Volunteers help prepare accessible trail in Northfield

  • Mount Grace Land Conservation Trust, aided by volunteers, is working to make Alderbrook Meadows Sanctuary, located off Route 63 in Northfield, the first universally accessible trail in town. Sept. 9, 2017. —Recorder Staff/Shelby Ashline

  • The beaver pond within Alderbrook Meadows Sanctuary, located off Route 63 in Northfield, will feature a cantilevered observation deck that is fully accessible. Mount Grace Land Conservation Trust Land Stewardship Director Jay Rasku anticipates the trail will have a grand opening in the spring. Sept. 9, 2017. —Recorder Staff/Shelby Ashline

  • Northfield Open Space Committee members Julia Blyth (left) and Joanne McGee (background), along with TerraCorps Regional Conservation Coordinator Cami Duquet (right) sprinkle grass seed at the Alderbrook Meadows Sanctuary during a trail work day on Saturday, Sept. 9, 2017. —Recorder Staff/Shelby Ashline

  • Volunteers sprinkle hay at the Alderbrook Meadows Sanctuary during a trail work day on Saturday, Sept. 9, 2017. In the foreground, from left to right: TerraCorps volunteers Fletcher Harrington and Kimlynn Nguyen, and Northfield resident Sue Space. —Recorder Staff/Shelby Ashline

  • TerraCorps volunteers Fletcher Harrington (left) and Cami Duquet sprinkle hay at the Alderbrook Meadows Sanctuary during a trail work day on Saturday, Sept. 9, 2017. —Recorder Staff/Shelby Ashline

Recorder Staff
Published: 9/14/2017 6:56:54 PM

NORTHFIELD — Jerry Wagener made his way down the Alderbrook Meadows Sanctuary’s gravel trail with a rake, leveling out the soil on the edges of the pathway.

Eventually, he reached the trail’s end. Between the trees, he looked out over a beaver pond covered in lily pads, the water glistening in the morning sun.

“I’ve been here many times, and whenever I come, I think, ‘What a pretty place,’” Wagener said. “It’s a gem.”

As a member of the Northfield Open Space Committee and Mount Grace’s Board of Directors, Wagener has participated in numerous work days on the trail. Mount Grace, which now oversees the half-mile loop of public trail donated by Bill and Nancy Ames, is working to make the trail the first universally accessible one in town.

“It’ll be an attraction,” Wagener said.

According to Mount Grace Land Stewardship Director Jay Rasku, the approximately six acres Mount Grace received was part of the Ames’ 141-acres of farm and forest land, which was permanently conserved. Rasku said Mount Grace has been planning the accessible trail for about three years.

“The Ames really appreciated the idea of making it an accessible trail,” Rasku added.

The project has been something community members have rallied around, coming together to participate in around 10 trail work days. For Sue Space, a part-time resident of Northfield for more than eight years, the trail work days attracted her due to the social aspect.

“I actually wanted to get to know more people in town,” she said.

But more than that, Space said she thinks creating an accessible trail is “a wonderful idea.”

“It might cause people to linger in Northfield and check out what else is available in town,” she said.

“People with strollers will really like this trail, too,” volunteer Julia Blyth added. The trail will be 6-feet wide.

Since the project began, Rasku said Mount Grace has coordinated with the Abenaki, Nipmuc, Narragansett and Wampanoag tribes due to the land’s cultural significance.

“It’s had a lot of features tribal nations would appreciate,” he said, explaining the tribes could gather medicinal plants, harvest the nearby farm fields and take advantage of the water source, making the area around the pond active.

As such, Rasku said that in making the accessible trail, Mount Grace has avoided changing the terrain or excavating out of respect for the land’s Native American history.

Volunteers — primarily members of the Northfield Open Space Committee and TerraCorps, a conservation-driven division of AmeriCorps — cleared away vegetation and made the ground as level as possible so Lane Construction employees could lay hard-packed fine crushed stone, to ease wheelchair travel.

With the stone distribution largely complete, volunteers worked Saturday to rake the dirt sides of the trail, spread grass seed and lay hay on top. Rasku said projects still to complete include adding some extra gravel to washed out spots; building at least four kiosks featuring maps as well as natural and cultural historical information; building a cantilevered observation deck along the pond; and adding benches built by Pioneer Valley Regional School’s engineering design class.

Rasku anticipates a grand opening for the trail will be held in the spring.

Anyone interested in participating in future trail work days are invited to email Jay Rasku at rasku@mountgrace.org.




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