Black Friday hike provides chance to connect with outdoors, area’s history

  • Great Falls Discovery Center Visitors’ Services Supervisor Janel Nockelby speaks during the “Go Green on Black Friday” hike on the Canalside Rail Trail on a rainy Friday afternoon. STAFF PHOTO/CHRIS LARABEE

  • A small group braved the elements on the Turners Falls Canalside Rail Trail on Friday afternoon to participate in the state’s “Go Green on Black Friday” program. STAFF PHOTO/CHRIS LARABEE

Staff Writer
Published: 11/26/2021 4:57:28 PM
Modified: 11/26/2021 4:57:12 PM

TURNERS FALLS — A small group braved cold temperatures and rainy weather on the Canalside Rail Trail Friday afternoon to walk off Thanksgiving calories and learn about the area’s industrial and ecological history as part of the state’s “Go Green on Black Friday” programming.

Beginning at the Great Falls Discovery Center, the tour was led by Visitors’ Services Supervisor Janel Nockleby and took the group on a roughly 2-mile hike alongside the Connecticut River.

“I loved the bravery of the people coming in the rain, although it wasn’t that bad,” Nockleby said after the hike. “It’s really great to be outside and talk to people.”

As the group traveled beside the Connecticut River, Nockleby explained the history of the town’s paper mills and how the river is “an amazing source of water” that was essential to the mills’ production when the Industrial Revolution swept through Franklin County.

“The horsepower of the water moving through the mills and machinery,” Nockelby said, “could be used to make anything, really.”

She added the hydroelectric dams the river runs through produce enough electricity to “power about 85% of homes in Franklin County.”

As the group approached the turnaround point about a mile into the hike, Nockelby stopped the group and had participants observe the river and the birds that were swimming on it. She said the river is home to a significant amount of bird species and highlighted bald eagles — a bird that was federally endangered and on the brink of extinction until 1995 — as her favorite bird to see living in the area.

“I love the story of the comeback of the American bald eagle,” Nockelby said. “That story is so sweet.”

Among the small group of people walking were the Marroney family from Wayland. Phil and Janet Marroney were visiting Franklin County to go Black Friday shopping with their daughter at Yankee Candle, but only on the condition that they stop at a state park along the way.

“We saw they were having a walk here,” Phil Marroney said. “I think it was a good compromise.”

While the family has been to Franklin County before, they said the hike was a great chance to get some exercise while learning more about Turners Falls. Janet Marroney added that Nockelby was a “great guide” and she was glad that the constant rain wasn’t too heavy.

“Just to get a good walk in,” Phil Marroney said, “and to learn more history that we didn’t know about before.”

“Go Green on Black Friday” is an initiative from the Baker-Polito Administration to expand outdoor recreational opportunities for families across the state. Guided tours were led by the Department of Conservation and Recreation (DCR) at several state parks on Friday.

“The commonwealth offers an incredible diversity of natural, cultural and recreational resources,” acting DCR Commissioner Stephanie Cooper said in a press release, “and the annual ‘Go Green on Black Friday’ hikes provide an excellent opportunity to get outside and explore the great outdoors with friends and family.”

Nockelby said the “Go Green on Black Friday” program is similar to the Great Falls Discovery Center’s longstanding tradition of the “First Day Hike,” which is a hike held every Jan. 1 to ring in the new year. Despite their similarities, Nockelby said the Black Friday event is more intimate and provides more opportunities for hikers to ask questions.

“You’ll find me here Jan. 1,” Nockelby joked. “(The Black Friday hike) allows more chances to dig into what we see, though.”

Chris Larabee can be reached at or 413-930-4081.


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