Connecticut River

Walk the Walk, Talk the Talk

As a relatively new rescue-dog owner, I can personally attest to the mental and physical health benefits of walking and hiking. There is not a season, or a day that goes by, wherein I don't have to take my energetic dog on a lengthy walk or hike. Since we adopted her, nearly 4 years ago, I have discovered numerous walking and hiking areas in the Pioneer Valley. I enjoy them all immensely, for various reasons. And, while I admit that there are days when I dread the walk - once I am out, moving my body, breathing in the fresh air and enjoying the beautiful scenery of the Northampton area- the dread washes away and is replaced with gratitude.

Check out this recent article in the Daily Hampshire Gazette which highlights some local hiking areas to enjoy this summer (spring, fall and winter as well!)

Five serene treks that can promote physical and mental well-being

  • A walking path at Atkins Reservoir in Amherst Staff Photo/Andy Castillo

  • By ANDY CASTILLO
    @AndyCCastillo

Monday, August 06, 2018

Ahead in a clearing lies a pine tree. Sunlight, filtering down through a leafy canopy illuminates its bare branches. There’s nothing to be heard but the gentleness of wind and the sweet trill of birdsong, which echos through towering oak trunks and across the many vernal pools scattered throughout Arcadia Wildlife Sanctuary.

I’ve walked through these woods many times, having grown up in Northampton near the Big Y shopping plaza on King Street. Not far away, a great blue heron stalks cautiously forward into a tributary of the Mill River, startling a deer, which raises its head from grazing in the reeds. Peace reigns over the clearing for a little while. But it doesn’t last.

It’s broken, suddenly, by two squirrels. They leap, one after the other, down from a tree and into dry leaves that outline a narrow path ahead of me, which winds on for four miles through the nature preserve’s 724 acres, which is spread across Northampton and Easthampton.

While familiar, the scene never gets old. And, even though I’ve watched Hampshire County’s commercial industry and its neighborhoods expand over the last few decades, I still find it easy to escape into the quietness of nature, for my physical and mental health, on readily accessible trails throughout the region.

Below are a few of my favorites, close to my hometown, where I still escape to for a peaceful walk.

 

Arcadia Wildlife Sanctuary, Easthampton

The trails at Arcadia Wildlife Sanctuary, maintained by the Massachusetts Audubon Society, are open to the public from dawn until dusk. The preserve’s terrain is diverse, ranging from forest, to grasslands, to wetlands, and the walking paths aren’t too strenuous. Native flora is prevalent along the trails, as is wildlife, which can be viewed from a tower overlooking the Mill River.

A variety of trails, which include an 850-foot loop over crushed stone with a guide rope along the side, are accessible from a parking area at 127 Combs Road in Easthampton. Next to the parking area, there’s a nature center where events are held throughout the year. Audio tours that coincide with the trails can be listened to by calling 413-272-0006. Admission is $4 for adults and $3 for children and seniors. Members are free.

Directions: Arcadia Wildlife Sactuary is at 127 Combs Road, Easthampton. From Route 10, turn onto Lovefield Street, which isn’t far from Valley Recycling, take a left onto Clapp Street, another left onto Old Springfield Road, and an immediate left onto Combs Road. From East Street, turn onto Fort Hill Road, pass Fort Hill Brewery, take a right onto Old Springfield Road, and an immediate left onto Combs Road.

 

Fitzgerald Lake Conservation Area, Northampton

The dock at Fitzgerald Lake, which is about a two- minute walk from a parking area at North Farms Road in Northampton, provides a quick respite from the busyness of life. Even though it’s not far from a few of the Pioneer Valley’s main thoroughfares, with Route 9 on one side and Route 5 on the other, while standing at the end of the dock surrounded by reeds, it feels as though you’re miles from civilization.

From the dock, a two-mile trail leads around the lake to a dam on the other side, and from there, another mile or so of trail connects to a second parking area at the former Moose Lodge off of Cooke Avenue. The lake itself is artificial, and shallow, created when the dam was made in the 1960s. Growing up, jogging to the dam from the Moose Lodge, or around the lake from North Farms Road to Cook Avenue, were favorite running and mountain biking routes of mine. The trail system, which includes a shorter loop that takes about 10 to 15 minutes to walk near the dock, can also be accessed from Marian Street and Coles Meadow Road. Trails are mostly protected from the sun by forest canopy and traverse rocky sections and cross small sections of grassland and wind through the woods that surround the lake.

