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BNRC Re-opens Access Trail to Mahanna Cobble
By Brittany Polito, iBerkshires Staff
04:21AM / Friday, January 15, 2021
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Hikers can now enjoy a new access trail to Mahanna Cobble that is open during the winter.

PITTSFIELD, Mass — Hikers can now enjoy a new access trail to Mahanna Cobble that is open during the winter.

Berkshire Natural Resources Council, Bousquet Mountain and Mill Town Capital on Wednesday re-opened the improved trail to  the cobble, a conservation reserve owned and managed by BNRC.

"BNRC appreciates a strong partner in Bousquet Mountain and Mill Town as we seek to offer improved hiking experiences close to community centers, year-round. We are thrilled to finally have four-season access to this beautiful new trail and destination in central Berkshire," BNRC President Jenny Hansell wrote in a press release. "Thanks to the generosity of Mill Town and Bousquet Mountain, we have another great new option for winter hiking in the Berkshires."

Mahanna Cobble Trail is a mile-long, single-track trail with switch-back turns and stone steps.  The total distance from the access trail is 3.2 miles for an out-and-back trip.

This trail begins at the base of Bousquet Mountain and offers free public hiking and snowshoeing to Mahanna Cobble, which is a south-facing natural destination atop Bousquet Mountain. This project connects the base of Bousquet to the hiking trailhead along Bousquet land in the safest and most enjoyable way possible.

Mill Town has been a supporter of BNRC since the investment group first established itself in the Berkshires. The two organizations have many mutual interests in outdoor recreation, so they collaborate in many ways depending on what is needed.

"We've really enjoyed a collaborative relationship with BNRC and look forward to many more exciting projects in the coming months, seasons, and years ahead." Mill Town's Managing Director Carrie Holland said.

This is the first trail project BNRC has worked on and completed with Mill Town.  

"As the founder of the organization [Mill Town] began to make connections here, he spoke and met with our past President. I believe their first meeting was a hike from Bousquet, well before they owned it, to BNRC's Mahanna Cobble Reserve," Director of Public Programs Mackenzie Greer said. "Certainly our organizations are linked as Bousquet Mountain, which Mill Town now owns, provides an excellent entry point for our Mahanna Cobble trail.

"BNRC has been keenly interested in seeing Bousquet remain as a community space, to see it thrive, and to have the land use complement the thousands of acres of conservation land to the south. Our board  chairman, Tim Crane, works with Mill Town on various projects, and was very supportive of this new access trail and all the improvements at Bousquet."

This past summer, hundreds of hikers enjoyed a temporary access route from the base of Bousquet to Mahanna Cobble, according to BNRC, but the access was temporarily closed when construction at Bousquet increased in the fall. The ski area was purchased by Mill Town in June. The improved route boasts a woodland access trail leading from the base of the mountain to the Mahanna Cobble trail, this is the first time the destination is available for winter access.

The first section of the trail follows a 0.6-mile route on Bousquet property, beginning at the top of Bousquet's "Tube Town." Hikers are then directed to the Russel ski slope by signage and blue blazes painted on trees, and then upward along the woodland path.

Hikers are asked to be cautious when crossing Russel and then Drifter ski slopes, as they are both active with skiers.

The trail gives hikers a southward facing view of uninterrupted forest landscapes and a stone bench at the vista, which is dedicated to the founding BNRC Executive Director George Wislocki.

Bousquet welcomes hikers to top off their experience with food, beverages, and facilities offered at the base of the mountain. This includes outside seating in the pavilion, dining deck, and around fire pits with a range of casual dining offerings including hamburgers, pizza bites, creative French fries, grilled sandwiches, and s'mores packs as well as hot drinks and bar offerings.  

For the 2021 season, these services will operate every day except Wednesdays. Dogs are allowed on BNRC properties but are not allowed on Bousquet property to the access trail during the 2021 ski season for their safety.

BNRC has had a variety of conservation acquisitions in 2020 on land it now owns and manages that will be open to the public. Some of these include improvements to the Old Mill Trail in Dalton and Hinsdale to ensure accessibility, added benches to BNRC's Parson's Marsh reserve, and a 1-mile trail reroutes along Yokun Ridge in partnership with Mass Audubon and the town of Lenox. It also further improved 3 to 4 miles of the trail along that ridge in anticipation of opening a connective route next year.

"Whenever possible, we're completing projects which allow us to achieve our vision for the High Road, connecting towns to trails so residents and visitors can experience more of the Berkshires, and in new ways," Greer said. "This fits with similar goals to find trail and conservation projects closer to town centers, to help more people access nature and outdoor recreation closer to home."

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