Welcome to FNTG

Welcome to the Friends of Northampton (MA) Trails and Greenways, a community-based 501(c)(3) non-profit organization devoted to improving the expanding rail-trail network in Northampton,
Massachusetts.

Winners of 2015 Trail Neighbor Award

Kudos to Gaby Immerman and John Sinton of the Mill River Greenway Initiative for their efforts on behalf of the riverways and greenways of our area. John and Gaby are the recipients of the 2015 Friends of Northampton Trails and Greenways Trail Neighbor Award, bestowed by Sean Kinlin at today’s Bike Breakfast in Northampton.

These two individuals have helped to improve our understanding of the Mill River ecosystem and our historical and current connection to it, and embody the spirit of the Trail Neighbor Award. Interested in learning more about Gaby and John? Check out the following video clip from Connecting Point: http://connectingpoint.wgby.org/2015/05/mill-river-greenway/
More information about the Mill River Greenway Initiative can be found at: http://millrivergreenway.org/.

reminder of trail cleanup and Tweed Ride on Sunday, May 10th

NORTHAMPTON BIKE PATH SPRING CLEANING
We need your help!

Although many parts of our trail system are being ably well-cleaned by Trail Adopters, some sections need special help at this time of the year. Come join John Power and others in cleaning the downtown section from King Street to Pleasant Street on

Sunday May 10th 9:00-11:00 AM

Meet at the bike path ramp behind the Calvin Theatre.

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REMINDER: FNTG TWEED RIDE ALSO ON SUNDAY

We will meet in the pedestrian plaza behind Thorne’s Market at 2:30 PM, and set off on a leisurely paced, family-friendly ride along Northampton’s bicycle trail network, ending at Look Park. There, Sweet Spoken will serve light refreshments, similar to an afternoon tea. Riders will be able to have their portraits taken with their vintage attire and bikes, and we’ll have live music to enjoy as we socialize. Registration required: please visit www.bikereg.com/tweedride to sign up.

John Gaustad, Secretary, FNTG
Caleb Langer, Sweet Spoken

Sweet Spoken Spring Tweed Ride on Sunday, May 10th

Sweet Spoken bicycle patisserie is organizing a Spring Tweed Ride benefiting FNTG on Sunday, May 10th from Downtown Northampton to Look Park! The perfect way to kick off Bike Week and enjoy Mother’s Day afternoon with your family, we will follow in the tradition of the Tweed Ride—or “Tweed Run”— started in London, England. A fun, casual, social ride, participants will come dressed in traditional tweed, seersucker or similar attire, and are encouraged to bring along their vintage bicycles, though any bicycle is welcomed!

We will meet in the pedestrian plaza behind Thorne’s Market at 2:30 PM, and will set off on a leisurely paced, family-friendly ride along Northampton’s bicycle trail network, ending at Look Park. There, Sweet Spoken will serve light refreshments, similar to an afternoon tea. Riders will be able to have their portraits taken with their vintage attire and bikes, and we’ll have live music to enjoy as we socialize.

Sweet Spoken has created this event to benefit our group, the Friends of Northampton Trails & Greenways (FNTG), as a way of saying ‘thanks’ and to invest in our ongoing work supporting the improvement of our trail system for the residents and visitors of the Pioneer Valley. Riders will be able to choose from our registration options, which offer a range of donation levels to FNTG, all of which include a complementary one-year membership.

Please visit www.bikereg.com/tweedride to sign up and support FNTG. We’re looking forward to a fun afternoon along Northampton’s trails, and we hope to see you there!

Updated maps of the trail network

The wonderful map-makers at the Smith College Spatial Analysis Lab have once again done their magic, with updated rail trail maps of Northampton and Easthampton. We’re hoping to reprint our map and brochure in the coming months, and would welcome any feedback or suggestions (deadline March 15, 2015).

The maps can be found here.

Growing the Multi-Use Trail Network – The projects, the plans, and the region

March 10, 7:00 pm: EVENING TALK (GROWING OUR TRAIL NETWORK)
Northampton Friends Meetinghouse, 43 Center Street

We’d encourage you to save the date for an evening lecture on Tuesday, March 10th at 7:00pm that Wayne Feiden will be presenting. Wayne is Director of the City’s Office of Planning and Sustainability his talk is entitled “Growing the Multi-Use Trail Network – The projects, the plans, and the region.” The event is free and open to the public.

