Massachusetts Trails Conference (Larry Tucker)
Published on Monday, November 4, 2013 in Legislative Affairs, News & Updates
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While this past summer did have its hot spells, overall it was real nice with beautiful weather. I hope everyone was able to enjoy some cookouts, camping, the beach and some parties. While we put our sleds away for the summer and were busy with summer activities, a new and growing event was taking place: The 2nd Annual Massachusetts Trails Conference.

This daylong event on May 2 was unique in bringing together approximately 195 attendees and participants that embodied a broad array of trail-based organizations. Just a few of the groups partaking in this event were the Appalachian Mountain Club, Massachusetts Department of Conservation and Recreation (DCR), Trustees of Reservations, Pioneer Valley Planning Commission (PVPC), Snowmobile Association of Massachusetts (SAM), and the Massachusetts Department of Transportation (DOT). Other attendees included various “friends groups,” trail users, conservation commissions, bike trail committees, land trusts and volunteers. Snowmobile attendees included Dave Purple; Dean Zuppio, MARTAB snowmobile representative; Lawrence Tucker; and SAM President, Dan Gould, who was also one of the presenters.

The event was sponsored by the Department of Conservation and Recreation (DCR) and the Massachusetts Recreational Trails Advisory Board (MARTAB) and was hosted at the Devens Commons Center in Devens. Special thanks go to Amanda Lewis, Recreational Trails Program contact for the DCR, and Dick O’Brien, the Chairman of MARTAB, for their tireless efforts to bring this event to fruition.

This unique conference brought together a wide cross section of trails enthusiasts, all of whom have the very similar goal of creating and maintaining a trail system. The opportunity for networking served to both create and strengthen partnerships and coalitions, which hopefully are laying the foundation for a more unified approach to building our collective trail systems for the future.

16 very fascinating and productive workshop sessions were offered. Topics such as Private and Public Funding for Trails, Preserving Trail Corridors, Working with Conservation Commissions, State Trail Mapping Efforts and many other very informative topics were presented. I attended the “Creating and Preserving Trail Corridors” session, which was co-led by SAM President, Dan Gould. This presentation emphasized the sometimes-amazing results that can be achieved when groups work together. This workshop, presented by the people who were actually involved in the project, described how a very important parcel of land was saved and how the snowmobile trail on it was preserved. It was a very enlightening workshop. I also attended State Trail Mapping Efforts, which was led by Chris Curtis, Chief Planner for the PVPC. It offered an insight into the mapping tools available to all.

Of particular interest to snowmobilers and the motorized recreational community in general was the presentation on Recreational Trails Program (RTP) Grants. This was presented by Amanda Lewis, the DCR’s RTP contact, and was very relevant to helping motorized groups apply for these federal funds for trail-related projects. A workshop for any snowmobile club having a trail that crosses a body of water titled “Working with Conservation Commissions” was also offered. Thanks to the efforts of Amanda Lewis at DCR, most of the presentations are available online.

This conference was first and foremost a very educational opportunity for everyone and was certainly a great opportunity to network. But it also left me with the feeling that the seeds of unity within the trail community were beginning to grow. There was a sense that all are slowly realizing that by sharing and helping each other, all of our goals can come to fruition with more benefits to all.

Another underlying common thread for this conference was the growing recognition of the importance for the connectivity within our trails systems. This connectivity for bike trails, hiking trails, snowmobile trails and rail trails is the common denominator all enthusiasts share. I believe there will be increased attention of this topic at future Trails Conferences.

Thanks again to Amanda Lewis and Dick O’Brien for putting this event together. I hope to see everyone again next year. And, remember, snowmobilers are environmentalists.

Photo by Dan Gould

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