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BNRC OPENS NEW MAHANNA COBBLE TRAIL

Improved, Year-Round Access Created

PITTSFIELD, Massachusetts

On Thursday, January 14, 2021, Berkshire Natural Resources Council (BNRC), Bousquet Mountain, and Mill Town welcome the re-opening of the improved hiking access trail to Mahanna Cobble, from the base of Bousquet Mountain. Mahanna Cobble is a conservation reserve owned and managed by BNRC. Hiking and snowshoeing to Mahanna Cobble, a south-facing natural destination atop Bousquet Mountain, is free and open to the public.

Last summer, hundreds of hikers enjoyed a temporary access route from the base of Bousquet to BNRC’s new Mahanna Cobble Trail. When construction at Bousquet increased in the fall, the access was temporarily closed. Now reopened, the route is improved with a woodland access trail leading from Bousquet’s base to the Mahanna Cobble Trail. This is the first time Mahanna Cobble is available for winter access.

The first section of the trail follows a 0.6-mile route on Bousquet property. Hikers will start at the top of Bousquet’s “Tube Town.” Signage and blue blazes painted on trees will guide hikers to the Russel ski slope, and then upward along a woodland path. Hikers will need to cross the Drifter ski slope to enter the Mahanna Cobble Trail. Hikers should be cautious, as both Russel and Drifter are active ski slopes. There is a spectacular view south of uninterrupted forest and stone bench at the vista. The bench is dedicated to founding BNRC Executive Director George Wislocki. The Mahanna Cobble Trail is a 1-mile long single-track trail with switch-back turns and stone steps. The total distance is 3.2 miles for an out-and-back trip.

Bousquet Mountain welcomes hikers to enjoy the food, beverages, and facilities offered at the base of the mountain, which for the 2021 season, will operate entirely outside with seating in the pavilion, dining deck, and around firepits. A range of casual dining offerings are available including hamburgers, pizza bites, creative french fries, grilled sandwiches, s’mores packs, as well as a full range of hot drinks and bar offerings. While dogs are allowed on BNRC properties, they are not allowed on Bousquet property or the access trail during the 2021 ski season.

“The partnership with BNRC continues to be so valuable as their trail stewardship has opened the door to welcome a wider diversity of outdoor enthusiasts to the Bousquet campus,” notes Carrie Holland, Mill Town’s Managing Director. “Bousquet Mountain will continue to be a destination for skiers, snowboarders, and tubers, but now with Mahanna Cobble re-opening we can enjoy expanded on-mountain offerings for those looking for alternatives to downhill activities. Uphill hiking, snowshoeing, and backcountry skinning are really rewarding alternate ways to enjoy our Berkshires winter weather.”

BNRC appreciates a strong partner in Bousquet Mountain and Mill Town as we seek to offer improved hiking experiences close to community centers, year-round. We are thrilled to finally have four-season access to this beautiful new trail and destination in central Berkshire,” says Jenny Hansell, BNRC President. “Thanks to the generosity of Mill Town and Bousquet Mountain, we have another, great new option for winter hiking in the Berkshires.”

Follow signage and check the Mahanna Cobble webpage at www.bnrc.org/trails-and-maps/mahanna-cobble/ for updates before heading out.

Established in 1967, the Berkshire Natural Resources Council’s mission is to protect and preserve the natural beauty and ecological integrity of the Berkshires for public benefit and enjoyment. There are 56 BNRC conservation reserves spread across Berkshire County, free to the public, open to everyone for recreation. BNRC conserves land, builds and maintains trail systems, and offers year-round group outings—all through the support of donors. More about all BNRC properties and trails, and BNRC’s free Berkshire Trails app, can be found online at bnrc.org.

Media Contacts for BNRC:
Jenny Hansell, jhansell@bnrc.org, 413-499-0596.

Mill Town’s mission is to expand and improve the quality and quantity of opportunities to live, work, and play in the Berkshires. Founded in 2016, Mill Town is a Berkshire County-based impact investment firm. Mill Town invests in businesses, real estate, and community development projects in the City of Pittsfield and across the region. The company supports a wide variety of community development initiatives focused on outdoor recreation enhancement and supporting the region’s many cultural and non-profit assets. For more information, please visit milltowncapital.com.

