Trail restoration lands Pioneer senior Northfield’s Citizen Stewardship Award


Staff Writer

Published: 03-27-2023 1:02 PM

NORTHFIELD — A Pioneer Valley Regional School senior was recently recognized by town officials with the 2022 Citizen Stewardship Award for his contributions to preserving natural resources.

Cooper Bullock received the award at a Selectboard meeting last week for the work he did in association with the Pioneer Land Stewardship Club, a group he started in the fall that has grown to include 22 members, according to Open Space Committee Chair Matt DiLuzio.

The Citizen Stewardship Award has been given by the Open Space Committee since 2007 “to acknowledge someone who is an excellent steward of natural resources in town” and who helps achieve the goals of the Open Space and Recreation Plan. DiLuzio said that to him, stewardship means caring for and appreciating the land, “whether it’s in your lifetime or for countless generations in the future.”

“Young gentlemen like yourself are the future of small-town America and we need more like you,” Selectboard member Alex Meisner told Cooper. “I hope in years to come you continue to progress your skills.”

DiLuzio told Selectboard members that Cooper went to Costa Rica with the Center for Intercultural Education and Development through Georgetown University, and when he returned home, he was tasked with creating his own plan for stewardship.

For Bullock’s project, he decided to spruce up the walking paths in the forest next to the school. In addition to reaching out to area towns for their support, he made appearances before the Pioneer School Committee and the Northfield Conservation Commission to discuss his project.

“He engaged the community by getting Bernardston, Northfield and Warwick to donate mulch and equipment,” DiLuzio recounted. “He organized a workday. … He got everyone together and they spread the mulch around. I know the trails were in pretty rough shape when I went there 20 years ago, so it’s pretty amazing.”

Years ago, the school had built paths to be used by classes, clubs and the broader community. They had since fallen into disrepair, with roots sticking up throughout the trails, leading to danger of erosion and creating a hazard for walkers and runners.

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“Walking the path is sobering,” Pioneer Superintendent Patricia Kinsella said in September, when Cooper’s Pioneer Land Stewardship Club was just getting off the ground. “I am proud of Cooper for settling on something that is exciting and doable.”

Bullock said following his experience in Costa Rica, he worked with his environmental science teacher and Kinsella to develop his service project. He was also inspired by John Lepore, a former science teacher and the 2016 recipient of the Citizen Stewardship Award.

“All of that combined ... really opened my mind to what a small community can do and achieve,” he said.

Reporter Mary Byrne can be reached at or 413-930-4429. Twitter: @MaryEByrne.