Wildlife can be seen from various lookout points along the way, including a wildlife observation blind, and sections of the trail pass close by large swamps. The conservation area is maintained by the Broad Brook Coalition, a nonprofit organization, and the Northampton Conservation Commission.

More information on walking the trails, which are free and open to the public, can be found at www.broadbrookcoalition.org.

Directions:61 North Farms Road, Northampton. The North Farms Road access point has gravel-lot parking, and features an accessible paved path, bridge and boardwalk out to the dock. 196 Cooke Avenue (former Moose Lodge, up behind the Northampton Walmart), features an entry point to the trails and street parking on the right side of an unpaved lot. Marian Street: Entrance and street parking. Coles Meadow Road: Entrance and street parking.

Robert Frost Trail, Amherst

While there are many sections of the Robert Frost Trail, which stretches 47 miles from South Hadley to Wendell, my favorite section can be found just off of Cushman Road in Amherst next to the Atkins Reservoir. Across from the trailhead is a short walking path that leads along the reservoir’s edge, which is another beautiful place for a peaceful and short walk.

The natural colors along the trail are vivid and change with each season. In the spring, aquatic plants pop from the blue water in vibrant yellow tones.

Summertime brings a Jurassic torrent of green that’s tempered come fall by the rustic orange grace of autumn. And in the winter, the redness of dead leaves lining narrow streams, bubbling from the adjacent Adams Brook, contrasts with the whiteness of untouched snow.

The trail is aptly named in honor of Frost, the great American poet, as it highlights the simple beauty of New England’s woods. I often escape here, alone, to find inspiration in nature. A few other sections of the Robert Frost Trail that I particularly appreciate include one that leads around Puffers Pond, and another in Sunderland at the Mount Toby State Forest near Cranberry Pond, which has a beautiful trail system, albeit a little challenging, of its own.

Directions: Area of 60 Cushman Road, Amherst. The entrance to the Robert Frost Trail is on the right, across from the Atkins Reservoir, and there’s a narrow pull-off for parking nearby. From Bridge Street, which passes by Cushman Common and Cushman Market and Cafe and turns into East Leverett Road, turn right onto Market Hill Road. From there, drive straight about a mile and a half, continuing on after the street turns into Cushman Road, to the pull-off.

The Arthur F. Kinney Center for Interdisciplinary Renaissance Studies, Amherst

Mowed paths crisscross 28 sprawling acres at the Arthur F. Kinney Center for Interdisciplinary Renaissance Studies at the University of Massachusetts Amherst. From a house built to look like a Renaissance cottage, home to the center, the paths sweep down a grassy hill filled with native flora and birds, which dive after crickets and other insects. At the top, next to a period era garden, a few of the trails lead into a wooded section.

It’s a beautiful place for an evening walk around sunset because of the expansive view from the top, and because many of the walking paths are completely exposed to the sun. The trails are open to the public all the time, but the center, at 650 East Pleasant St., Amherst, is only open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. At closing time, a gate at Pleasant Street is locked, and any cars still in the parking lot must call campus police to get out. Elsewhere, cars can also park on nearby side streets.

Directions:650 East Pleasant St., Amherst, not far from the North Amherst Fire Station and the University of Massachusetts Amherst’s main campus. The center has a gravel lot, which closes at 5 p.m., and there’s additional parking at nearby streets such as Sherman Lane, which is across the road. 

Fort River Birding and Nature Trail, Hadley

A one-mile-long pathway, carved into the landscape, leads through diverse habitats, ranging from grasslands to wetlands and forest, at the Fort River Birding and Nature Trail in Hadley, which is in the Silvio O. Conte National Fish and Wildlife Refuge. The path, which was completed a few years ago, is mostly gravel, graded to accommodate wheelchairs, and traverses over vernal pools and woodland areas that would otherwise be inaccessible.