Media Contacts for Mill Town:
Carrie Holland, carrie@milltowncapital.com, 413-464-1115.

2020 Volunteer Appreciation Event

Self-Guided Gratitude Walk

Monday, November 9th – Sunday, November 15th  (Dusk to Dawn)

Old Mill Trail, Dalton 

Dirty Gloves by Gabrielle K. Murphy

BNRC would like to share our thanks to the many volunteers that support the protection and preservation of the Berkshires for wildlife and people!

We invite you to take a walk on the Old Mill Trail and enjoy the volunteer highlights placed along the way. There will be photos, stories, quotes, and more!

We’re also offering two drop-in times where staff will be stationed at the trailhead to express our thanks and safely provide some hot cider.

Drop-in times  (no RSVP required)

  • Thursday, November 12th 2:00pm-4:00pm 

  • Sunday, November 15th 2:00pm-4:00pm 

Directions:

From the center of Dalton: take Route 8 south to the Hinsdale line. From the town line, continue 4/10 miles to a left on Old Dalton Road. The trailhead parking is the first, immediate left.

GPS: 42.4480, -73.1305 (trailhead parking)

Please note: Parking at Hinsdale Trading Company is not allowed.

 

Remembering Don MacGillis

Like so many in the Berkshires and beyond, we are grieving the passing of Don MacGillis, who died in a hiking accident on Mount Katahdin in Maine last week.  He was a highly respected journalist with the Berkshire Eagle and the Boston Globe, and was also a beloved part of BNRC for many decades, most recently as a member of the Board of Directors 

Don surveying potential High Road routes. Photo by Karen Ross.

His contributions were many and legendary. Tad Ames, BNRC’s president from 2002-2017, shared that Don hired him to work at the Eagle and took him on his first Berkshires snowshoe trek, to the top of Perry’s Peak, long before it was conserved land. “We were probably trespassing,” Tad remembered, “part of a long lineage of noble trespassers.”   

In the last few years, Don wrote all the text for BNRC’s kiosks in graceful, concise prose that doesn’t call attention to itself. Fellow board member Kim Seward was on the kiosk committee and saw a number of completed kiosks for the first time this summer. “I wrote him recently to say how wonderful the kiosks are, and to thank him for the crisp, engaging writing. In typical humble fashion, he thanked me and said ‘I’m glad I was able to contribute.’” 

Karen Ross, another BNRC board member and longtime close friends of Don’s, writes that It is a terrible loss for BNRC of a stellar mind, a loyal and dedicated supporter, and a kind and understanding voice. Don applied his best skills—and a big chunk of time—in planning for the High Road and then ground-proofing potential routes, in volunteering for trail work, and in keeping us all on our toes.  I will keep forever sharp memories of his bright smile, lively stories, and that long stride in the woods.”

Don was a great ambassador for BNRC – he brought friends to hike our trails countless times —a tireless volunteer, and a forceful advocate for protecting natureIn 2005 The Wilderness Society chose him to receive The Aldo Leopold Award to recognize that he was “a talented writer who knows how to marshal the facts in defense of America’s wilderness and wildlife.”   

Don with Kim Burbank

He was also a kind, soft-spoken, thoughtful friend. He made the Berkshires better. We will miss him. 

Our deepest condolences to his wife Ingrid, and children Alec and Lucy. We look forward to working with them to determine the most appropriate way to memorialize him on a BNRC trail or reserve.  

As George Wislocki, BNRC’s founder, put it, Don was the heart of BNRC.

Pictured left to right: Don MacGillis, Tad Ames, Sarah Hudson, and Ingrid MacGillis at BNRC’s 50 Anniversary Celebration

Tuesday hiking group photo.

Tuesday hiking group photo.

Tuesday hiking group photo.

