Berkshire Natural Resources Council Blog

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Forest Floor Discovery Hike, Clam River, Sandisfield 

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

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.

A Self-Guided Mindfulness Hike at the Charcoal Trail

BNRC and Shire Quests Present: A Self-Guided Mindfulness Hike at the Charcoal Trail

 Friday, August 13 – Sunday, September 26 (extended) at the Yokun Ridge South Reserve, Stockbridge 

Begin with an audio meditation to ground in your breath and body, then turn off your phone and walk the 1.6-mile loop in serenity and awareness with periodic invitations to practice presence, gratitude, and forest bathing. Take your time! 

The Berkshire Natural Resources Council (BNRC) and Micah Mortali – the founder of the Kripalu School of Mindful Outdoor Leadership and Shire Quests – will be presenting a self-guided mindfulness hike at the Charcoal Trail from Olivia’s Overlook in Stockbridge from August 13 through September 26. 

This installation will feature two opening audio meditations you can download and listen to before your hike (either at home or from a QR code at the trailhead) to remember the original history of the land and cultivate a practice of present-moment awareness and gratitude while out in the woods. Along the trail, there will be a series of four signs serving as invitations to breathe, relax, and center yourself in a mindful outdoor experience. Give yourself a reset and take some time to connect to the land. 

Click here for the audio meditations to listen to before your hike.

DIRECTIONS 

Directions to Olivia’s Overlook:

Google Maps Link 

From Lenox: Take Route 183 west for 1.5 miles, passing Tanglewood. When Route 183 curves left, bear right onto Richmond Mountain Road (sign says to Rt. 41/Richmond). Drive 1.5 miles and the parking lot will be on your left. 

From West Stockbridge: Head north on Swamp Road and make an immediate right onto Lenox Road. At 2.0 miles, turn right and continue another 0.1 mile to Olivia’s Overlook on the right. 

From Pittsfield: Take Rt. 20 west 0.8 miles. Make a left onto Barker Road and drive 6.6 miles. Make a left onto Lenox Road and drive 1.8 miles to Olivia’s Overlook, on the right. 

GPS:
42.3519, -73.3377 (Olivia’s Overlook – Charcoal trailhead parking) 

 

 

 

BNRC “TRAILS-FROM-TOWNS” TAKES NEXT STEP IN GREAT BARRINGTON

MassTrails Grant Helps Connect Town and City Centers to the Outdoors

August 2021

Berkshire Natural Resources Council (BNRC) has received a $28,000 grant from MassTrails, an inter-agency initiative of the Commonwealth led by the Governor’s Office, in collaboration with the Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs, the Department of Transportation, and the Department of Conservation and Recreation.

The grant will be used to expand trail options at BNRC’s Thomas & Palmer Brook conservation reserve, and to advance plans to connect Great Barrington’s downtown center by footpath to Thomas & Palmer Brook and other conserved lands heading north toward Stockbridge. The work proposed for this next phase will include the construction of a new woodland hiking trail connecting the popular accessible loop at Thomas & Palmer to the upland forest, and natural features within it.

BNRC President Jenny Hansell travelled to Cape Cod in July to participate in the MassTrails award ceremony. At the ceremony, Governor Charlie Baker announced nearly $4 million in grant funding to support 52 trail projects across the Commonwealth.

Also in attendance were Lieutenant Governor Karyn Polito, Energy and Environmental Affairs Secretary Kathleen Theoharides, Department of Transportation Secretary Jamey Tesler, and Department of Conservation and Recreation Commissioner Jim Montgomery.

“This is all about access for everyone to the Berkshire outdoors,” said Jenny Hansell, President of BNRC. “Making it easy for everyone to stay well outside is a top priority for BNRC. This means accessible trail design, and providing opportunities to walk out onto trail systems from downtown centers as part of BNRC’s High Road network. The MassTrails support of this vision is a wonderful gift to all who love the special character and natural beauty of the Berkshires.”

On its website, MassTrails states, “Trails are the intersection of conservation, community, transportation, and recreation. They connect Massachusetts residents and visitors to the places in which we live, learn, work, shop, and play.”

Work made possible by the MassTrails grant to BNRC will begin immediately.

Previous MassTrails grants to BNRC have funded work at the accessible-design Old Mill Trail in Hinsdale and Dalton, construction of the Parsons Marsh boardwalk in Lenox, and the initial accessible-design trail at Thomas & Palmer Brook.

Family Hike to Monks Pond, Lenox

Tuesday, August 24th  (Rain date: Wednesday, August 25th)
10:00 am – 11:30 am

What lives below the surface of Monks Pond? Maybe a water boatman or even a frog! Join BNRC and Berkshire Family Hikes for a morning of exploration. We’ll enjoy a child-led walk to Monks Pond and spend some time dipping nets to carefully catch and release some of the pond creatures.

For questions or to RSVP, email Taylor at taylors@macaronikid.com.  

Directions to Brothers trailhead:

Google Map Link

From Olivia’s Overlook, head east down the road. Parking is less than a mile down the road on the left.

GPS:42.3543, -73.3292 (Brothers Trailhead parking)