Kestrel Land Trust and its partners, Beast Coast Trail Running LLC and New City Brewery, are pleased to announce the second annual Mt. Tom Trail Race to benefit Kestrel’s conservation efforts on and around the Mount Tom Range in Easthampton and Holyoke. The event takes place on Saturday, October 22, and marks three recent public land access achievements for this region.
The Mt. Tom Trail Race follows a rugged route along hiking trails throughout the Mount Tom State Reservation, straddling Easthampton and Holyoke. This year, the 25K and 50K Ultra routes will pass by the new Mt. Tom North Trailhead Park, which officially opened in September 2022 as a collaborative accessible public access project between the City of Easthampton, Kestrel Land Trust, and Pascommuck Conservation Trust.
Proceeds from the Mt. Tom Trail Race support Kestrel’s Mt. Tom Fund, which in 2019, enabled Kestrel and the City to each purchase two adjoining parcels known as the Little Mountain Parcel and the Picnic Parcel. Totaling 23 acres, Mt. Tom North Trailhead Park is Easthampton’s first secure public access to the State Reservation on the northern end of the mountain.
What makes the new park and trailhead unique is that it provides a handicapped accessible parking area on East Street, from which a fully accessible trail leads up hill to a gathering area and a scenic overlook. A short loop trail on the Kestrel parcel is being finalized, providing access to the New England National Scenic Trail and Mt. Nonotuck. The City and Kestrel now manage the new park jointly as a single conservation and recreation area.
The race route will pass by another recent public access project for Mount Tom, where a woodland parcel at the end of Reservation Road had been slated for a housing development in 2021. The land was purchased this summer by the City with a conservation restriction held by Kestrel, safeguarding a neighborhood-scale public access point, as well as priority wildlife habitat on the Mount Tom Range.
The 2nd Annual Mt. Tom Trail Race also supports Kestrel’s growing partnership with the City of Holyoke to conserve and restore nearby Anniversary Hill Park, which is an extension of the same geological feature underlying Mount Tom. Two years ago, Kestrel purchased 14 acres near the historic Scott Tower, which has now been transferred to the City last month. The City of Holyoke and Kestrel are continuing the long-term effort of restoring this significant, historical forest park for public enjoyment.
Kestrel’s Conservation Director, Mark Wamsley said, “Mount Tom and Mount Holyoke Ranges support more than 16,000 acres of forests, which Kestrel is working to conserve because they provide essential wildlife habitat and miles of public trails for recreation. This is a commitment we share with the City of Easthampton, whose residents identified this iconic landscape, and the protection of these key properties, as a top priority in the City’s Open Space and Recreation Plan. However, only a portion of the Mount Tom Range is conserved: swaths of the land adjacent to the State Reservation in Easthampton, and some in Holyoke, are not permanently protected.”
The Mt. Tom Trail Race was created in 2021 and is organized by Amy Rusiecki, Kristin Loiko and Leah Jacobson-Hardy of Beast Coast Trail Running LLC, who have coordinated many popular races in New England, including the Vermont 100 Endurance Race and the Seven Sisters Trail Race on the Mount Holyoke Range. The first annual Mt. Tom Trail Race last October sold out with 200 runners and raised $13,500 in donations and in-kind support.
“The trails at Mt. Tom are amazing: it’s a popular area for local trail runners, so we’re thrilled to offer the opportunity for runners from across New England to experience this local gem for a second year. Last year’s race was a huge success—and we measure success by the smiles we see at the finish line,” said Rusiecki. “Every Beast Coast Trail Race partners with a local non-profit that either preserves land or promotes outdoor athletics. For this race, we’re thrilled to partner with Kestrel Land Trust to help support the important work they do to preserve and maintain the places we love.”
New for the second annual event is an Ultra 50K race option for experienced runners. All race routes start and finish at Millside Park in Easthampton, next to New City Brewery, which partners with Beast Coast Trail Running to produce this event. The brewery will provide post-event refreshments and food, including a free pint of local beer in a commemorative pint glass. The after-party will take place at Millside Park.