Berkshire Natural Resources Council Fall 2020 Volunteer Workdays

  

Safety Protocols

  • BNRC volunteer workdays will be limited to 4-5 participants that must RSVP, unless splitting into groups. Staff members will not count toward the total participants. Group totals will fall within the Massachusetts Safety Standards for these type of gatherings.
  • Self-screen your health and don’t come to a workday if:
    • You or somebody in your household experiences COVID-like symptoms or has traveled within the past 2 weeks to a location where COVID cases are high.
    • Anybody in your household has been exposed to somebody with COVID
  • Participants must bring a face mask to wear in the event that social distancing is not possible. BNRC will have extra in case someone forgets theirs.
  • Participants must practice social distancing by remaining 6 feet away from others on the trail. This includes stepping off the trail to let others pass.
  • Participants must bring their own water, snacks, and work gloves. BNRC will have work gloves to give away if someone needs.

Wednesday, October 14, 10:00 am – 2:00 pm (5 volunteers) At Capacity
Clam River, Sandisfield

This workday will focus on re-painting the blazes along the Clam River Trail. We’ll hike approximately 3 miles. BNRC will provide all tools and will sanitize them prior to use. Please wear clothes you don’t mind getting paint on, sturdy shoes, and bring a mask, gloves, 32oz of water, and lunch. The outlined safety protocols must be followed.

  1. Elissa Bosworth
  2. Clay Dilts
  3. Ellen Dilts
  4. Kim Kai
  5. Mary Spina

Saturday, October 17, 9:00 am – 1:00 pm (5 volunteers) At Capacity
Alford Springs, Alford

This workday will be focused on clearing the Father Loop trail corridor at Alford Springs. BNRC will provide all tools and will sanitize them prior to use. Please wear sturdy shoes, and bring a mask, gloves, 32oz of water, and lunch. The outlined safety protocols must be followed. Also, if you have loppers and/or pruners, please feel free to bring. The outlined safety protocols must be followed.

  1. Jack Magnotti
  2. Sammy Lefenfeld
  3. Nancy King
  4. Alex Fellman
  5. Kipp Lynch

Sunday, October 18, 10:00 am – 1:00 pm (4 volunteers) At Capacity
Clam River, Sandisfield

This workday will focus on re-painting the blazes along the Clam River Loop. We’ll hike approximately 2 miles.  BNRC will provide all tools and will sanitize them prior to use. Please wear clothes you don’t mind getting paint on, sturdy shoes, and bring a mask, gloves, 32oz of water, and lunch. The outlined safety protocols must be followed.

  1. Diane Saunders
  2. Peter Grealish
  3. Christine Ector
  4. Zachary Rissman

Tuesday, October 27, 9:00 am – noon (4 volunteers) At Capacity
The Boulders, Dalton Avenue Access, Pittsfield

We’ll be working to remove old trail markers and replace others. This will help to establish a clear trail blazing system. This work involves using a step or small ladder and tool to pry the old marker. BNRC will provide all tools and will sanitize them prior to use. Please wear sturdy shoes, and bring a mask, gloves, 32oz of water, and a snack. The outlined safety protocols must be followed.

  1. Dawn Schober
  2. Sue Hudak
  3. David Ellis
  4. Carol Freidman

Saturday, November 7, 9:00 am – 1:00 pm (6 volunteers splitting into 2 groups) At Capacity
Threemile Hill Trail, Great Barrington

This workday will be focused on clearing the corridor of the Threemile Hill Trail and repairing bog bridging. It is in partnership with the Great Barrington Land Conservancy, MA Department of Conservation & Recreation, and the Berkshire Natural Resources Council. BNRC will provide all tools and will sanitize them prior to use. Please wear sturdy shoes, and bring a mask, gloves, 32oz of water, and lunch. The outlined safety protocols must be followed. Also, if you have loppers and/or pruners, please feel free to bring.

  1. Janice Robbins
  2. Jack Lyons
  3. Jed Baumwell
  4. Tom Ferris
  5. Gail Beaudain
  6. Christine Ector

Tuesday, November 10, 10:00 am – 1:00 pm (6 volunteers) At Capacity
West Branch Green River Conservation Area, Williamstown

This workday will focus on cleaning up an old farm dump on conservation land and is in partnership with the Williamstown Rural Lands Foundation. Please wear sturdy shoes, and bring a mask, 32oz of water, and lunch. There is broken glass involved so if you have leather gloves please bring them. If not, we will provide them for you. The outlined safety protocols must be followed.

