Natural Parks & Trails Expanding in Amherst and Easthampton
150 years ago, naturalist John Burroughs said, “I go to nature to be soothed and healed, and to have my senses put in order.”
Even then, the need to stay connected to the natural world in a modern society was recognized. With your support, Kestrel is now working on several projects to expand protected land and improve access to the Mount Holyoke and Mount Tom Ranges.
Sweet Alice Conservation Area Expands
Soon you will have new access points to explore the Mount Holyoke Range from the Sweet Alice Conservation Area in Amherst. Kestrel partnered with the Town of Amherst to expand this conservation area by 28 acres this fall. The land was purchased from Marty Epstein and Lisa Epstein, the daughters of Sy and Alice Epstein, for whom the original conservation area was named.
Located off Bay Road, near the Atkins Village Center on Route 116, the newly conserved land contains a pond and a portion of the old trolley line that went up over the Notch until the 1920s. The property connects to more than 30 miles of local trails as well as the 215-mile New England National Scenic Trail (NET).
Kestrel now holds a Conservation Restriction on the new town-owned land, which requires a perpetual responsibility for ensuring its proper use. The town’s $270,000 purchase was made possible through a grant from the Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs as well as funding from Amherst Community Preservation Act funds.
Over the next year, new trailheards on Route 116 and on the existing Sweet Alice Conservation Area will be designed, along with an improved trail network and access to the pond for picnics and fishing.
New Mount Tom North Trailhead Park
In Easthampton, Kestrel is working to save a key parcel that will improve public access to the Mount Tom State Reservation and its trails. Nestled beneath Nonotuck Peak, this 23-acre area at the north end of Mount Tom once served as an entrance to the historic Eyrie House resort, and offers picturesque views of Arcadia and the Oxbow.
In partnership with Pascommuck Conservation Trust, Kestrel and the City of Easthampton secured $380,000 in CPA funds and are waiting for additional state grants to buy the two adjacent properties to create a park that will serve as the city’s first secure public access to Mount Tom. Long-term plans for the new park include parking on East Street, a universally accessible trail leading to a scenic lookout, a family-friendly loop trail around the Little Mountain Knob, and a trailhead for the National Scenic Trail that also connects with 22 miles of trails on the State Reservation. Input and financial support from the community will be critical for the design and construction of the park.
More Iconic Lands to Protect With Your Help
In 2015, with our partners and donors, Kestrel achieved our goal of conserving more than 1,000 acres on the Mount Holyoke Range. But the 16,000-acre area of Mount Holyoke and Mount Tom Ranges is still only partially protected: 5,000 acres continue to face the risk of development.
With your support, Kestrel will continue to work proactively with towns, the state, and willing landowners to protect this unique area. Projects like these ensure that everyone has the opportunity to enjoy the Mount Holyoke and Mount Tom Ranges: the scenic and recreational heart of the Valley.