Berkshire Natural Resources Council Blog

Landkeeper's Blog

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Burbank Trail Workday (5 volunteers)

Thursday, September 26, 10:00 am – 1:00 pm

Help to shape and clean out the water bars on the Burbank Trail!

Please wear sturdy shoes and bring water and a snack.

Directions to Olivia’s Overlook:

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.

Please RSVP to Mariah at or call 413-499-0596.

Old Mill Trail Workday (10-15 volunteers)

Wednesday, September 18, 4:00 pm – 6:30 pm

The Housatonic Valley Association, in partnership with BNRC, is determined to eradicate the invasive species along this stretch of the East Branch of the Housatonic River. Come learn about the effort and participate in making this vision a reality. We’ll primarily be focusing on the removal of garlic mustard and also do some regular maintenance on the trail (raking, pulling weeds from the trail surface). BNRC will provide all tools and gloves.

Please wear sturdy shoes and bring water and a snack.

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.

Please RSVP to Mariah at or call 413-499-0596.

Richmond Land Trust Pie Social (5 volunteers)

Saturday, September 7, 12:30 pm – 3:00 pm

Help BNRC and the Richmond Land Trust with parking and set up for the RLT’s annual Pie Social. Volunteers will be asked to help out with for a portion of the time with parking, set up and break down, but will also be able to enjoy the event and eat plenty of pie!


From Great Barrington: Take Route 41 north into Richmond. After passing Route 295, Perry’s Peak Road will be the next left approximately one mile down the road. On Perry Peak Road, find the parking at the second red barn on the left, with a BNRC sign by the road. Please do not park directly on Perry’s Peak Road in any season.
From Pittsfield: Get on West Housatonic Street (Route 20) heading west. Turn left onto Route 41 just before Hancock Shaker Village. After 2.5 miles turn right onto Perry’s Peak Road. Parking is signed, second red barn on the left. Please do not park directly on Perry’s Peak Road in any season.

Please RSVP to Mariah at or call 413-499-0596.

Gardening tips for lovers of the outdoors

Being aware of our impact on our landscapes both wild and cultivated has never been more important to protecting the health of plants, insects and animals. Beginning with our garden we can implement some simple practices that will enhance its overall ecological health.

After a day of walking or hiking your footwear could have picked up seeds of invasive plants. Cleaning them off before you walk in your own landscape helps to minimize the transfer of invasives such as bush honeysuckle, Japanese knotweed and Oriental Bittersweet to name a few.

It should go without saying that the practice of carry in and carry out extends to not carrying out what you did not take in, plants, fungi, soil, insects, etc. This protects the landscape AND your garden from potential unwanted destructive effects, bringing home invasive plants, unwanted pathogens or perhaps…the invasive earthworm, called Asian jumping worm, crazy worm or snake worm. The name describes their movement, fast, snakelike and “jumpy.” Since 1937 they have increasingly devastated landscapes because of their voracious appetite, eating the organic layer of the forest and soil leaving behind large amounts of coffee ground like castings. This depletes the organic component needed by trees and shown to be involved in the decline of sugar maples.

Bringing in home dug plants, compost or mulch poses a risk for bringing in invasive plants, seeds and Asian worm. You are safer using your own compost and fall and leaves as mulch to minimize your risk of introducing these to your garden. This also increases organic matter in the garden, healthy soil microbes and helps preserve moisture during dry and hot weather.

Adding native plants for nectar and larval food sources for butterflies and insects assures the presence of diverse insects and birds. Plants such as milkweed for monarchs, dill and fennel for swallowtails and wild blue lupines for the rare Karner Blue butterfly are a few examples of larval foods.

Finally, not using pesticides improves the health of all insects, animals, you and the environment! The of internet and your local Master Gardener association offer further resources for ecological gardening information.

Happy gardening and happy hiking!

Marianne Zimberg, Master Gardener
Western Massachusetts Master Gardener Association

email hotline:

telephone hotline: (413) 298-5355



This is a seasonal position (approximately August- October) focusing on the construction of new hiking trails and reconstruction of existing trails on Berkshire Natural Resources Council’s properties.  The majority of the season will be spent building single track tread, constructing stone and/or timber trail features such as retaining wall, steps, and patio-laid stone.  Other duties may include hiking other established trails to clear blowdowns, make minor repairs and assess other trail needs.

Essential Functions

  • Performs both basic and advanced trail work (with appropriate training and guidance) to a high standard of quality.
  • Performs heavy reconstructive trail work including, but not limited to: single track tread construction, tread hardening, rock construction (cribbing, staircases).
  • Works collaboratively as part of the Trails Team, with other staff across the organization, and with volunteers.
  • Uses and maintains vehicles, tools and equipment to the highest safety standards.
  • Other duties as assigned with or without accommodation.