1. Charlie Dutelle
2. Wendy Stebbins
3. Jeff Turner
4. Eric Johnson
5. Natalie Montoya-Barnes
6. Malcolm Moutenot


Saturday, November 14, 10:00 am – 2:00 pm (5 volunteers)
Old Baldhead Road/Burbank Trail at Yokun Ridge South

This workday will be focused on clearing old cellar foundations along Old Baldhead and Burbank Trails. BNRC will provide all tools and will sanitize them prior to use. Please wear sturdy shoes, and bring a mask, gloves, 32oz of water, and lunch. The outlined safety protocols must be followed. Also, if you have loppers and/or pruners, please feel free to bring. The outlined safety protocols must be followed.

  1. David Dutra
  2. Ray Kirby
  3. Ashley Miller
  4. Helene Greenberg
  5. holding

Looking for other opportunities to volunteer with Berkshire lands? Check out Berkshire Environmental Action Team’s invasive hardy kiwi pulls at Onota Lake in Pittsfield.

The Saddle Trail opens at Alford Springs Reserve

Visitors can choose from a buffet of trail options

The Saddle Trail at Alford Springs Reserve is a new access route to the Father Loop from West Road. It begins by crossing a wet meadow and ascends the east slope of the Taconic Range on what might have been a driveway had BNRC’s supporters not conserved the property. From the would-be house site, there is a bench and a nice view of Tom Ball Mountain to the east. The one mile trail utilizes a small saddle in the topography, winding through hemlock forest and past old stone walls and paddocks.

Soon, the roadside sign will be installed, and the BNRC trails app updated to include the new route. To plan your visit, click here for detailed directions, maps, and more information.

 

September 4, 2020

Summer 2020 Volunteer Workdays

We’re excited to share volunteer workday opportunities for the summer below. We have heard from many of you that you would like to start volunteering again with BNRC as soon as possible. The workdays have been designed with social distancing guidelines in mind. Following State and CDC guidelines we’ve established safety protocols that all participants must adhere to. Please note that if a rollback of phasing occurs, workdays will be canceled. Also, we understand that many may not feel comfortable participating at this time—and that is absolutely fine. Your support is equally as valuable to us and we look forward to a time when it is safe to gather in our traditional ways.  

After reviewing the safety protocols and workdays below please RSVP to Mariah at maman@bnrc.org wityour top choices up to 4 (ranking 1-4) by Sunday, July 12th (response later than that will also be considered). You’ll receive a follow-up email with more details. We want to ensure that everyone has an opportunity to participate that would like to. This system may shift as we move forward and we appreciate your patience.  

Lastly, for those who are interested in a volunteer opportunity with more autonomy we’re looking for trailhead ambassadors to be present for an hour or so at trailheads during popular times. This person would simply greet hikers as they head out or return, answer any questions, and direct them to resources. Candidates for trailhead ambassadors are volunteers who feel confident in sharing trail information, suggesting other trails, and are familiar with BNRC’s website and the BNRC Berkshire Trails app. Our recommendation is someone who has completed the volunteer training and has attended at least one workday in the past. The outlined safety protocols must be followed as well. Please be in touch if this interests you and I’ll share more information!  

Safety Protocols 

  • BNRC volunteer workdays will be limited to 3-4 participants that must RSVP. Staff members will not count toward the total participants.  
  • Self-screen your health and don’t come to a workday if: 
    • You or somebody in your household experiences COVID19 symptoms or has traveled within the past 2 weeks to a location where COVID cases are high. 
    • Anyone in your household has been exposed to someone with COVID-19.   
  • Participants must bring a face mask to wear in the event that social distancing is not possible. BNRC will have extra in case someone forgets theirs. 
  • Participants must practice social distancing by remaining 6 feet away from others on the trail. This includes stepping off the trail to let other visitors pass. 
  • Participants must bring their own water, snacks, and work gloves. BNRC will have work gloves to provide you to keep if necessary.  

