A surge of donations since March 20, matched 1:1 by a pair of anonymous donors, has carried Berkshire Natural Resources Council’s High Road Campaign past its $5 million target.
The campaign, launched quietly in 2014, will support the creation of a countywide town-to-town trail system, dubbed “the High Road” by BNRC.
“More than 500 individuals and families can call themselves High Road Founders today,” said Tad Ames. “They have turned a dream into a plan for a healthier future for the Berkshires – its plants and animals, and its people.”
The High Road, Ames said, will aim to conserve and connect unprotected lands that have important ecological, agricultural, scenic and recreational attributes.
The proposed recreational hiking system will serve as a thread linking these natural areas to each other, and to towns.
“Conservation and community go together,” Ames said. “We want to give folks the choice of a 30 minute walk at lunch, or a three-day ramble from town to town, with food, drink and clean sheets waiting at the end of the day. Europe has this. Why not the Berkshires?”
Tim Crane, the chairman of BNRC’s board, credited his board colleagues for getting behind the vision with remarkable commitment and energy.
“The High Road has transformed BNRC, but more importantly it has the potential to be transformative for the Berkshires,” he said. “The depth and breadth of the encouragement and interest, from volunteers, businesses and community partners as well as donors, has been an inspiration for all of us.”
On a more intimate note, he said he’d been approached recently by a local man, a father, who told him that day trips on BNRC trails had played an important role in helping his family work through a difficult time.
“The High Road is not just about saving and caring for land,” Crane said. “It’s about saving and caring for people’s connection to land, and everything that means to them.”
Ames said that work on the High Road has already started.
“We are working with a number of partners to solidify plans for the first long-distance town-to-town trail. Detailed conversations have led to a handshake on principles we all agree on. We’d love to make an announcement this fall, and we’re grateful for the time, energy and collegiality that all parties are putting in to get there.”
Berkshire Natural Resources Council was founded in 1967. Today BNRC cares for over 21,000 of conserved land from North Adams to Mount Washington. BNRC-owned lands are all open to the public, and the organization manages approximately 50 miles of trails on its properties. Information on the organization and places to visit can be found at www.bnrc.org.
Information on the High Road is available at www.bnrc.org/the-high-road/