The pathway itself is beautiful — sometimes it’s elevated on stilts — carefully designed to highlight quintessential elements of Connecticut River’s watershed, such as tributaries, vernal pools, and the surrounding forest. At a few different points along the way there are shaded gazebos and platforms with seating areas that overlook particularly beautiful areas for birdwatching.

It’s the perfect place for a morning or afternoon walk, although it can be hot at times because some sections of trail aren’t covered. Come evening, especially in the spring and summer months, mosquitos are out in force.

Directions: 63 Moody Bridge Road, Hadley. From South Maple Street, which is one of the back roads to the Hampshire Mall from Northampton, turn onto Moody Bridge Road at the four-way stop sign. The nature trail is at the end of a dirt turn-off on the right, as indicated by a small sign.

Andy Castillo can be reached at acastillo@gazettenet.com.

43 Fair Street in Northampton, revisited!

Fall is upon us, and our listing at 43 Fair Street is still available, much to our surprise! This lovingly renovated 1756 sf, 3 bedroom, 2 bath farmhouse sits on a 1/2 acre lot, abutting the fairgrounds in downtown Northampton. It has been renovated top to bottom, inside and out by the previous owners, and maintained and improved upon by the current owners. Central A/C was installed just this summer! This house has the charm of a farmhouse, with all the modern conveniences and energy efficiency of a new home. Come take a look at this special house, which is a stone's throw to downtown Northampton, the entrance to 91 and the bridge to Hadley and Amherst. From the peaceful front porch, to the open concept living/dining room and kitchen, to the pellet stove, the hardwood floors and clawfoot tub in the downstairs bath - this house oozes charm and character.

The price has recently been lowered to $319,000!

To follow is a testimonial from the current owners, describing what they have loved about their home and the proximity to the fairgrounds.

"People always ask - What's it like living next to the fairgrounds.  Well, we have loved it!  Contrary to peoples' assumptions, it's quieter and less noisy here than other parts of town because of the fairgrounds.  Sure, the 3-County Fair in the fall is quite an event (and we get free tickets), and for that weekend our street is busy, but we hardly notice the other fairground events throughout the year.  Throughout the summer there are horseshows, but all of the stalls, barns and trailer parking are on the other side of the fairgrounds, so we get to enjoy the views of the horses without all of the traffic.  The Morgan Horse Show comes in the middle of the summer and is longer than the other shows - about a week and a bit busier, but it's not a bother and we've always enjoyed walking across the street to watch the evening events.  The fall, winter and spring are all quiet.  We've always thought that it was the best of both worlds - like living in the country, but so close to town.

 

- Owners of 43 Fair Street, Northampton MA"

 

Living room with pellet stove

 

Kitchen with view to dining room

 

Master bedroom

 

Second bedroom

 

Spacious back yard

 

Beautiful front porch. Curb appeal

 

Many Uses for our River

Ever since our daughter discovered sea kayaking a few summers ago - she likes to bring up the idea of purchasing a couple of canoes for our family every year when the weather warms up.  Though we have been members of the Holyoke Canoe Club since she was 2 years old, we use it for the pool and the tennis courts, as well as the views of the lovely Connecticut River - we have yet to become a boating family. That said, one of the reasons we love living in Northampton is it's proximity to the Connecticut River.

Kayaking is something my children and I love to do, even though we have not yet figured out the logistics of using the river for this purpose.  I hold out hope that one of my children will someday join the crew team, and I love that there are options for grown ups who want to row here as well.  I was so excited to read the following article in the Daily Hampshire Gazette about the contruction of a new boathouse, which suggests that Northampton Community Rowing will be offering kayak rentals, and expanded classes and programs as the boathouse and construction of a park along the water are completed.  Read on here for more details.
 

Hamp Crew boathouse rises on new city-owned riverside park in Northampton


The launch site of Northampton Community Rowing.


By EMMA KOLCHIN-MILLER
Gazette Contributing Writer
Thursday, May 21, 2015

NORTHAMPTON -- Northampton Community Rowing is finishing construction of a boathouse beside the Connecticut River, a project that's part of the new 11-acre Connecticut River Greenway Park owned by the city.

