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Saying “Hi” from The High Road

May 19, 2022

Dear Reader,

The view from Yokun Seat along Yokun Ridge.

If you’ve been keeping up with BNRC, you are likely aware of the many exciting changes afoot. In addition to new staff, new conservation projects, and even a new office, you may have heard about the new Yokun Ridge trail that opened last summer.

The significance of this trail is not due solely to its natural beauty, unique ecology, and scenic vistas (although I assure you, those exist in abundance). It is also the first completed leg of The High Road, BNRC’s vision to create a more walkable, interconnected Berkshire County.

Which leads me to my originally intended purpose of addressing you, the reader: To introduce myself as BNRC’s new High Road Manager.

My first exposure to this project was back in 2017. My neighbor, who knew I had a deep interest in both land conservation and trail development, excitedly brought me a copy of a BNRC newsletter with the inaugural showcase of The High Road on its front cover. I remember eagerly opening to the booklet’s colorful centerfold and becoming enchanted by the vivid and imaginative description of a sinewy network of woodland trails, which would someday connect the many towns dotting the Berkshire’s hilly landscape.

Back then, I had no clue that my neighbor’s introduction to The High Road would culminate with me taking a managing role on the project five years later. Nor did I know that in the intervening time, I would have the good fortune to be involved in many trail initiatives, both nationwide and here in the Berkshire region. And that in those years, I would develop a deep, crystalized belief in the importance of sustainable and equitable access to nature.

And so, when presented with the opportunity to join BNRC as its High Road Manager early in 2022, I jumped at the chance.

In the initial days, weeks, and months in this role, I look forward to speaking with and getting to know many of you. Learning the significance of this momentous project and how it fits into BNRC’s mission is paramount.

As they say, Rome was not built in a day, (nor were all roads purportedly leading to it), so I suspect that this “road” won’t be, either. And that, in my opinion, is a good thing. It is my hope to honor the original spirit with which The High Road was founded, while keeping an open mind to the inevitable twists and turns any project of this magnitude is certain to take.

I’ll leave you with a favorite quote of mine from the novelist, Louis L’Amour, one that I will carry with me as I begin my work on The High Road.

“The trail is the thing, not the end of the trail. Travel too fast, and you miss all you are traveling for.”

-Deanna Oliveri, High Road Manager

Full Moon/Night Hike at Housatonic Flats, Great Barrington 

Friday, March 18, 8:00 pm – 9:30 pm  

Join us for a 1-mile beginner-level full moon hike. If weather permits, we’ll snowshoe! If you don’t have your own, we will have some pairs to loan. If there’s no snow, we’ll skip the snowshoes and go for a winter hike! 

To RSVP email Mariah at mauman@bnrc.org. 

Housatonic Flats reserve: https://www.bnrc.org/trails-and-maps/top-berkshire-trails/housatonic-flats/  

Difficulty: Easy (gentle grades, easy pace) 

What to Bring:  Bring a flashlight or headlamp. Please wear sturdy footwear (consider snowshoes and/or micro-spikes) and bring layers. BNRC has a few pairs of micro-spikes to loan.    

Directions: 

From Lee: From the Mass Pike/Big Y intersection, take Route 102 southwest toward Stockbridge. In Stockbridge turn left onto Route 7. After passing Monument Mountain, before reaching Price Chopper, look for the parking lot on the right side of the road. 

From Great Barrington: From the Price Chopper, head north on Route 7 for less than half a mile. Parking will be on the left. 

From Lenox: Take Route 7 or Route 7A south toward Great Barrington. After passing Monument Mountain, before reaching Price Chopper, look for the parking lot on the right side of the road. 

GPS: 42.216357, -73.343895 (Trailhead parking) 

Caminata Familiar Autoguiada, en The Boulders, Pittsfield

¡Camine 1.25 millas y aprenda sobre cómo ir en busca de búhos!

CUÁNDO/DÓNDE:

Luna de Búho, de Jane Yolen, estará exhibido para una aventura autoguiada desde el sábado 12 de febrero hasta el domingo 27 de febrero (desde el amanecer hasta el atardecer) en la reserva de The Boulders en Pittsfield.

DESCRIPCIÓN:

Mientras camina, disfrute de la historia de un padre que lleva a su hijo a la aventura de ir en busca de búhos por primera vez en una fría noche de invierno. Los dos compañeros caminan sin palabras, pues cuando se encuentran en busca de búhos palabras no son necesarias. Solo se necesita tener esperanza. A veces no hay búhos alrededor, pero otras veces sí los hay.  Si bien la audiencia del libro es para niños de 3 a 7 años, el contenido es ideal para todas las edades, ¡incluso para adultos!

Este evento se realiza en colaboración con el Consejo de Recursos Naturales de Berkshire y el Equipo de Acción Ambiental de Berkshire. 

Si tiene alguna pregunta, por favor, comuníquese con Mariah en mauman@bnrc.org.

INDICACCIONES:

El área de estacionamiento está a la izquierda de la casa en esta dirección: 1051 Dalton Ave, Pittsfield, MA 01201 y frente a Hubbard Avenue. Hay una escalera de piedra y un quiosco informativo que ingresa al acceso sur a The Boulders Reserve.

