Earlier this week I rode across the Manhan Rail Trail, from Northampton to Easthampton to see for myself how things were progressing on both the installation of the bridge over the Manhan River, and the 3/4 mile new trail extension to the Southampton border.
I’m happy to say that I saw progress on both fronts.
An article on the path’s progress in the Springfield Republican paper, Easthampton’s Manhan Rail Trail Extension Could Create Link in Region-wide Bike Path Network, reported last week that although the new trail section is not due to be completed until Spring, the contractor seems to be ahead of schedule and should be done this year.
When I arrived at the current end of the Manhan Rail Trail at South Street, I saw the path ahead had been staked out, cleared of old rails, and seemingly prepared for a first coat of asphalt. Of course, I had forgotten my camera, but I’ll get back there as soon as the heat wave breaks! The Republican article includes a nice picture of the view I had, but more progress had been made on the date of my visit. From what I saw, I can’t imagine that they couldn’t be finished within weeks with diligence, but certainly this Fall.
The progress of the bridge over the Manhan River was not quite so evident. I saw a covered tower of hay bails used to contain work site run-off and some heavy construction equipment parked nearby, but no actual clearing or other signs of activity.
The completion of these projects puts much closer the ability of travelers to go from the Belchertown line in Western Massachusetts, all the way into Connecticut completely on scenic, off-road rail trails along the Columbia River Greenway, the Farmington River Greenway and the Mass Central Rail Trail [all the same path, but with different names in different towns].
Without the two missing links, Southampton and Westfield, there will be about 26 miles of continuous trail from the Amherst/Belchertown line at Station Road to South Street at Easthampton/Southampton.
Westfield is developing their elevated, multiply-bridged trail section. Southampton is considering going forward with trail development. [Read the comments on this post for more information on the history of Southampton’s deliberations.]
I sincerely hope that Southampton does move forward, and that riding these trails becomes a reality. The Republican article includes remarks from the Southampton Town Administrator that the town is much more open to trail development than in the past. C’mon Southampton, we need you!