  • Minimum of one year or season of professional experience in construction, landscaping, or other trades associated with the responsibilities of the position.
  • Ability to work independently as well as collaboratively with other team members.
  • Ability to complete assigned projects and tasks, meet deadlines and manage multiple tasks.
  • Ability to learn on the job and adopt specific construction methods and skills as prescribed.
  • Commitment to natural resource protection and Leave No Trace ethics.
  • Strong commitment to quality work and a positive attitude.

Work Requirements                                        

  • Must be able to hike with up to 50 pounds of gear and tools.
  • Must be willing to work outdoors in adverse weather conditions.
  • Must be able to travel throughout Berkshire County to work in remote locations.
  • Valid driver’s license and reliable vehicle required.
  • Experience working with volunteer groups preferred.
  • Interest in learning about trail design and treatments and developing trail building skills

Benefits and Salary

This is a seasonal, non-exempt, hourly paid position, based in Pittsfield, MA.

Pay starting at $13.  Please direct inquiries to Tyler Fogg at or (413) 499-0596.


Enhanced kiosks and on-trail signage will improve visitors’ nature experience

June 12 , 2019

LENOX, Massachusetts

On Monday, June 10, State Representative Smitty Pignatelli (4th Berkshire) joined members of the Berkshire Natural Resources Council (BNRC) Board of Directors, volunteers, staff, and nature trail enthusiasts to unveil a redesigned trailhead kiosk and enhanced on-trail signage at BNRC’s flagship conservation reserve, Yokun Ridge South at Olivia’s Overlook. Similar upgrades have also been completed at 16 other BNRC trail sites across Berkshire County. All 54 BNRC reserves are open to the public year-round from dawn to dusk, free of charge.

From left to right: BNRC president Jenny Hansell, State Representative Smitty Pignatelli, Land Donor Tom Stokes, BNRC founding director George Wislocki, Land Donor Jim Hatch, and BNRC board member Don MacGillis.


Each updated kiosk features a large map of the reserve and its trail system; notes on the natural, cultural, and
ownership history of the protected lands; and suggested activities for each property.  Also available at the kiosks are free, newly revised paper trail maps for visitor use. Easier-to-read on-trail signage, mostly in the form of large brown signs with white letters, has also been installed on many trails. Among these are trails at The Boulders—a BNRC property used by many, which spans across parts of Dalton, Lanesborough, and the City of Pittsfield in the center of Berkshire County.

The Boulders trailhead on Gulf Road in Dalton.

“These kiosk and signage improvements, coupled with BNRC’s new Berkshire Trails app, will help everyone explore the richness of the Berkshires’ hiking trails and outdoor opportunities,” said BNRC President Jenny Hansell. At Monday’s unveiling ceremony, Representative Pignatelli spoke to the crowd of the economic importance of conservation land and outdoor recreation opportunities in the Berkshires.



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 54 BNRC conservation reserves spread across Berkshire County, free to the public, open to everyone for non-motorized recreation, featuring over 55 miles of maintained trails. 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


For more information contact Mackenzie Greer at 413-496-0596 or

Berkshire Natural Resources Council | 20 Bank Row, Pittsfield, MA 01201


Constitution Hill, Lanesborough

In January 1788 farmer Jonathan Smith traveled to Boston as Lanesborough’s delegate to the Massachusetts Constitutional Convention The body was charged with deciding whether the Bay State would ratify the federal Constitution written in Philadelphia the previous year. Smith had served as a selectman, moderator, assessor, and representative to the General Court, but when he stood to address the constitutional convention, he introduced himself modestly:

“I am a plain man,” he said, “and get my living from the plow.”

He then delivered the speech that arguably helped decide the fate of our nation.

At the time, the common man regarded the proposed Constitution with some suspicion. It had been drafted by lawyers, and was approved by men of wealth and property – the same class of men who seemed bent on taking debt-ridden farmers to court and throwing them into debtors’ prison. Shays’ Rebellion (1786-87) in South Berkshire was the fruit of this class warfare and now before the doubting convention in Boston lay a federal Constitution that some thought would memorialize the imbalance. Four states had ratified the Constitution, but the critical states of New York and Virginia were waiting to see what Massachusetts would do.

“I have lived in a part of the country where I have known the worth of good government by the want of it,” Smith told the convention. “There was a black cloud that rose in the east last winter, and spread over the west … It brought on a state of anarchy, and that leads to tyranny … Now when I saw this Constitution, I found that it was a cure for these disorders.”

Swayed by Smith’s words, the Massachusetts convention ratified the Constitution by a vote of 187-168. Other states quickly followed suit, and the Constitution took effect in March 1789.

Before departing for Boston, Smith had arranged for a bonfire to be lit atop Bald Headed Hill on the day Massachusetts ratified the Constitution. In a time when there was hardly a woodlot to obstruct one’s view, Bald Headed Hill, with its “crown shaven like a monk’s with the exception of a solitary stately tree resting on its extreme summit,” was a landmark for miles around. The bonfire spread the word, and the town renamed the hill that year to honor the Constitution and Smith’s role in its passage.

