Editorial: On the right path

  • Robert Frost Trail at Mount Toby STAFF PHOTO/ANDY CASTILLO

Published: 7/11/2019 6:59:25 AM

Beneath the canopied tree cover of Mount Toby State Forest in Sunderland, existence seems to slow down a little bit: Birdsong reverberates through tree trunks; sunlight bathes swaths of green vegetation in saturated vibrance; pine needles cover a network of trails that meander through the idyllic space.

One way to appreciate the beauty of New England’s quaint woods is to walk through them.

Trails, such as the Robert Frost Trail (which is easily accessible and stretches through 10 towns including Sunderland, Leverett, Montague and Wendell), cultivate an appreciation for Franklin County’s charming landscape.

That’s why we’re happy to report that the Robert Frost Trail is one of 71 trail projects across the state to receive a portion of $5 million in grant money. According to Gov. Charlie Baker, the grants are funded by the Department of Conservation and Recreation’s capital budget and the state’s motor fuel excise tax for off-road vehicles. In order to qualify, recipients must match their awards with a minimum of 20 percent of the total grant. Including those contributions, about $14 million is expected to go toward trail and footpath upgrades statewide.

It’s a good step down the right path — one that Robert Frost, the renowned nature poet who taught at Amherst College for more than a decade in the 1930s, would have certainly approved of were he alive today.

The Robert Frost Trail’s improvement project, which will be overseen by the Kestrel Land Trust, seeks to improve 37 miles of the trail, which traverses publicly owned conservation land. The four Franklin County towns through which the trail passes are expected to collectively contribute $44,620 of their own money.

Elsewhere in the region, the Franklin Regional Council of Governments in Greenfield and other planning agencies throughout Western Massachusetts received $100,000. The organizations will use their portion, along with a match of $25,200, to create maps for the mountain biking trail networks throughout Berkshire, Hampden and Franklin counties. In Orange, Mount Grace Land Conservation Trust has received $13,490, adding a $3,953 match of its own, to improve a trail at Dexter Park Innovation School. Conway, Deerfield, Whately and Ashfield received $61,520 through the Conway Snowmobile Club Inc., which will improve trail signs and equipment to keep the trails maintained.

The snowmobile club will match the grant with $15,380.

Updating trails and investing in the betterment of our region’s landscape is a smart move by the state. Franklin County is the state’s foremost outdoor destination and could benefit economically from improved footpath infrastructure. More than that, better footpaths could encourage residents and tourists to more frequently enjoy the beauty of our region’s woods — developing an appreciation that can’t easily be shaken.

As Frost, the Sunderland trail’s namesake penned in “Hyla Brook,” a poem published in 1920, “We love the things we love for what they are.”

Greenfield Recorder

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