Appalachian National Scenic Trail Expanded in The Berkshires

The Trust for Public Land today announced an expansion of the Appalachian Trail corridor in the Berkshire Mountains of Western Massachusetts. A 370-acre tract of land adjoining the summit of Warner Hill was purchased by the organization and transferred to the National Park Service, which will manage the land as part of the Appalachian National Scenic Trail.

The Appalachian National Scenic Trail runs from Georgia to Maine, linking many of the East Coast’s largest remaining wilderness landscapes—and its largest metropolitan areas. Accessible from Boston, New York, Philadelphia, Baltimore, Washington, D.C., and Atlanta, the Trail provides outdoor recreation opportunities for more than 50 million Americans.

The Berkshires portion of the Appalachian National Scenic Trail attracts local walkers, visiting day-trippers, and thru-hikers, many of whom ascend Warner Hill to take in its spectacular views of the Housatonic River Valley, Mount Greylock, and surrounding Berkshire Mountains.

The newly protected property features forested slopes, fragile wetlands, and lush stream corridors, which collectively add significant dimension to the Trail corridor. Previously, the protected corridor along the Trail narrowed to just a few hundred feet in this location.

In addition to ensuring continued public enjoyment of the Appalachian National Scenic Trail, the newly conserved parcel builds on a network of contiguous protected lands, which buffer the City of Pittsfield’s adjacent public water supply, and connect with October Mountain State Forest, the largest state forest in Massachusetts.

The newly protected property also encompasses important ecological sites, including a westerly boundary of the Hinsdale Flats Area of Critical Environmental Concern, and areas designated by the State as a Priority Habitat Area for rare species. Development would damage these fragile resources, and mar the scenic views enjoyed by visitors.

“The Appalachian Trail is truly a national treasure,” said Kelly Boling, Project Manager for The Trust for Public Land, who negotiated the conservation transaction. “Its majesty and accessibility unites all Americans.”

“We at the National Park Service are delighted that this property will be added to the Appalachian National Scenic Trail and are thankful for the partnership of The Trust for Public Land. This area of the Trail in the Berkshires attracts hikers of all kinds-from locals enjoying a day hike to people from around the country who come to experience the history and beauty of the Appalachian National Scenic Trail,” said Superintendent Wendy Janssen.

Local, regional, and international Appalachian Trail visitors contribute to the Berkshires’ $681 million tourism economy, and help support jobs in hundreds of communities along the Trail, from Georgia to Maine.

This project received support from both Senators Elizabeth Warren and Ed Markey, along with Representative Richard E. Neal, all of whom are supportive of the Land and Water Conservation Fund.

“I have always believed that our parks and public spaces need to be protected and preserved for generations to come. Thanks to The Land and Water Conservation Fund, more than 370 acres along the Appalachian National Scenic Trail in the Pittsfield area have been expanded for the enjoyment of all those who travel on its paths. I have been a longtime supporter of the work The Trust for Public Land does and I am appreciative of their dedication to this project in the Berkshires,” said Congressman Richard E. Neal, D-MA.

Recognizing the important role the Appalachian National Scenic Trail plays in local economies, regional recreation opportunities, and the nation’s heritage, The Trust for Public Land has an on-going, multi-state effort to protect 26,000 acres of critical lands along the Appalachian Trail.

“The Appalachian Trail is one of America’s most iconic long-distance hiking trails,” said Hawk Metheny, New England regional director of the Appalachian Trail Conservancy. “It is also one of America’s most significant greenways spanning 14 states and nearly 2,200 miles. This project in Hinsdale will buffer the Trail from incompatible development, protect the scenic viewshed from Warner Hill, provide important wildlife habitat connectivity, and improved outstanding recreational opportunities. ATC will like to thank The Trust for Public Land, the National Park Service and other partners for bringing this parcel into conservation. It is is a model for our Landscape Conservation Partnerships.”

The Trust for Public Land bought the Warner Hill land, and then immediately sold it to the National Park Service for the same price, using money from The Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF). The LWCF is funded by a small fraction of revenues generated by offshore oil and gas royalty payments; it is not supported with general taxpayer dollars. Additional funding and support was provided by the Appalachian Trail Conservancy and the Bafflin Foundation.