$118K to boost outdoor recreation, forestry practices in four towns
|Published: 09-24-2023 2:05 PM
Four Franklin County towns received a total of $117,637 as part of a $460,000 round of Woodlands Partnership Grants from the Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs that will be used to improve access to outdoor recreation in town and state forests, improve the safety of outdoor recreation and implement climate-smart forestry practices.
“We’re investing in Massachusetts’ rural communities to unlock the full potential of our forests — from tourism, to recreation, to robust economic development,” Energy and Environmental Affairs Secretary Rebecca Tepper said in a statement. “The Woodland Partnership Grants support the conservation of one of our most spectacular regions while also helping local economies in a sustainable way.”
With the $50,000 they received, Rowe and Heath will continue funding a study looking into the development of a long-distance through-trail, called the Highlands Regional Trail, over various public and privately preserved lands in the two towns. The goal is to create a trail that can provide hikers with an opportunity to explore the highlands on the north side of the Deerfield River in Heath and Rowe. The long-term goal is to incorporate this trail section into other regional trail systems.
“The through-trail project is really one of those great opportunities to promote regional economic development through the promotion of recreation on our public and private lands,” said Michael Cucchiara, chair of the Heath Parks and Recreation Committee.
The project began last year; this grant allows for its second phase.
Also benefiting from this year’s grants is the Charlemont Fire Department, which received $19,152 to purchase new land and water rescue equipment, including rafts for completing river rescues.
Town Administrator Sarah Reynolds said the Fire Department responds to emergency calls from the river using old donated equipment.
With this $19,152, the department will get new equipment, thus improving safety along the Deerfield River — the town’s largest tourist attraction.
“This is the second year we are able to take advantage of this grant,” Reynolds noted.
Buckland received $25,000 for its Riverside Woodland Walk and Native Plant Demonstration project at the Cricket Field recreation area.
“For several years, the town has focused its efforts at the Buckland Recreation Area on Ashfield Road,” Town Administrator Heather Butler wrote in an email. “It’s very exciting to be able to switch gears and focus on some much-needed improvements to the Cricket Field recreation area. This project will build on other town efforts, including climate resiliency and our pollinator project.”
The town has partnered with regenerative agriculture educational organization Sowing Solutions and with the nonprofit Permaculture Place. They will install a native plant corridor with signs to educate visitors about the native landscape and connect the village center with the public field.
Finally, Rowe was awarded $23,485 to implement a climate-smart forest plan for Pelham Lake Park.
This grant will enable the Rowe Park Commission to create one of the first climate-smart forestry plans in the state.
This plan will be complete with a trailhead exhibit and will involve protecting ash trees from disease.
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