ABSTRACT: Northampton’s rail and multi-use trail network continues to grow, with two projects planned for 2015, one for 2016, three more in design, and two in planning. Come hear where we are going on building a strong bicycle infrastructure. We will also include some brainstorming to help us prioritize future projects and next steps.

CONSIDER GETTING INVOLVED: We’re looking for some volunteers to help with the map and brochure, serve on the advisory committee, assist with trail counts, lead a tour of the trails, or contribute to the spring newsletter. FNTG is intended to be an umbrella that can provide support to various efforts (but we can’t function without your support). A modest time commitment can make a big difference.

More information about the Friends of Northampton Trails and Greenways can be found on our website (www.fntg.net). We hope to see you at the upcoming meetings or on the trails!

Nick Horton
President, Friends of Northampton Trails and Greenways
PO Box 60643
Florence, MA 01062-0643

Planning meeting: all welcomed

We’ll be hosting a planning meeting on Monday, March 2nd at 7:30pm at 341 Prospect Street, Northampton. We’d encourage you to join us as we plan for the spring and beyond. Tentative agenda items include reprinting our map and brochure, establishing an advisory committee, organizing a spring trail cleanup, approving the transfer of funds from the holiday appeal, working to improve the plowing of the trail network in the winter, writing a spring newsletter, and helping to support expansions and improvements.

Updates and holiday appeal

As I write this, Amtrak is preparing to return to Northampton after too long of an absence. I can’t wait to take the train to Vermont or New York when it restarts once per day service from Northampton on December 29th. This change is a culmination of a long-overdue upgrade of the tracks and facilities, and should make travel faster and more reliable (and facilitate ecotourism trips utilizing the train or other transit options). Kudos to Mayor Narkewicz, Wayne Feiden and the Office of Planning and Sustainability, the Norwottuck Rail Trail Advisory Committee as well as our state and federal representatives and their staffmembers.

I’m also looking forward to biking along our “rail with trail” downtown as well as through the new bike and pedestrian underpass, which is scheduled to be installed in 2015. According to Natalie Blais from Representative McGovern’s office, the tunnel is designed and paid for. It is a required state match for the federal ARRA funds that were utilized to move the Vermonter over to the west side of the Connecticut River.

Until the underpass is opened, all trail users should travel on the officially designated road connection instead of illegally crossing the tracks. This is important because the trains that will be traveling \emph{much} faster than in previous years. The rail upgrade project contractors will be adding new fences to deter trespassing. The official road detour (on Market Street to North Street) is well-signposted and needs to be the default for all users to ensure safe crossings.

In the past year, there have been wonderful improvements to the trails. The long-awaited rehabilitation of the Norwottuck Rail Trail is almost complete (with the trail officially open from Northampton to Station Road in Amherst). The final component is scheduled to be completed by the late spring of 2015. Kudos to the DCR for the much smoother (glass-free!) surface along with benches, plantings, signage, and other amenities.

We are again working with our partners at the Friends of the Manhan Rail Trail to reprint our popular trail map and brochure. If you have suggestions of businesses who might be willing to sponsor an ad, please let us know.

The Friends of Northampton Trails and Greenways continues to work with the City of Northampton to help design, build, maintain, and improve the local trail network. We’re most appreciative of the city’s new kiosks (funded by a grant proposal that we wrote with the City and MassBike), the adopt-a-trail program (see related article), and land acquisitions (see related article). There are also exciting developments in Williamsburg (see related article), as well as efforts to build out the trail to Boston (see related article), and down to New Haven (with trail projects underway in Westfield).

As always, we value your continued support. Since 2006, the Friends of Northampton Trails and Greenways has provided donations of more than $30,000 which have leveraged over $15 million dollars and 11 miles of rail trails. Through the FNTG annual appeal, we raised $5,000 this past year to support efforts to improve trail signage, to match state funding, and to plug gaps in the local trail network. We hope that you are able to support this future work (click here to donate online).

Nicholas Horton, President

Adopt a trail in full swing

The City of Northampton has created an Adopt-a-Trail program for all City rail trails. Volunteers, individuals or groups, are responsible for a short segment of the trails and engage in simple tasks such as litter cleanup and cutting brush behind guard rails, items that the Department of Public Works cannot do as often as is needed to maintain the trails at their best. Announced in February, the program has already signed up volunteers and business sponsors to cover 17 of the 26 trail segments in the program. Segments that remain to be covered are primarily those farthest from the City center, on the Manhan Trail towards Easthampton and the Mass Central Trail from Leeds towards Williamsburg.

