In the late 90s, just before the Millennium, there was a national effort called Millennium Trails launched by the Clinton Administration. Each state was to have their own Millennium Trail. A trail so compelling and took in many of the features of the given locale that it would be a model for that entire state.
In Massachusetts, there were two entries of note. One was in eastern Mass, but the other one was called the Norwottuck Network. That was submitted by Barbara Francis and Professor Arthur Swift, both of Amherst. I don’t think Barbara ever expected to win, but none the less they did win and the Norwottuck Network --NN became the Millennium Trail for Mass.
She called telling me the good news and asking if I could come onto the board of the 501C3 that was being created. The winner for each state received a $10,000 gift from American Express. We then received the money and we were among several groups that funded local muralist, Nora Valdez who was commissioned to do a large mural on the Manhan Rail Trail in downtown Easthampton
That iconic mural is still there and since the children of Easthampton helped create it, it has never been defaced with graffiti. More recently NN funded the re-branding and signage along the path at University Dr in Amherst to become "Swift Way"--named after Art Swift who passed away. Art was an advocacy leader here in the Pioneer Valley and he was instrumental in getting the Norwottuck Rail Trail corridor acquired in the 1980s and built out as a rail trail in the early 1990s by the Dept. of Conservation and Recreation--DCR.
Even more recently, NN had a public outreach role, assisting DCR and MassDOT, in the rebuild of the trail from the CT River to Amherst. Largely though, NN never was widely known.
Earlier this spring of 2019, the board held discussions about the future of NN. It was decided that we will build an expanded board of directors made up of people along the entire corridor. People who are committed to the grand vision of the MCRT being the signature trail in the state.
We will then make NN a micro funding vehicle for the Mass Central's smaller communities. [Belchertown, Palmer, Ware, Hardwick, New Braintree, etc].
Some of the things we are fleshing out funding for are:
1. historic railroad markers and kiosks that call out local history, industry etc.
2. And scoping out early feasibility plans for developing each section.
As we define our funding protocols we’ll keep you all posted.
Here's a LINK to a detailed 16 page report about the how the NN came to be.