Berkshire Natural Resources Council Summer 2020 Volunteer Workdays 


Saturday, July 18, 9:00 am – noon (4 volunteers) RSVP CAPACITY REACHED
The Boulders, Dalton Avenue Access, Pittsfield 

We’ll be working to remove old trail markers along the Blue Trail. This will help to establish a clear trail blazing system. This work involves using a step or small ladder and tool to pry the old markerBNRC will provide all tools and will sanitize them prior to usePlease wear sturdy shoes and bring a mask, water, and a snack. The outlined safety protocols must be followed.  


Sunday, July 19, 9:00 am – noon (4 volunteers) RSVP CAPACITY REACHED
The Boulders, Dalton Avenue Access, Pittsfield 

We’ll be working to remove old trail markers along the Red Trail. This will help to establish a clear trail blazing system. This work involves using a step or small ladder and tool to pry the old markerBNRC will provide all tools and will sanitize them prior to use. Please wear sturdy shoes and bring a mask, water, and a snack. The outlined safety protocols must be followed.  


Friday, July 24, 10:00 am – 2:00 pm (4 volunteers) RSVP CAPACITY REACHED
Hollow Fields, Richmond 

This workday will be focused on clearing the trail corridor of the soon-to-be signed Perry’s Peak Loop. We’ll hike approximately 4 miles with elevation gain. BNRC will provide all tools and will sanitize them prior to use. Please wear sturdy shoes and bring a mask, water, and a snack. If you have loppers and/or pruners, please feel free to bring. The outlined safety protocols must be followed.  


Friday, August 7, 10:00 am – 1:00 pm (4 volunteers) RSVP CAPACITY REACHED
Alford Springs, Alford 

Join us in re-blazing the 2.4-mile Mother Loop. This work involves painting over old trail blazes. BNRC will provide all tools and will sanitize them prior to use. Please wear clothes you don’t mind getting paint on, sturdy shoes, and bring a mask, water, and a snack. The outlined safety protocols must be followed.  


Wednesday, August 12, 10:00 am – 2:00 pm (4 volunteers) RSVP CAPACITY REACHED
Hollow Fields, Richmond 

Help to install sign posts for the new Perry’s Peak Loop. This work involves carrying cedar posts and digging post holes. BNRC will provide all tools and will sanitize them prior to use. Please wear sturdy shoes and bring a mask, water, and a snack. The outlined safety protocols must be followed. 


Tuesday, August 18, 5:00 pm – 6:30 pm (4 volunteers)
Stevens Glen, West Stockbridge

Help to eradicate invasive garlic mustard and protect this beautiful forest.  This work involves pulling the plant up by the root and disposing in a trash bag. BNRC will provide all tools and will sanitize them prior to use. Please wear sturdy shoes and bring a mask, water, and a snack. The outlined safety protocols must be followed. 


Thursday, August 20, 5:00 pm – 6:30 pm (4 volunteers)
Stevens Glen, West Stockbridge

Help to eradicate invasive garlic mustard and protect this beautiful forest.  This work involves pulling the plant up by the root and disposing in a trash bag. BNRC will provide all tools and will sanitize them prior to use. Please wear sturdy shoes and bring a mask, water, and a snack. The outlined safety protocols must be followed. 


Sunday, August 23, 10:00 am – 1:00 pm (4 volunteers) RSVP CAPACITY REACHED
Clam River, Sandisfield 

This workday will focus on removing old flagging along the Clam River Trail and clearing the corridor. We’ll hike approximately 3 miles. BNRC will provide all tools and will sanitize them prior to use. If you have loppers and/or pruners, please feel free to bring. Please wear sturdy shoes and bring a mask, water, and a snack. The outlined safety protocols must be followed. 


Thursday, September 3, 9:00 am – noon (4 volunteers) RSVP CAPACITY REACHED
Old Mill Trail, Hinsdale/Dalton 

Help us to continue to eradicate garlic mustard on this beautiful section along the East Branch of the Housatonic River. This work involves pulling the plant up by the root and disposing in a trash bag. BNRC will provide all tools and will sanitize them prior to use. Please wear sturdy shoes and bring a mask, water, and a snack. The outlined safety protocols must be followed. 