Use of the boathouse, located off Damon Road north of the River Run condominium complex, will enable the nonprofit group Hamp Crew to move

from the Oxbow area into the open river for better training conditions. Hamp Crew offers rowing classes and competitive programs for youth and adults in the Pioneer Valley.

"We would really like to get people to the River -- not just rowers. I've lived here 15 years and it's always amazed me that so few people actually access the river," said Dorrie Brooks, who chairs the boathouse building committee. "We hope that we can open it up to people and get more people down to it, because it's an amazing spiritual experience to be able to spend time on the River."

To mark the occasion, the group invites people to visit this Sunday from 3 to 5 p.m.


The city will finish work on the boathouse site within two months, according to Wayne Feiden, Northampton's director of planning and sustainability.
Feiden said the city hopes the park and boathouse will connect city residents to the river, especially those who live at River Run.
"Northampton has this incredible river, but it's not as much a part of people's lives," Feiden said. "One of our goals is to make sure every neighborhood in the city is served by the Parks and Recreation Department. River Run is one of our most underserved neighborhoods."

The rowing group also hopes the site will make the river more accessible in general.

"We hope to grow our membership and get more people involved with rowing and kayaking, but even beyond that we hope to be stewards of this dock and of this site so that people can feel comfortable bringing their own kayaks down," Brooks said.

While boathouse construction was to be finished Friday, Brooks said the group and the city discourage people from bringing boats until the city finishes site preparation in two months.

The boathouse is a 45-by-80-foot half-cylinder with a steel frame. Mounds of dirt from construction work speckle the site around it, though there is room for multiple "ergs," or rowing machines, which roughly 50 rowers, friends and family were using on Wednesday afternoon.

Hamp Crew boats will fill the boathouse, which does not have plumbing or changing rooms, though there are portable toilets outside. Brooks said NCR hopes to rent storage space for boats outside as a source of revenue and will also eventually purchase kayaks and canoes to rent out.

A path of a little more than 100 yards, which Feiden said will have an adjacent wheelchair-accessible path, runs from the dock to the boathouse. The path continues to the parking lot, which has over 30 spaces. Between the parking lot and the road is a contractor's yard owned by Lane Construction, the company that gave the city the land for the park.

A rowing community

Brooks, who rowed in college and rediscovered the sport as an adult, said rowing is special because it requires a concentration comparable to "meditation." Though many adults love to row, Brooks said rowing particularly benefits young people because it teaches teamwork and leadership. "They have to rig and derig boats to go to races, they have to take them out in this water and navigate them in the wind, and they're coxing them," Brooks said.

"It's a little bit more technical and more teamwork-oriented for a sport than a lot of other things," she said.

Youth rowers said the teamwork involved lets them build bonds with rowers from across the Valley. "I consider it the ultimate team sport, because you actually can't do it without every single person," said Sarah Callahan, 17, who lives in Northampton and is the varsity girls squad captain. "You build a bond with the boat, and it's just a fantastic feeling."

"I like that I get to meet kids from other schools," said Maggie White, 16, who attends the Williston Northampton School. "In my boat I'm the only person from my school, so I got to know everyone from all over the area, which is really nice."

Dylan Walter, 14, of Shutesbury, loves the powerful feeling of rowing. "There's nothing quite like knowing that you are moving something 40 feet long and about 200 pounds through the water at 20 feet per second," Walter said.

Rowers also said the Connecticut River provides better conditions than the Connecticut River OxBow, an extension of the river to the south out of which the group previously operated.

"When we were on the OxBow, we would have to turn around every five to eight minutes, depending on what we were doing, and we lost so much practice time," Callahan said. "I'm so happy that we're finally here and we have the freedom to do what we want to do."

Head rowing coach Erin Andersen agreed. "As far as the efficiency of practice, you can't beat it. It's just really nice being on such a straight stretch of water, such a wide part of the river," Andersen said.

Andersen noted that the group will be able to offer more programming at the Connecticut River. "We were pretty limited on the classes that we could offer because we shared the boathouse with the Oxbow ski team, so we weren't able to offer any evening or afternoon programs during the summer," Andersen said. "This year we're really trying to expand our programs and offer a lot of evening learn-to-rows and more advanced classes."

