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Trails & Historic Restoration
Among the outstanding features of the Wild & Scenic Westfield River are the historic structures that lie along the river, from 18th- and 19th-century road foundations and bridge abutments, to historic mills and present-day historic towns. We undertake projects to restore particularly noteworthy historic structures.
Also central to our mission is keeping trails in good shape in support of recreation and enjoyment of the river.
Among our current projects are:
While the West Branch of the Westfield River is the only one without a dam, that is not to say there are no grand earth and stone structures. Indeed, in terms of structure, the West Branch “rules.” Along its length sit the first cluster of keystone arch railroad bridges built in America. They are wholly dry laid, range in height to 70 feet and made possible the longest and highest railroad in the world, the Western Railroad, in 1841.
Following the West Branch gave the railroad builders the lowest altitude crossing of the Berkshire Range (1459 ft.) The serpentine course of the river made constant bridging necessary. Stonemason Alexander Birnie of Stockbridge was brought in to construct 27 bridges, culverts and walls in the mountain section of the line. Most impressive of these edifices were ten keystone arch bridges over the winding Westfield.
To help preserve these historic bridges, the Committee:
- Provided $35,000 in funds to support the National Historic Landmarks (NHL) designation being submitted by the Friends of the Keystone Arch Bridges, in cooperation with the Chester Foundation (Property Owner), Massachusetts Division of Fisheries and Wildlife (Property Owner) and Wild & Scenic Westfield River Committee, and for upkeep and maintenance of the bridges and Keystone Arch Bridge Trail;
- Holds volunteer trail workdays and activities; and
- Advocates for the restoration of these historic resources.
The Wild & Scenic Westfield River Committee in collaboration with the Trustees of Reservations is working to preserve and enhance the Glendale Falls property in Middlefield, MA.
In 2008 a “Walkin’ the Watershed” volunteer brought Glendale Falls to the attention of the Wild & Scenic Westfield River Committee, noting several problems with the informal pathways leading from the parking area at the top of the falls to the bottom. The foot traffic was eroding the soil next to the falls, compacting tree roots, and trampling plants. The volunteer suggested formalizing the helter-skelter pathways by creating a designated trail in a rustic style.
The Trustees were thrilled to work with the Wild & Scenic Westfield River Committee
and its enthusiastic volunteers to make Glendale Falls safer and more easily accessible, as well as healthier for the soils and plants.
Work began in 2009 with fundraising for supplies. Over twenty community groups, individuals, and businesses made donations to begin building the rustic stairs.
And over the past five years since then, more than one hundred individuals have volunteered over four hundred hours to protect and preserve this magical place.
In 2010 the rustic wooden stairs, sponsored by community members, organizations and businesses, start to take shape.
Volunteers keep their spirits high!
We decided to start from the bottom and work our way up. As the stairs went in we began to realize some areas were too steep or lacked stable soil for the wooden, gravel-filled stairs.
Master trail builder Peter Jensen was invited to look at the property and advise us. Stone stairs that would mirror the cascading falls were the answer.
The search for additional funding began.
Volunteers worked alongside trail builder Peter Jensen to reconstruct the trailhead and create a universally accessible landing.
Fill was brought in to bring the landing up to grade and trees were placed to discourage foot traffic that was causing erosion.
In 2011 The Trustees of Reservations was awarded a Massachusetts Trails Grant to complete “One Step at a Time down Glendale Falls.”
Wild & Scenic Volunteers and the Trustees of Reservations moved the Wild & Scenic Kiosk & prepared the site for the stone stair construction.
In 2011 and 2012, with the support of the Massachusetts Trails Grant, the construction of the stone stairs got underway.
Magnificent stone stairs began to wend their way up the falls, making access easy and enjoyable for people, while protecting the plants, animals, and the Middle Branch of the Westfield River.
Thank you to all the volunteers and contributors who made “One step at a Time Down Glendale Falls” possible.