(PITTSFIELD, Mass.) – A countywide town-to-town trail system called the Berkshire High Road has been plotted by the Berkshire Natural Resources Council, which has launched a $5 million High Road Campaign to fill in the “missing pieces” in the county’s patchwork of conserved lands to create walking trails through nature linking town and village centers to each other.
“We need to bring conservation and community together,” said Tad Ames, the Council’s president. “People love the Berkshires’ beauty, but it can be challenging to actually get out and experience it.”
The Council’s vision for a countywide walking network is inspired by places like Spain’s Camino de Santiago, or England’s Coast to Coast Walk.
“We aim to create a continuous network of trails to towns,” Ames said. “The High Road will ultimately offer everything from an easy half hour walk to a weeklong hiking holiday across the Berkshires.”
Ames said that the Council has worked quietly on the vision since early 2013. BNRC hopes to complete the fundraising for the High Road Campaign by the end of 2016, in time to mark its 50th anniversary in 2017.
Donors have made commitments to the campaign of $4.25 million during the campaign’s “quiet phase,” Ames said. “It’s a grand vision, and it’s within reach,” Ames said.
Ames observed that some 80 percent of the needed links are already in place. The Council’s goal is to help conserve the most strategic lands remaining, and secure trail easements to link landmarks to each other and to towns.
“It won’t happen overnight,” Ames said, “but with patience and the capacity to create and seize opportunities, the High Road is realistic and attainable.”
The Council has met with many stakeholders, including public agencies, land conservation organizations, municipalities and individuals, in what Ames said will be a “hugely collaborative” effort.
“The Berkshires need economic health and growth,” Ames said, “and the success of that will depend in large part on our ability to grow food here, to keep our air and water clean, to protect the forests and wetlands that buffer us from natural disasters, to allow plants and animals pathways to migrate and adapt to climate change. All these elements combine to maintain quality of life and ensure the Berkshires remain an appealing place to live, visit and invest.”
Walking trails don’t belong everywhere, Ames said, but there’s plenty of room for people to share land with each other and the natural world.
“We envision a 100 percent walkable Berkshires,” Ames said. “That doesn’t mean we walk on every square inch – it means we want to give someone the chance to walk from Williamstown to Sandisfield, with options to stop at every interesting and refreshing place along the way.”
“Natural beauty, amazing ecology and outdoor recreation are the Berkshires’ great inherent gifts,” Ames said. “We want to see a healthy economy and a healthy environment working together, now and forever. The High Road is a pathway to that vision.”