Sponsors include the Northampton DPW, Planning and Parking offices, Tom Riddell, Smith College, the Unitarian Society,
Felix Lufkin and Help Yourself, Collaborative for Education Services, Adam Cohen and Jendi Reiter, A2Z Science and Learning Store, Valley Time Trade, Pedal People, John McGrath, Esther Ralston, Suzanne Love, Guys Tours of Florence, Look Park, Suzanne Starling, Leeds Elementary School, David Paine, and VCA, Inc.

More information about the new program can be found at http://www.northamptonma.gov/1372/Adopt-a-Trail.

Return of Amtrak (and the dangers of crossing the tracks)

Seven days from today, on December 29, 2014, Amtrak service returns to Northampton, with one trip daily north and one south. This is welcome news, but with it come concerns about safety. The passenger trains will move much faster than the slow freight trains we have experienced in the past. Furthermore, the new welded rails mean almost silent operations, with no clickety-clack warnings of approaching trains. Crossing the tracks at other than designated railroad crossings will become much more dangerous.

Please read the safety material available at the following links:
https://gallery.mailchimp.com/0c7537f3c28b7c7051b5a3ebc/files/See_Tracks_Think_Trains.pdf
https://gallery.mailchimp.com/0c7537f3c28b7c7051b5a3ebc/files/Myths_or_Realities.pdf
https://gallery.mailchimp.com/0c7537f3c28b7c7051b5a3ebc/files/7_Steps_for_Safety.pdf

If you would like to have paper copies for distribution to your friends and neighbors, please contact Officer Robert N. Hanson of the Amtrak Police Department at 413-785-4253 or robert.hanson@amtrak.com.

Walk and bike safely!

John Gaustad, Secretary
Friends of Northampton Trails and Greenways

Trail extensions

The City has recently received grants from the National Park Service and the Northampton Community Preservation Committee to design and construct an extension of the MassCentral Rail-Trail one-third of a mile northerly from the Grove Avenue access in Leeds to a point about halfway to the Williamsburg line.

On Monday October 6th, about 40 members of the community joined Wayne Feiden, Director of Planning and Sustainability, and Jesse Moreno, the project engineer, to walk this section of the trail and help identify problems that need to be addressed in the engineering design phase of the project. Among the items discussed were drainage problems, non-native invasive plants, the possible need for fences in areas of steep drop-offs, and the number and positioning of interpretive signs. Also discussed were options for the trail surface, ranging from asphalt (preferred by many bikers) to trap-rock gravel (preferred by many walkers) and various combinations of the two. Moreno was charged with generating a report giving the advantages, disadvantages, and cost of each option, which will inform future discussions and the final decision.

On October 17, in a special event in Northampton, the Patrick Administration announced $1.1 million in grants to fund 39 trails projects across the Commonwealth. The Town of Williamsburg received a grant of \$48,000 (matched locally with $72,000) for improvements to the section of the existing Leeds-to-Haydenville trail from the Northampton-Williamsburg town line to South Main Street. The project includes engineering design, grading/drainage work, and trail resurfacing. The grant will also address existing concerns with car traffic, poor visibility, and surface water at the foot of South Main Street where Williamsburg expects increased bike and pedestrian traffic due to these trail improvements.

The Cutchins Program for Children and Families received a grant of $16,700 (which was matched locally with \$14,417) to expand and develop a trail system in the City-owned Meadows floodplain area. It will add an additional 2.5 miles of trail including a half mile that will be ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) accessible. The project will also involve: construction of trail entry signs, benches, and a series of interpretive signs; ongoing maintenance of existing trails; and restoration effects focused on removing invasive species.

In October the City completed purchase of a 46-acre plot in the southwestern part of Northampton (see map) which will, in time, allow a multiuse trail connection between Route 66 in the Rocky Hill area, including the Ice Pond Trail, to the Manhan Trail near the bridge across Route 10. The trail will pass through what is likely to become known as the Rocky Hill Greenway, a critical wildlife corridor, and is the first link in a plan to connect the entire western half of the City to the trail system. The city just opened four bids for engineering services to design the trail and they expect to award that engineering contract before the end of the year. It could still be six to ten years before the full trail is built, but it is proceeding. The purchase was made possible through CPA (Community Preservation Act) funding, support from the Massachusetts Audubon Society, and private donations, including support from the Friends of Northampton Trails and Greenways.