct. S’ton was the only community on the entire corridor to vote down the project. That was in the mid 90s. Now through the “drip method”, they are at “YES”.

    What is the “drip method” you ask? This was a series of speakers. Month after month for about 2 years where the speakers told how they built their trail in a small rural town much like Southampton. Drip, drip drip. month after month.

    Here’s many of the speakers and their presentations.

  2. Craig,

    It has been a long time – I wasn’t sure the process would ever come this far given the past resistance. At a certain point, it must become obvious to communities that being left out of this kind of low-impact development is just not smart in terms of economic development. Businesses and residents want to come to communities with recreation activities. Recreation activities which drop people at the door of business designed to serve them!

    Southwick is getting economic benefit from their trail and it’s been open less than a year. Any weekend on the Northampton path will show how popular this type of development is.

    I tip my hat to you and to all the people who’ve taken on the hard work to move communities to ‘YES!’

    Thanks for stopping by.


  3. Thanks for your kind words Gina. One of the reasons I decided to open my own RE firm in the depths of the worse RE recession in 75 years is that my rail trail advocacy days are really winding down. Looking at the inventory of of dead RR corridor in the northeast, it became apparent that there is very little left out there that hasn’t been built, or undergoing planning, or adopted by a friends group to get things moving. In fact every rail trail project that was voted down since the mid 1990s, has been resurrected and is moving forward. [Well there is one on the south coast of Mass–Westport– that I didn’t get around to resurrecting.]

    Every place else is inching forward in some fashion.

    I’ve even done some targeted ‘edgy’ stuff. I set up a land acquisition company to swoop in and buy former RR corridor that could be bought by adjacent landowners. I’d block them out, buy it myself, prevent the adjacents from damaging the corridor, and then get the local land trust to buy me out–for my costs + expenses [no mark up] when they could raise the money.

    I used this model to directly buy 3.5 miles of the corridor between Northampton and Boston–and indirectly buy another almost 10 miles of this line.

    I would then send out press releases to the newspaper local to that area and publically scold Mass DOT for allowing this resource to be sold off to adjacent landowners.

    I think I still have the website up at

  4. Pingback: Manhan Rail Trail Moves Closer to Southampton | Pedal Paradise

  5. Pingback: Southwick, MA Completes Columbia River Greenway | Pedal Paradise

  6. Pingback: Easthampton Manhan Rail Trail Extention Open | Pedal Paradise

  7. pete salomone says:

    Besides riders coming from Suffield to Red Riding Hood’s Basket, riders are coming from the trail head in Farmington and all points inbetween. Starting at the trail head we see a lot of our Avon, Simsbury & Granby biking buddies cycling to RRHB; made some new biking buddies too. It is our standard stop for brunch or lunch. Riding from the Southfield Store we came across Mass on 57 to reach RRHB, the second stop on the Gourmet Century.

    • Pete,

      This is good information on trail the trail’s usage. Thanks for reporting your experiences. It sounds like business has picked up at RRHB from the trail. I think that is generally what happens when a trail goes in, people come ride or walk, and spend some money. I think Westfield will see a similar uptick in visitors accessing their downtown storefronts once their trail section comes on-line. Yay!


  8. Pingback: Westfield Columbia Greenway Rail Trail Moves Forward | Pedal Paradise

  9. Erik Bell says:

    My family and I drove down from NH yesterday to ride the Manhan rail trail. We rode from Leeds down to the Southampton line. It was a beautiful trail and day. We spent $ in Northampton for lunch and more $ in Easthampton for ice cream. We also spent more $ in the area before our bike ride.
    When we came to the Southampton line, where the trai abruptly ends, I couldn’t help but wonder why the trail doesn’t continue. I googled Southampton Rail Trail and this site was one of the top results. Unfortunately, this was written back in 2011. It is now 2015. What is the problem in Southampton? Do they not realize that when Rail Trails are added property values always go up? Do residents not realize tha tourists like us come to the area and spend $???
    How about an update???

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