|Andrew French (right side) of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife|
Service at trail opening with members of the local community.
The Pioneer Valley of western Massachusetts has a brand new award-winning accessible trail! The official opening of occurred in late October and was well attended by people with disabilities, as well as members of the general public. The Fort River Birding and Nature Trail is the latest addition to the Silvio O. Conte National Fish and Wildlife Refuge which spans four states with numerous properties along the Connecticut River watershed.
The Fort River Birding and Nature Trail offers a 1.2 mile experience traversing 260 acres of grassland, wetlands, hardwood and floodplain forests off Moody Bridge Road in Hadley, Massachusetts. Designed as one loop, the trail is constructed of stone dust with wooden edging and eight elevated boardwalks. Seven different viewing decks are spaced along the trail to allow seated enjoyment of various natural areas, group stops, and nature interpretation and study. This is the longest accessible trail in the region that I know of allowing for a quiet, off road outing for all to enjoy in nature.
Andrew French, an award-winning National Wildlife Refuge manager and project leader with a long history of trail design in the refuge system, carefully crafted and oversaw construction on the Fort River Trail over the past four years. While on a tour of the new trail in August with him, I was pleased to discover that Andrew was also the designer and project manager for the Carson Trail in the Rachel Carson National Wildlife Refuge in Wells, Maine – a favorite place of mine. The Carson Trail was completed long ago and has stood the test of time. It is another beautiful one mile accessible trail opportunity in New England that takes trail users through pine woods, maple wetlands and salt marsh edges with tidal river viewing.
Constructed over four years, much of the Fort River Birding and Nature Trail construction was performed by members of the Student Conservation Association and Youth Conservation Corps. The construction crews built their carpentry skills while performing a long-lasting good deed.
Birders in the area have already been documenting avian activity on site and have logged over 125 species. For a quiet observer, bird and wildlife viewing possibilities abound along the new trail.
The Fort River Birding and Nature Trail has recently received a Paul Winske Award from the Stavros Center for Independent Living. Members of Stavros provided feedback on trail development and reviewed nominations from the local disability community before granting the award.
To find the trail, drive behind the Bri-Mar Stables at 69 Moody Bridge Road in Hadley to a trailhead parking lot.
Thank you Andrew French, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, student construction crew members and volunteers for creating a beautiful trail for all to enjoy!
Thanks to Rachael Lee for the first two photos.