Southampton earmark good for bikers

Contractors continue to work on the Westfield Columbia Greenway (Rails-To-Trails) project that connects Westfield and Southwick near the Shaker Farms Country Club last month. (File photo by chief photographer Frederick Gore)

BOSTON – An allocation of funds to the town of Southampton has people in Westfield and Southwick excited.
The Legislature passed the transportation bond conference committee report that will allocate $1.4 billion for infrastructure projects including road, bridge or rail projects in Agawam, Westfield, Holyoke, Easthampton, Southampton, Chicopee, and Montgomery. The bill includes an earmark of $500,000 for the acquisition and construction of a rail trail in Southampton.
Though Southampton residents voted against two rail trail proposals in the 1990s, a renewed effort underway since then is gaining more momentum. In October 2011, the town Select Board accepted a Greenway Feasibility Study created by the Pare Group of Foxboro, Mass. and established a Greenway Committee the next month.
According to a letter by Michael Buehler, chairman of the Southampton Greenway Committee, to the Massbike Pioneer Valley email list, the committee is charged with acquisition and design of a trail along an abandoned railroad corridor that extends from the end of the Manhan Rail Trail at Coleman Road to the intersection of Route 10 and Brickyard Road.
“Probably the single biggest factor putting ‘wind in our sails’ is the completion of the Manhan Trail to Coleman Road – now it seems that lots of Southampton residents are riding that trail and wondering why we don’t have our own,” Buehler stated in his letter.
Jeff Lavalley of the Friends of the Columbia Greenway in Westfield said this is “fantastic news” for Southampton and those who enjoy using the Greenway Rail Trail, which begins in Farmington, Conn., and will extend to Amherst once Westfield and Southampton connect on both sides.
“This is a positive step forward in linking together an interstate trail system,” said Lavalley. “It’s exciting.”
Westfield is nearly done with the first phase of its trail, which connects to Southwick along Shaker Road. Lavalley said he is “extremely happy” with the progress Westfield is making.
“The last I knew there was a punch-list walk-through to go over the final details of the project,” he said.
Southwick Park and Recreation Commissioner Daniel Call said it’s a “great idea” to try to connect all the towns.
“When Westfield gets to the north side they will somehow meet up with Southampton – it’s an added piece to the puzzle (for Southampton to begin its trail),” said Call. “It’s moving forward – this is good news.”

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