Link to Mahican-Mohawk Trail from Shelburne Falls under review

  • Jim Perry, a member of the Shelburne Open Space Committee, stands at the lower part of the Mahican-Mohawk Trail. Currently, the committee is assessing whether a proposed hiking trail connecting the Mahican-Mohawk Trail to downtown Shelburne Falls should go forward. CONTRIBUTED PHOTO

  • A sign for the Mahican-Mohawk Trail in Shelburne. CONTRIBUTED PHOTO

For the Recorder
Published: 12/3/2020 4:05:25 PM
Modified: 12/3/2020 4:05:15 PM

SHELBURNE — Assessments for a proposed hiking trail connecting the Mahican-Mohawk Trail to downtown Shelburne Falls are well underway, a project for which the Open Space Committee has received multiple grants, including one for $20,000 from the Mohawk Trail Woodlands Partnership.

A survey sent out several years ago asking Shelburne residents about open space interests and needs showed “overwhelming support for trails from the village and trails for river access. About 60 to 70 percent highly valued trails from the village,” according to Larry Flaccus, co-chair of the Open Space Committee and town representative to the Mohawk Trail Woodlands Partnership.

“We talked about connecting that Mahican-Mohawk Trail to the village, which meets one of the interests that residents have expressed,” Flaccus said.

Although still in the assessment phase, a trail would run above the river and eventually connect to Wilcox Hollow. Flaccus emphasized that it would be “a small walking trail through the woods, not for motorized vehicles.”

“There are a lot of boulders,” he explained. “It’s not like a rail trail that is paved and flat.”

The project received a $4,000 grant from the town of Shelburne that has gone toward an assessment for possible trail routes done by Timber and Stone, a recreational trail design and consulting firm, and a stability analysis by Guntlow and Associates out of Williamstown. Due to opposition from abutters on South Maple Street — the first access point to the trail that the Open Space Committee considered — other possible routes are now under consideration, including one with access from Deerfield Avenue by Salmon Falls.

The Open Space Committee received a $20,000 grant from the Mohawk Trail Woodlands Partnership for fiscal year 2021 that was approved in October 2019, which will go toward evaluating wetlands, removing invasive species, educational trail signs and brochures with maps and information, and property boundary surveys, as most of the lots along the river do not have delineated boundaries, Flaccus explained.

Trail signs and brochures will be added to other Shelburne nature trails as well, including the Ridge Trail and the National Audubon Society’s property, and will include updated maps and information on issues of forest health and invasive species among other topics. A $300 grant was awarded from the Cultural Council for the educational and informational additions.

The site of the proposed hiking trail — a large piece of land that the town owns between downtown and the Mahican-Mohawk Trail — was given by Lillian Davenport years ago in her will. Flaccus said town officials are working with nearby landowners to address concerns.

The project has received “mixed reactions with abutters, which is expected,” he said, also mentioning that the Open Space Committee has received some letters of support from residents.

Concerns center on heavy foot traffic on the trail and people leaving behind trash.

“We’re trying to meet their objections and concerns and work with them in partnership, to make sure that they are supportive,” Flaccus said. “It’s really a project that could also enhance their property because we’re cleaning up invasive species.”

Flaccus emphasized that there is no completion date in mind for the project, as planners are still assessing whether a trail is possible.

“We don’t know the total feasibility of it. It’s still a difficult place to build, so it may turn out not to be cost-effective to build along there,” he said, expressing hope nonetheless that the project will work out.

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