Discovering Place with Hilltown Land Trust & Hilltown Families’ Trail Guides!

Explore Someplace New with Hilltown Land Trust & Hilltown Families’ Trail Guides!
By Andrea Caluori-Rivera

Hilltown Land Trust and Hilltown Families have joined together through a shared love of the land to offer free interpretive trail guides that connect families to local Hilltown hiking spots. The properties are all owned by Hilltown Land Trust and are available year round for public use. Each property offers a variety of paths to walk and explore forests, waterways, and wildlife habitat. The guides are accessible online and can be downloaded from the Hilltown Families’ website.

Exploring the natural world in our communities helps us construct a sense of place. By interacting with the land, we learn more about local history, land use practices and the importance of cultivating a meaningful relationship with nature.  Spending time outside offers space for activity and thoughtfulness; it’s an opportunity to recharge and feel more connected to your community.  These trail guides go beyond the typical map and route. They highlight interesting features and information from cultural, scientific, artistic and historical perspectives. They encourage users to think about how their experience outdoors relates to other interests such as citizen science, history, literature and social activism.  Additionally, the A Sense of Place guide complements the trail guides by providing additional resources and activities that extend your learning off the trail.  Read the rest of this entry »

Picturing the Hilltowns: Capturing through the Lens of Landscape

Photography Contest Inspires Exploration of Hilltown Landscape

What parts of the Hilltown landscape offer inspiration? Share your answer in the form of an image for the Hilltown Land Trust’s Picturing the Hilltowns photography contest, open to local folks of all ages!

What parts of the Hilltown landscape can offer inspiration? What living creatures, transforming plants, and unique portions of the landscape are noteworthy? Photographs featuring answers to these questions can be entered into the Hilltown Land Trust’s fall photo contest, Picturing the Hilltowns, which invites members of the local community to share images of their favorite natural Hilltown places and things.

Drawing inspiration from the fall landscape, families can use the contest as an opportunity to examine and document the phenology of fall as seen in the Hilltowns. Additionally, some of western Massachusetts’ autumn icons could offer inspiration for photographs, as could activities and locations recommended in our Autumn Bucket List. By creating photography expeditions centered around drawing inspiration from the local landscape, families can both offer budding photographers with the opportunity to capture new places and subjects with their lens and create opportunities for adventuring photographers to engage in experiential learning about their surroundings.  Read the rest of this entry »

Bullitt Reservation Grand Opening in Ashfield

The Trustees Encourage Visitors to Dream Big about Making Small Impacts on Local Land

Farm that Once Swirled Near the Center of History Returns to Community as The Trustees of Reservations’ Newest Property in Ashfield, MA.

When globe-trotting Ambassador William Bullitt needed a place to ponder the world and relax with family, he retreated to the woods and fields of his farm in Western Massachusetts on the Ashfield-Conway border. Now, visitors can enjoy those same pursuits on a property that once hosted diplomats and dignitaries, as The Trustees of Reservations welcomes the public to the grand opening of its new Bullitt Reservation on Saturday, October 23rd. Festivities begin at 3PM.

One of 13 Trustees properties located in the Pioneer Valley, the Bullitt Reservation encompasses 262 acres donated to The Trustees in March of 2009. Although most recently part of the estate of Ambassador William C. Bullitt, Jr. —best known for his role as the first U. S. Ambassador to the Soviet Union and for his service as the Ambassador to France at the dawn of World War II— the land has deep community roots. The farm even served as Ashfield’s town poor farm from 1839 to 1874.

One of 13 Trustees properties located in the Pioneer Valley, the Bullitt Reservation encompasses 262 acres donated to The Trustees in March of 2009.

Today, the Bullitt Reservation looks largely as it did in centuries past. A quintessential New England agricultural landscape, it abounds with a mix of forests, fields and streams, which provide natural habitat for a wide variety of wildlife and a diversity of species. It was the wish of Ambassador Bullitt’s daughter, Anne Bullitt, that the property be conserved and the legacy of her father be carried on at the site for the community and future generations to enjoy.

After guidance from local residents and a year of planning, the Bullitt Reservation will now offer a place for the community and visitors to meet, hike, stargaze, and connect with family and friends, providing opportunities for both people and wildlife to interact with and be enriched by the land. In keeping with Ambassador Bullitts’ legacy of looking outward, the Bullitt Reservation will also serve as a resource for learning about ways to lighten our individual and collective impact on land, and to significantly reduce our contribution to the indelible marks that a warming climate will etch on the nature and culture of our local hills and valleys.

The 18th century farmhouse on the property receives a complete renovation and "deep energy retrofit."

At the center of those efforts, The Trustees have nearly completed renovation and a “deep energy retrofit” of the 18th century farmhouse on the property, thanks to a gift from the Bullitt Foundation and a recent $100,000 stimulus grant received from the Patrick Administration’s Department of Energy Resources. Slated as the future offices of the Highland Communities Initiative and the Hilltown Land Trust, the renovated farmhouse will combine readily-available electric heat pump technology (with plans to add solar power as funds are available) and super-insulation to increase energy efficiency, cutting energy consumption by more than 50%. Thanks to the creative energy of general contractor Mary Quigley of Quigley Builders in Ashfield, nearly all of the materials from the farmhouse deconstruction have also been recycled or reused.

Nearly all of the materials from the farmhouse deconstruction have also been recycled or reused.

When complete, The Trustees hope the new Bullitt structure will have earned Gold LEED certification from the U.S. Green Building Council, (LEED stands for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design and is a building rating system established by the United States Green Building Council to measure the “greenness” of buildings), and showcase a viable selection of energy conservation strategies for area homeowners and businesses.

The grand opening of the Bullitt Reservation will be on Saturday, October 23rd with family activities, pumpkin decorating, cider pressing, live music and potluck. Festivities begin at 3PM.

Guests are welcome to attend the grand opening of the new Bullitt Reservation on October 23rd and explore The Trustees of Reservations’ newest special place, take a tour, and enjoy the views over a potluck dinner with friends and neighbors. The day will begin at 3PM with tours of the ongoing green transformation of the old farmhouse, a guided hike on the new scenic Pebble Trail (moderately difficult), leisurely strolls through the wildlife meadow, and family activities including pumpkin decorating and cider-making demonstrations. At 4:30PM there will be live music, a potluck dinner, and toasts to the new reservation. The Trustees will provide hot soup and fresh bread. Guests are asked to bring a dish, snack, or beverage to share. The event is free and open to the public and will take place rain or shine.

For more information and to RSVP, please call 413.268.8219 or email highlands@ttor.org

More About The Trustees in Ashfield

In addition to owning 262 acres of conservation land, The Trustees hold a conservation restriction on the majority of the remaining Bullitt estate land, comprising approximately 103 acres on the northern side of Bullitt Road, which was sold with the main Bullitt house and barn to a private buyer late last year. Together, these complete an important missing piece in a large puzzle of connected conservation land in the area. The Trustees also own and manage two other properties in Ashfield – Bear Swamp and Chapel Brook Reservations – both popular community recreational sites and important ecological habitats. The new reservation will add to The Trustees’ diversity of program and property offerings in this corner of the Pioneer Valley.

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