Collaboration with city

Hamp Crew and the city are collaborating to open the boathouse and park, for which the city attained a $400,000 state grant and a $190,000 Community Preservation Act grant.

Feiden said the rowing club helped "leverage the grant" by pledging to raise $120,000 for the site and to build a boathouse, which Brooks said costs the group an additional $80,000.

According to Brooks, Hamp Crew is still $30,000 short and will continue to fundraise. Clearspan Buildings of Windsor, Connecticut, which sold the group the boathouse frame and is overseeing construction, will accept payment over three to five years.

The city's longterm plan is to create trails near the river, including a bike path up to Hatfield, according to Feiden.

"Our interest in the river is not just individual parks along the river, but a whole greenway that goes up and down the river," Feiden said.

Brooks said that like the city, Hamp Crew wants to connect the community with the river, now that it has rebounded from earlier pollution. "The river defines the history of the Valley, it defines the economy of the Valley, and to some degree it defines the culture of the Valley," Brooks said. "But people are only now starting to get back to it."

 

Testing the Connecticut River

I came across this article today in the Daily Hampshire Gazette, Northampton's local newspaper.  Since many of us living in the PioneerValley tend to spend a good deal of time in local bodies of water during the summertime (and beyond), I thought it would be a good idea to repost this information for our readers.  How healthy is our beautiful and picturesque Connecticut River?

Agencies team up for first 'Samplepalooza' to test Connecticut River

health

By DIANE BRONCACCIO Recorder Staff
Just how pollutant-free is the Connecticut River, from the top of Vermont to the Long Island Sound? A group of agencies will pool their efforts Wednesday to collect data on nitrogen and phosphorous content, along with other algae-growing nutrients, during a one-day water-testing event they are calling "Samplepalooza 2014." Teams of volunteers and professionals will visit at least 50 locations on the Connecticut River and its tributaries, covering more than 1,000 river-miles in Massachusetts, Vermont and New Hampshire. They will be taking water samples and testing for phosphorous, chloride, pollutants and nutrients, which can cause algae blooms that choke oxygen from the water. Nitrogen from the Connecticut River and other rivers entering the Long Island Sound has been determined to be the cause of a "dead zone" documented by researchers, according to the Connecticut River Watershed Council. Local samples will be taken near Route 10 in Northfield, in the Millers River, near the Erving/Wendell line, in the Deerfield River in Deerfield and along Fort River in Hadley, said Andrea Donlon, river steward for the watershed council. "What we're trying to get is a sense of -- on the same day, with no rain -- how these places compare with one another in terms of nitrogen, phosphorous and other nutrients," Donlon explained. This strategy allows for more accurate comparisons to be made among samples while minimizing differences in weather and river flow. Donlon said Connecticut has already done a lot of work trying to reduce nutrients that lead to oxygen depletion in Long Island Sound, but that the upper states along the 410-mile river have not done as much research. She said the findings from this sampling might help the upper states decide "how to get the most bang for their buck" by targeting cleanup efforts on locations that are most in need of improvement. "This effort is a one-day-only snapshot of the nutrient levels," said Donlon. Emily Bird, an environmental analyst for the New England Interstate Water Pollution Control Commission in Lowell, said that portions of Long Island Sound bottom waters become hypoxic during summer months. Hypoxic means the water lacks adequate oxygen for aquatic life. She said excess discharges of nutrients such as nitrogen cause excess algae growth; when the algae dies, it sinks to the bottom and decomposes. The decomposition process uses up oxygen in the water. Between 1987 and 2000, the size of Long Island Sound's hypoxic area averaged 208 square miles. From 2000 to 2013, after a plan was adopted to reduce nitrogen loading to Long Island Sound, the area of hypoxia was reduced to an average of 176 square miles. From 1987 until 2013, the average duration of the hypoxia has been about 58 days. Groups participating in this effort include the Connecticut River Watershed Council, New Hampshire Department of Environmental Services, the Vermont Department of Environmental Conservation, Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.