 

Forest Floor Discovery Hike, Clam River, Sandisfield 

Saturday, December 18, 10:00 am – 12:00 pm  

(Canceled due to weather) 

Join us for a 1.2-mile hike that will have everyone up close and personal with the forest floor. We’ll focus on identifying low-growing evergreens like American wintergreen, partridgeberry, princess pine, and more! 

To RSVP email Mariah at mauman@bnrc.org. 

Clam River reserve 

Difficulty: Easy (gentle grades, easy pace) 

What to Bring: Please bring water, wear sturdy footwear and wear layers. BNRC has a few pairs of micro-spikes to loan. 

It’s hunting season, please remember to wear your blaze orange! 

Directions: 

66 Sandisfield Rd, Sandisfield, MA 01255 

From Pittsfield: Take Route 20 East through Lee. After passing under the Mass Pike, turn right on Route 102 and then take an immediate left onto Tyringham Road. Continue straight across Route 23 onto Town Hill Road. Follow this until it intersects with Route 57 in Sandisfield. Turn left onto 57, heading east. Continue on Route 57 for 1.5 miles and park on the left at the Sandisfield Town Hall Annex, which is the former Sandisfield School. Enter the woods at the east edge of the parking lot. 

   

2021 October Enews

 

 

Guided After-School StoryWalk Event at The Boulders, Pittsfield

Wednesday, October 6, 3:30 pm – 5:00 pm

Join us for a 1.25 mile walk and learn how patient persistence, an inquiring mind, and creative experimentation drive scientific discovery!

Contact Mariah at mauman@bnrc.org or 413-499-0596 with any questions.

Difficulty: Easy (easy pace, little elevation changes)

StoryWalk Book: Buzzing with Questions: The Inquisitive Mind of Charles Henry Turner by Janice N. Harrington

Can spiders learn? How do ants find their way home? Can bugs see color? All of these questions buzzed endlessly in Charles Henry Turner’s mind. As the first Black entomologist, he was fascinated by plants and animals, and bugs. And even when he faced racial prejudice, Turner did not stop wondering. He constantly read, researched, and experimented. Author Janice Harrington and artist Theodore Taylor III capture the life of this scientist and educator in this nonfiction picture book, highlighting Turner’s unstoppable curiosity and his passion for science. This book is recognized as A National Science Teachers Association and Children’s Book Council Best STEM Book.

While the audience of the book is 7-10-year-olds, the content is great for all ages- even adults!

Snacks and water will be provided! Also, participants will get a copy of The Hike, a nature book for kids, by Alison Farrell.

Directions: The parking area is to the left of the house at this address: 1051 Dalton Ave, Pittsfield, MA 01201 and across from Hubbard Avenue. There is a stone staircase and informational kiosk entering the south access to The Boulders Reserve.


Did you know that you can check out a BNRC hiking backpack at the Berkshire Athenaeum, Pittsfield’s Public Library?

The backpacks are filled will all the things you need for a safe, fun, and educational outdoor adventure.

  • Magnifying Glass
  • Pair of Binoculars
  • 2 Rain Ponchos
  • First Aid Kit
  • Wildflower & Tree Guide
  • Butterfly & Moth Guide
  • Bird Guide
  • Compass
  • Bug Spray
  • Journal

Be sure to check one out for your next adventure!

 

From the Land Protection Toolkit: Conservation Restrictions 101

By Christopher Densmore

If you enjoy hiking in the Berkshires, you’ve probably noticed at some point that the Berkshire Natural Resources Council (BNRC), our regional land trust, owns over 11,000 acres of publicly open land in the county. With over 60 miles of maintained trails across many different sites, there are opportunities to hike, birdwatch, picnic, or even hunt and fish. You might wander the river bends at Housatonic Flats in Great Barrington, or you could hike the Hoosac Range Trail in North Adams to the views from Sunset Rock or Spruce Hill. You might picnic and survey the Stockbridge Bowl from Olivia’s Overlook, or swim from the dock at Steadman Pond in Monterey. These are just a few of the lands that BNRC’s Stewardship and Trails teams—with help from generous donor support and an abundance of volunteers—have conserved over the years for common recreational enjoyment and ecological health.

Beyond those reserves though, if you understand the finer details of Berkshire land conservation—or perhaps have researched conserving your own land—you might also note that BNRC protects another 12,000 acres in privately-held conservation lands. Nearly all of those lands are owned by individuals or families. So how does a land trust end up conserving the properties of other landowners? The answer is one of the fundamental tools of land protection in Massachusetts and around the country for several decades: the Conservation Restriction!

Protecting Private Land for Public Benefit

Conservation Restrictions (CRs) are a type of legal document: a voluntary and binding agreement to prevent land from being developed for residential or commercial use. These contracts are an agreement between the owner of the land and a qualified conservation organization, which from then on holds an interest in the land, recorded with the Commonwealth’s registry of deeds. So a CR conserves land forever, even if the ownership of the land changes. Also known as conservation easements in most other states, CRs (or CEs) have grown in use with the general land trust and conservation movements in recent decades. So how does the process of a CR work?