Saturday, September 19, 9:00 am – noon (4 volunteers) RSVP CAPACITY REACHED
The Boulders, Gulf Road Access, Pittsfield 

We’ll be working to remove old trail markers along the Green Trail. This will help to establish a clear trail blazing system. This work involves using a step or small ladder and tool to pry the old marker. BNRC will provide all tools and will sanitize them prior to use. Please wear sturdy shoes and bring a mask, water, and a snack. The outlined safety protocols must be followed. 


Friday, September 25, 10:00 am – 2:00 pm (4 volunteers) RSVP CAPACITY REACHED
Hoosac Range, North Adams 

This workday will focus on defining the corridor along the Hoosac Range Trail. BNRC will provide all tools and will sanitize them prior to use. If you have loppers and/or pruners, please feel free to bring. Please wear sturdy shoes and bring a mask, water, and a snack. The outlined safety protocols must be followed. 

BNRC OPENS NEW MAHANNA COBBLE TRAIL

Bousquet owners create access to improved route to Berkshire vista 

PITTSFIELD, Massachusetts 

10/14/2020:

TEMPORARY TRAIL CLOSURE

Due to wide-spanning construction at Bousquet Ski Area, access to BNRC’s Mahanna Cobble Trail is now CLOSED. We will re-open access to the trail when the conditions permit.  Apologies for any inconvenience. Please visit www.bnrc.org/bnrc-trails-app/ to find more hikes nearby!

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On Friday, June 19, 2020 Berkshire Natural Resources Council (BNRC) and Mill Town announced their partnership to create improved public access to Mahanna Cobble, a conservation reserve owned and operated by BNRC. Mahanna Cobble is free and open to the public, and rests atop the south-facing side of Bousquet Mountain in Pittsfield. 

Mill Town, which recently purchased the Bousquet ski resort, is focused on expanding outdoor recreation opportunities at Bousquet and around the Berkshires, including hiking activities. Together, BNRC and Mill Town have placed temporary signage at Bousquet to highlight an access route for hikers from the mountain’s base lodge and parking area, up a ski hill, to BNRC’s new Mahanna Cobble trail. 

“We are thrilled to have a strong partner in Mill Town as we open a gem of a trail, leading to a beautiful Berkshire vistaPartnerships like this are key to our success in conserving land around the Berkshires for wildlife and recreation,” says Jenny Hansell, President of BNRC. “The new Mahanna Cobble Trail embodies the core elements of BNRC’s work – our rich conservation historyefforts to open special places to all, and engaging in sustainable trail building for hikers now and long into the future.”  

This brand new route to Mahanna Cobble, funded by BNRC donors, was completed at the close of the 2019 trail construction season under the direction of Tyler Fogg, BNRC’s Trails Coordinator. Many BNRC volunteers and staff assisted in the design of this sustainably-built trail, with some portions constructed by OBP Trailworks LLC. 

Hikers will experience approximately 600 feet of elevation gain, made manageable through a series of climbing turns and hand-set stone steps. 

“BNRC is recognized as a county leader known for top-notch land stewardship and trail accessibility, and we’re thrilled to tap into their expertise as our on-site hiking trail partner,” notes Carrie Holland, Mill Town’s Managing Director.  “This collaboration will really help highlight the outdoor recreation opportunities found at Bousquet mountain for our community year-round — well beyond the obvious winter skiing and snowboarding season.  We are excited to welcome the public to Bousquet to enjoy the beautiful network of trails that extend out from our property.” 

Visitors should park to the far left of the lodge, and follow hiker signage to the “Drifter” beginner-level ski trail. Signage will indicate where to turn off Drifter, to access the Mahanna Cobble trail. The Cobble trail has clear directional signage to a vista atop the North Yokun Ridge. There, visitors will find a stone bench, dedicated to BNRC’s founding executive director George Wislocki, which provides a place to rest and enjoy the long view of uninterrupted forest to the south. 

