Ok, envision this – one sunny day you pull out the bike, & decide to go for a jaunt. Not having any particular destination in mind, you pop onto the bike path, the western section of the Mass Central Rail Trail, and head West/South. Knowing that riding on the rail trail is a good way to clear the head and bicycle without worrying about traffic. Before you know it, you’ve biked through downtown Easthampton, zipped through Southampton, then suddenly find yourself in downtown Westfield. Whoa, how did that happen!
It happened through the persistent hard work and dedication of hundreds of volunteers over years and years. We’re not quite there yet, but that lovely bike ride through scenic Western Massachusetts could take place within the next few years.
Right now, you can ride from Belchertown at the Eastern most end through Amherst, Hadley, Northampton, and Easthampton to the Southampton line. Quite a nice long ride, over 40 miles round trip encompassing the Norwottuck Rail Trail and the Manhan Rail Trail.
Southampton’s not yet developed, but those dedicated volunteers are working hard to build community support, secure funding, design the trail and get it built.
Here’s an update on where things stand in Southampton, posted by Southampton Committee Chair Michael Buehler.
1. The Feasibility Study was finally completed and accepted by the Select
Board in April 2011. Copies of the study may be found with Regi at Town
Hall and at the Library.
2. On the strength of the study, in October 2011 the Select Board
established a 7-person committee charged with facilitating a) acquisition of the rail corridor from the Pioneer Valley Railroad and b) the design and construction of a trail along the corridor from the terminus of the Manhan Rail Trail at Coleman Road extending south to Rt. 10 near Sheldon’s.
3. Committee members include Karen Adamski, Bob Barcomb, Doric Dods, Courtney Haff, Gary Thomas, April West, and myself. The Committee holds more-or-less bi-weekly public meetings, usually (though not always!) on Tuesdays at 7pm at the Edwards Library.
4. Early on the Committee made a strategic decision to focus our efforts on acquisition of the corridor, with design and construction issues to come later. This decision was based on a) the fact that successful acquisition is a pre-condition for everything else, and b) the fact that we are still a new committee with limited resources and a very steep learning curve.
5. To date our efforts have focused roughly on three areas, for each of
which we have established separate working groups: a) identifying potential funding streams; b) negotiating with the Pioneer Valley Railroad; and c) engaging in outreach to the citizens, town leaders, our elected representatives in Boston, and other Greenway groups.
6. We are making progress on all fronts, though given our resources and
learning curve (see #4, above) it can be slow going at times. Some
highlights include a) a decision to apply for a state LAND grant (the type
of grant that funded acquisition of the Searle property that is now the Wolf Hill Conservation land); b) the expressed support of both Sen. Knapik and Rep. Kocot for our work, which we hope could lead to a legislative earmark for funds to support acquisition; c) good working relationships established with the Pioneer Valley Railroad, the Pioneer Valley Planning Commission, the Friends of the Columbia Greenway in Westfield, and other groups; and d) the “re-activation” of the Friends group, with hopefully a first event to come in May.
7. Probably in contrast to previous efforts, our very strong sense is that
this time around there is broad underlying support in the Town for a trail. We hear this in our personal conversations, where maybe 80-90% of those we speak with show support, in some survey data obtained by the Master Planning Committee, and in expressions of support in meetings we’ve had with the Select Board (which after all created the Committee), Conservation Commission and Community Preservation Commission. Probably the single biggest factor putting “wind in our sails” is the completion of the Manhan Trail to Coleman RoadŠ now it seems that LOTS of Southampton residents are riding that Trail and wondering why we don’t have our own.
All this is good progress, we have a strong Committee with a diverse range of skills and willingness to “put the time in,” and we are very optimistic about ultimate success of the project, but at times it feels like going.
So, we ENCOURAGE EVERYONE TO GET INVOLVED!!! Some ways to do this would be to:
A. Come to one of our public Committee meetings, usually every other
Tuesday at 7pm at the Library. PLEASE NOTE, HOWEVER, that our next meeting
is this Tuesday the 27th at 7pm in the TOWN HALL BREAK ROOM.
B. Have a look at our meeting minutes, posted on line at
http://www.town.southampton.ma.us/minutes.php#*19(Greenway Committee at very bottom of page.)
C. Explore with us whether there are ways to get involved in the work of
the Committee. We currently have a full complement of 7, but over time
there will naturally be turnover with a need for new members. In the mean while, there are ways “auxiliary” or “associate” members could probably be of the greatest assistance, for example in information gathering, helping us engage in systematic outreach to the many Trail abutters, etc., etc.
D. Get involved with the “re-activated” Friends group, which is going to
need LOTS of volunteers over the next few years. They can be reached at info (AT) Southamptongreenway.org.
E. Spread the word! Forward this update to your friends, let people know what’s going on, and let town leaders know how much this matters to you!
I hope this update is helpful. PLEASE feel free to get in touch if I can
answer any questions or if you have any suggestions.
Michael Buehler, Chair
Southampton Greenway Committee [Emphasis added][Thanks to Craig Della Penna for posting this to the MassBike Pioneer Valley email list.]
Southampton is an important part of the rail trail system. The on-road direct route between Southampton and Westfield can be narrow and have fast moving traffic. Not easy biking for casual cyclists.
Please, do get involved, help the Southampton of the Columbia Greenway/Mass Central Rail Trail come to completion. Thank the folks who are involved, and if you’re a Southampton resident, express your support of the project to your neighbors.