Main content

Beyond Yokun Ridge: The Future of The High Road

Posted Monday, April 24, 2023
The High Road

Now that the Yokun Ridge leg of The High Road is open, BNRC President Jenny Hansell asked High Road Manager Deanna Smith about the future of BNRC’s ambitious countywide trail network.

Jenny Hansell: Everyone keeps asking me, where will the next segment be?

Deanna Smith: All I can say now is that there are three priority segments that we have made significant progress on, in North, Central, and South County.

JH: Why can’t you say where they are?

DS: Most High Road routes will cross the land of multiple landowners and will require legal agreements with them. We’re still in negotiations with several of the landowners, so being too specific right now isn’t in anyone’s best interest. There are many layers to this type of project management: approvals, permitting, trail design, easements—and that’s not even the actual construction! And of course, we want the trail to be ready for hikers—the last thing we want is folks coming to hike a trail that hasn’t been built yet!

JH: Can you share an example of a route you’re working on? When it’s complete, what kind of experience will it be?

DS: There’s a beautiful route in Central Berkshire County that I’m most excited about, because it really ticks all the boxes of what we hope to achieve with The High Road. It will be a collaboration among five landowners and provide a new type of experience for hikers, in close proximity to downtown Pittsfield. This route has excellent views, wetlands, and some incredible rock outcroppings— everything you can hope for in a trail.

JH: Why did you choose this route?

DS: The goal is to bridge the gap between the existing Yokun Ridge trail and downtown Pittsfield. For the intrepid hiker who plans on walking the entire route, it will provide additional miles through unique terrain and provide an option to enter downtown. We’re conscious of how the design and construction of this particular trail might be geared more toward more novice trail users, to provide a top-tier introduction to hiking for a wider audience. This trail will become a showcase for what we can accomplish with The High Road.

JH: Can you say a little about how we work with our partners?

DS: All of these routes will require collaboration from a wide range of stakeholders, and not just landowners. Town planning departments, funders, and community groups are all involved in the various stages of project development for each High Road route.

JH: How does conservation play a role?

DS: As BNRC pursues new conservation projects, it widens the canvas for what might be possible for The High Road, and new land acquisitions may open the door to new trail connections. The High Road can serve many functions-recreation, access, education. There’s so much potential, and new conservation projects help make that happen. For example, the new conservation work going on around Mt. Hunger in Monterey and Tyringham creates exciting potential for a future High Road route through existing BNRC and state lands.

JH: When do you think we’ll unveil the next one officially?

DS: I don’t think I’m being too optimistic by saying that we’ll have an announcement in mid-2023, with new trails ready to be opened in 2024.

Learn more about The High Road