Distance from the lodge to the start of the trailhead is 0.4 miles; the Mahanna Cobble trail itself is a 1-mile single-track hiking path with gradual elevation gain, and requires walking on stone steps. The entire out-and-back hike is 2.8 miles. The access route from the parking area to Drifter may be modified periodically over the summer and autumn in light of lodge renovation and base area improvements. Follow signage and check the Mahanna Cobble webpage at www.bnrc.org/trails-and-maps/mahanna-cobble/ for updates before heading out. 

BNRC is grateful to Mill Town for opening Bousquet Ski Area with to Berkshire hiking enthusiasts. Next, BNRC and Mill Town will collaborate on developing a permanent Mahanna Cobble trailhead, hopefully available in all four seasons of the year. 

Future hiking opportunities will feature Bousquet as a trailhead for the northern section of BNRC’s High Road Yokun Ridge hike, which will connect a variety of trails and conservation lands along the ridge and into town centers. More details will be shared as plans are finalized.  


Established in 1967, the Berkshire Natural Resources Council’s mission is to protect and preserve the natural beauty and ecological integrity of the Berkshires for public benefit and enjoyment. There are 56 BNRC conservation reserves spread across Berkshire County, free to the public, open to everyone for recreation. BNRC conserves land, builds and maintains trail systems, and offers year-round group outings—all through the support of donors. More about all BNRC properties and trails, and BNRC’s free Berkshire Trails app, can be found online at bnrc.org.  

Media Contacts for BNRC:  

Jenny Hansell, jhansell@bnrc.org, 413-499-0596.  

Mill Town’s mission is to expand and improve the quality and quantity of opportunities to live, work, and play in the Berkshires.  Founded in 2016, Mill Town is a Berkshire County-based impact investment firm.  Mill Town invests in businesses, real estate, and community development projects in the City of Pittsfield and across the region.  The company supports a wide variety of community development initiatives focused on outdoor recreation enhancement and supporting the region’s many cultural and non-profit assets.  For more information, please visit milltowncapital.com. 

Media Contacts for Mill Town: 

Carrie Hollandcarrie@milltowncapital.com, 413-464-1115. 

 

Vernal Pool or Puddle?

Blog post by Jenny Hansell, Berkshire Natural Resources Council President

How do you know if you have a vernal pool, or just a puddle? My backyard, just under an acre in the hilltowns, has been flooded almost nonstop since we moved in last November, though the previous owner assures me that it will dry up by the end of May.  Observing the soggy mess, I wondered how I might tell the difference between an ordinary puddle and a real vernal pool? I often encounter areas of standing water on my various walks and hikes, so I set out to learn how to tell the difference so I’d know what to look for, both in my yard and out on the trail.

MassWildlife’s Natural Heritage & Endangered Species Program (NHESP) oversees the certification of vernal pools in Massachusetts, and their website is a wealth of information – it has maps, species lists, and explanations of the ecology of these important habitats.  I quickly learned that the key feature of vernal pools is that they are wet for long enough that amphibian species can reproduce and hatch out, but not long enough for fish to establish a population and eat the amphibians. Their ephemerality is exactly what makes them so valuable, especially to species that are threatened or of special concern, like the blue-spotted salamander .

The NHESP website outlines the process for identifying and certifying vernal pools – anyone can do it, though it is strongly recommended that you have permission from the landowner.

To be considered a real vernal pool, the area must meet a few criteria: it must have no obvious entrance and exit point for the water (so it’s just sitting there); and it must have the species that rely on vernal pools, such as certain frogs, salamanders and fairy shrimp – either the creature itself or its eggs can be evidence.

Once your pool is certified, certain protections kick in, under the Wetlands Protection Act. If you are thinking of certifying one on your property, make sure you are willing to abide by any resulting restrictions.

So far, my backyard wetland doesn’t show any signs of life, other than the cowbirds nesting in the brushpile.  But it’s early yet, and the nights haven’t warmed up past 40 degrees. I’ll be watching and waiting, just in case a wood frog or blue spotted salamander decides to take up residence in my neighborhood.