This conservation journey begins when a landowner decides they want to protect their land. They might reach out to a conservation organization for guidance and resources, or sometimes the organization itself might begin the process by inquiring about a particular parcel. Some landowners might want to gift or sell their land to a conservation organization, but if they want to continue to own the land while still conserving it, a CR may be the best path forward.

After some communication between the conservation organization—let’s say a land trust like BNRC—and the landowner, they visit the property together to assess how conserving the land serves public values such as:

  • preserving a watershed and water quality,
  • securing public access to scenic resources, though public access is not a requirement of CRs
  • reducing air pollution,
  • protecting important farms and farmland from development
  • providing habitat or migration corridors for fish and wildlife,
  • protecting scenic vistas,
  • sequestering and storing carbon for climate change mitigation,
  • or allowing sustainable agriculture or forestry, among other values.

The land trust and owner describe the values specific to the property in question, which are recorded in the agreement. They also document the baseline land conditions relevant to those values. This record allows the land trust to make sure the values will endure if there are any changes in the land.

Setting the Terms

The land trust staff will also discuss, with the landowner, their goals for conserving the land. The language of the CR can reflect different priorities. Some restrictions preserve a primitive or wild landscape with no development, agriculture or forestry. Others conserve a working landscape with some logging or a particular focus on agriculture. Sometimes different conservation organizations will specialize in working with particular types of CRs. In New England, the Northeast Wilderness Trust focuses on wild landscapes, whereas the New England Forestry Foundation specializes in working landscapes. BNRC does a combination of both!

Mining, dumping, and motorized recreation are all restricted. Sometimes, a building lot might be kept for a future generation. If the landowner lives on the land, their dwelling and surrounding land (lawn, driveways, utilities, etc.) would be excluded from the restriction. Ultimately, there are varied options for the landowners, but the CR prevents certain “restricted uses” and protects certain “reserved rights” in varying proportions.

Once the CR is finalized, the land trust assumes responsibility for stewarding the land in perpetuity—meaning they are in continual relationship with the landowners. Good CR stewardship requires annual assessments of the site conditions to ensure that the conservation values are being protected. At BNRC, these assessments are a considerable part of our stewardship department’s work. CRs are part of our investment in the future of conservation and require continued engagement and collaboration.

So, ultimately, CRs are a helpful and game-changing tool for landowners and land trusts to protect land together in a legally-binding way without transferring ownership. With this legal structure, they allow private landowners to support the public benefits of conserving land. According to the Land Trust Alliance, a national land trust advocacy organization, conservationists have used these easements nationwide to protect a total acreage that adds up to larger than the size of Massachusetts. CRs allow local residents to conserve land that adds up at larger scales! At BNRC, we’re glad to have CRs in our conservation toolkit to protect ecological and social wellness in the Berkshires. If you or anyone you know owns land and might want to conserve it, take note and spread the word!

 

Family Self-Guided StoryWalk on the Old Mill Trail, Hinsdale

Enjoy the 1.4-mile accessible trail and learn how patient persistence, an inquiring mind, and creative experimentation drive scientific discovery!

WHERE/WHEN:
Buzzing with Questions: The Inquisitive Mind of Charles Henry Turner by Janice N. Harrington will be on display for a self-guided adventure from Saturday, September 4 – Sunday, September 12 (dawn to dusk) at the Old Mill Trail.

Can spiders learn? How do ants find their way home? Can bugs see color? All of these questions buzzed endlessly in Charles Henry Turner’s mind. As the first Black entomologist, he was fascinated by plants and animals, and bugs. And even when he faced racial prejudice, Turner did not stop wondering. He constantly read, researched, and experimented. Author Janice Harrington and artist Theodore Taylor III capture the life of this scientist and educator in this nonfiction picture book, highlighting Turner’s unstoppable curiosity and his passion for science. This book is recognized as A National Science Teachers Association and Children’s Book Council Best STEM Book.

While the audience of the book is 7-10-year-olds, the content is great for all ages- even adults!

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)

Hollow Fields Hours

Hollow Fields is open from 9:00 am – 5:00 pm and otherwise closed to the public until further notice, by order of the Massachusetts Land Court. We hope to restore full operating hours, including access for hunters, once the Court renders a final judgment in BNRC v. Richmond ZBA, et al, 21 MISC 000356 (RBF). Until then, BNRC invites the public to hike, birdwatch, and otherwise enjoy conserved open space during the restricted hours.

If you have questions call (413) 499-0596 or email frontdesk@bnrc.org.

 

2021 Volunteer Appreciation Event

When: Friday, October 15, 4:00 pm – 6:30 pm (Drop in or stay for the whole time)

Where: Wild Acres Conservation Area, S Mountain Rd, Pittsfield, MA 01201

Join us in celebrating the great work of BNRC volunteers! Whether you are brand new or have been volunteering for many years- we could not do it without you.

During the Appreciation Event, we will enjoy pictures from workdays, games, drinks, and light eats under the pavilion. We will also lead a couple of strolls throughout the event to the observation tower overlooking a beautiful wetland and Mahanna Cobble.

Please RSVP to Mariah at mauman@bnrc.org.