February 22, 2018
The Town of Lenox, Mass Audubon and Berkshire Natural Resources Council (BNRC) today announce their formal partnership in opening a long-distance through-hiking trail traversing Lenox Mountain, with a northern terminus at Mahanna Cobble, and a southern terminus at Olivia’s Overlook. At its February 21, 2018 meeting, the Lenox Board of Selectmen were presented with a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) signed by BNRC and Mass Audubon.
Selectman Channing Gibson, the Board’s liaison on the effort, remarked that “The Lenox Selectboard is committed to making the town’s public lands more available to the public, while still preserving the aesthetics, ecology, and inspiration of our extraordinary natural outdoor spaces. The High Road perfectly embodies that goal, and the Town is grateful for the productive partnership with BNRC and Mass Audubon’s Pleasant Valley Sanctuary that will make this wonderful project possible.”
Yokun Ridge has been a focus area for all three partners, who together have conserved nearly 4,000 contiguous acres for wildlife and ecological habitat, water supply protection, and recreation. The partners came together recognizing that a well-managed through-trail along these lands will benefit each entity and their nearby communities. This trail on Yokun Ridge is envisioned as part of BNRC’s High Road.
“BNRC has been protecting special places along Yokun Ridge throughout our 50 year history,” said Jenny Hansell, BNRC’s recently appointed President. “This ridgeline is a terrific place to launch the High Road initiative to link the Berkshires through a network of walking trails. This project is a great model for the kind of partnerships which will be critical to bringing the High Road to fruition. We are delighted to work with Mass Audubon and the Town of Lenox, each with extensive trail networks. This through-trail will provide outdoor recreation opportunities for local residents and visitors alike, enhancing the robust tourism economy in and around Lenox.”
Mass Audubon’s Pleasant Valley Wildlife Sanctuary spans the middle of north Yokun Ridge in Lenox and Richmond, from its ridge line into the valley, offering many hiking and walking opportunities and a wide variety of programs. “Mass Audubon believes partnerships are crucial elements of any important conservation lands initiative,” Mass Audubon President Gary Clayton said. “Our Pleasant Valley Wildlife Sanctuary in Lenox has served as a model for wildlife conservation and community engagement since 1929, and so we are especially pleased to collaborate with BNRC and the Town on the High Road project.”
The trail route will follow existing social trails, wood roads, and old town roads. For the first time, the path will be clearly marked and managed as a hiking trail, from end to end. The route will follow the ridgeline from BNRC’s Mahanna Cobble reserve to Mass Audubon’s Pleasant Valley Wildlife Sanctuary to Town-owned land, and then to BNRC’s Olivia’s Overlook. The partners will continue working together to finalize the route, plan physical improvements, and open it to the public. While BNRC takes a leadership role in establishing this as a High Road route, each partner provides significant input, and from time to time, their own resources when possible.
BNRC, Mass Audubon and the Town of Lenox have been collaborating for over a year to establish the parameters of this partnership, identify the exact route and improvements needed, and gain the support necessary from various boards and constituencies. This MOU formalizes the relationship and arrangement among the partners in order to work on the through-trail.
PROJECT & PARTNER DETAILS
In 2016 BNRC launched a successful campaign to implement its High Road vision, focused on connecting the Berkshire’s conservation lands together and to town and city centers. Yokun Ridge, with its rich tapestry of conserved lands was a logical place to begin establishing the High Road in partnership with Mass Audubon and the Town of Lenox.
Pleasant Valley Wildlife Sanctuary is one of Mass Audubon’s six Berkshire Wildlife Sanctuaries and encompasses more than 1200 acres in Lenox and Richmond, with more than seven miles of well-marked hiking trails through wetlands, forests and fields, including a universally accessible all-person’s trail. Pleasant Valley offers year-round nature and hiking programs for all ages, including Berkshire Nature Camp, free bird walks, wildlife tracking and snowshoeing. For more info visit: https://www.massaudubon.org/get-outdoors/wildlife-sanctuaries/pleasant-valley.
BNRC land flanks both ends of the trail on north Yokun Ridge. At the northern terminus of Yokun Ridge is Mahanna Cobble, (accessed in the non-snowmaking season from Bousquet Ski Area), with a wide variety of trails and a lovely vista with a massive stone bench. BNRC’s Burbank Trail connects the trail’s southern end to BNRC’s Olivia’s Overlook, a resting spot and trailhead for six miles of hiking options. For more info visit: https://www.bnrc.org/berkshire-natural-resources-council-properties/.
The Town of Lenox’s 565-acre Kennedy Park (with portions owned by Mass Audubon) is adjacent to the project area, providing options to hike into a well-established trail network and toward the Lenox Village and Route 7. The Town’s watershed land, at nearly 1,000 acres, spans a large portion of the ridge at Lenox Mountain. The watershed’s existing roads and trails will provide the link between BNRC’s Burbank Trail and Pleasant Valley’s ridgeline.
For more information, please contact:
BNRC: Jenny Hansell, President, firstname.lastname@example.org, 413-499-0596
Mass Audubon: Becky Cushing, Berkshire Sanctuaries Director, email@example.com, 413-637-0320 x 8351
Town of Lenox: Gwen Miller, Town Planner, firstname.lastname@example.org, 413-637-5500 x 1203