Franklin Land Trust is committed not only to protecting important working landscapes – the farms, fields, and forests of northwestern Massachusetts – but also expanding recreational access to the outdoors for members of our community. Through the Voluntary Public Access (VPA) Program, FLT has partnered with individual landowners to secure both temporary and permanent public access easements for hiking, hunting, fishing, wildlife viewing, and other recreational activities on privately held land. A partnership with the Massachusetts Department of Conservation and Recreation, and funded through the USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), the VPA program allows us to provide financial support to landowners who open their land to public recreation.
In 2020, FLT added two properties to the already successful program. In Buckland, the owners of Dancing Fiddle Farm opened their well-maintained trail network through the woods above Ruddock Creek to the public. These trails provide a source of year-round recreation for the surrounding community, suitable for hiking, snowshoeing, and Nordic skiing. Additionally, the trails along Ruddock Creek offer excellent opportunities for observing nature, where a series of active beaver ponds has created a vibrant ecosystem attracting a variety of captivating wildlife. In Conway, FLT worked with landowners Jamie and Susan Marsh to secure an additional entry point into the existing Reed’s Bridge Road Public Access Area. This newly established trail easement offers greater access to the over 200 acres already open for public use by owners Jack and Dani Lochhead. A new trailhead and parking area on Graves Road north of Conway provides a more direct route to an amazing, wooded landscape being actively transformed by a healthy beaver population. New trail work completed by Jack Lochhead this past summer allows for a front row view of a series of beaver ponds and adds to an extensive network of trails already open for hiking, skiing, and snowshoeing.