In 1903, the historic “solitary, stately” oak tree at the summit suffered a lightning strike. It survived until 1920, when vandals built a fire at its base. The town replaced it with a red oak sapling, which stands today in the forest at the top of the hill.

The forests of Constitution Hill have grown up around the old oaks and the landscape today is far different from the one which Smith and Billings knew. The return of the forests has ushered in the recovery of many of the characteristic wildlife we identify with the Berkshires including black bear and moose. However, as more farms give way to houses declining early successional habitat threatens many wildlife species dependent on open fields, shrublands or the dense thickets of young forests for nesting, breeding, and feeding sites have declined in number. Without the protective cover of dense grass and thickets, birds such as the Eastern bluebird (Sialia sialis), olive sided flycatcher (Contopus cooperi) and American woodcock (Scolopax minor), are unable to nest safely hidden from predators. Other animals, like the New England cottontail rabbit (Sylvilagus transitionalis) as well as various insects and other invertebrates depend on tender nutrient rich plant material found growing these spaces. Further up the food chain a suite of predatory species including snakes, foxes, owls, and others rely on these open areas for their abundant prey.

In 2006 BNRC, with the help of the Massachusetts Department of Fisheries and Wildlife’s Landowner Incentive Program, began work to reclaim parts of the abandoned orchards and fields that were part of Constitution Hill in order to maintain the pieces of the puzzle that various wildlife need to survive. In conjunction with this effort we will be managing the fields that can produce agricultural products while providing the same valuable early-succesional habitat. The forested areas will be managed for sustainable timber management that goes beyond sustained yield to simulate natural disturbances, retaining large legacy trees and standing snags for wildlife that depend on characteristics of “old-growth” forested habitat. With the declining available land base and increased population pressures our communities must find creative and sustainable ways of supporting our needs with the land base and providing for the critters we share this place with. As visitors explore this property they can consider the past landscape, the present and what our landscape will look like in the future.

Constitution Hill was gifted to the Berkshire Natural Resources Council in 1998 by N. Robert Thieriot to manage for multiple uses.

“As scarce as truth is, the supply has always been in excess of demand.”
~ Josh Billings (1818-1885)

Josh Billings, the local humorist whose fame is kept alive by the annual Josh Billings RunAground Triathlon, lived on this property. Walkers today will enjoy the 20-30 minute climb from the trailhead to the spine of the hill and the summit. The original Constitution Oak probably stood beside the large white quartz rock at the top. After descending from the ridgeline, return on the blue-blazed trail, noting the slag glass used to firm the road. Round trip should take 60-90 minutes depending on your pace.

Hoosac Range/Mahican-Mohawk Trail Maintenance Day, North Adams/Adams (5 volunteers)

Trail clearing along the Hoosac Range!

Saturday, June 8th, 10:00 am – 4:00 pm

Join us for a fun day of trail clean-up on the Hoosac Range. We’ll hike the Mahican-Mohawk Trail from BNRC’s Hoosac Range trailhead to the Savoy State Forest Campground, totaling about 8 miles. Our focus will be to clear the trail corridor for the spring and summer season!

Directions: Meet at the Savoy Mountain State Forest Campground, 310 Central Shaft Rd, Florida, MA 01247. We’ll spot vehicles there and then caravan to the Hoosac Range trailhead.

Please RSVP to Mariah at or call 413-499-0596.

Mahanna Cobble Trail Work, Pittsfield (5-10 volunteers)

CrossFit day on the mountain (round 2)!

Wednesday, June 19th, 10:00 am – 1:00 pm

The new Mahanna Cobble Trail is planned to be completed this year! Sections of the new trail need a thick layer of soil for a sustainable walking tread. Join the seasonal BNRC trail crew on the mountain to help move this project forward. We say CrossFit on the mountain, because it will be a digging and hauling soil kind of day. The hike up to the work site will be a moderate climb. BNRC will provide all tools and gloves.

Please wear sturdy shoes and bring water and lunch/snack.

Directions: We’ll meet in the parking lot of Bousquet Ski Area, 101 Dan Fox Dr, Pittsfield, MA 01201.

Please RSVP to Mariah at or call 413-499-0596.

Mahanna Cobble Trail Work, Pittsfield (5-10 volunteers)

CrossFit on the mountain!

Tuesday, May 14th, 10:00 am – 1:00 pm

The new Mahanna Cobble Trail is planned to be completed this year! Sections of the new trail need a thick layer of soil for a sustainable walking tread. Join us on the mountain to help move this project forward. We say CrossFit on the mountain, because it will be a digging and hauling soil kind of day. The hike up to the work site will be a moderate climb. BNRC will provide all tools and gloves.

Please wear sturdy shoes and bring water and lunch/snack.

Directions: We’ll meet in the parking lot of Bousquet Ski Area, 101 Dan Fox Dr, Pittsfield, MA 01201.

Please RSVP to Mariah at or call 413-499-0596.