Some members of the Appalachian Trail Community Committee meet earlier this month to go over the application process.
CHESHIRE, Mass. — The town hopes to become an official Appalachian Trail Community in March.
Earlier this year, a group of residents came together with the intention of putting Cheshire on the map using something that is already here.
"I thought the idea of becoming an Appalachian Trail Community was interesting and it really made sense for Cheshire because we are literally right on the trail," resident Eileen Quinn, who has been spearheading the effort, said. "It just kind of made sense and it all fell together."
The 2,200-mile long trail spans from Georgia to Maine and Quinn said there are nearly 50 communities through which the trail passes that have been deemed "trail friendly" by the Appalachian Trail Conservancy.
Quinn said communities that have the designation can tap into the Appalachian Trail community and utilize the trail as a resource.
"It brings recognition to the town and it puts us on the map, which the town could use," she said. "It kind of builds relationships and connections with the town with the hikers and it brings more awareness to the trail. A lot of people don't even know it passes through town."
Quinn said Cheshire will join North Adams, Great Barrington, and Dalton as Berkshire county Appalachian Trail Communities.
Multiple groups in town, such as the Cheshire Community Association, Cheshire Action Committee, and the 225th Anniversary Celebration Committee are involved with the designation. The Ashuwillticook Rail Trail, which crosses the Appalachian Trail, creates a special kind of confluence.
"There is a cross-section of organizations in town planning things and touching on the Appalachian Trail. There is a good synergy," Quinn said. "One thing unique to Cheshire, too, is the Ashuwillticook Rail Trail and the Appalachian Trail meet. It is a major recreational area."
Quinn, who also served on the Master Plan Committee, said part of the plan was to utilize the trail more so much of the framework is already set in motion. She added that once the Selectmen gave the program their blessing, a 10-member committee was formed.
"We started to put the word out and kept talking to people about it and there was a lot of support," she said. "There is support throughout the town and we have a pretty solid group of folks."
Quinn said she sought out the help of Dalton, which was most recently designated, and local volunteers involved in the trail to guide her through the process. She said Cosmo Catalano, volunteer for A.T. management, Jim Pelletier, chairman of Berkshire Chapter Appalachian Mountain Club, and Rebecca Barnes, of the state Department of Conservation and Recreation, have been huge supports.
She said she hopes to have the application submitted by February.
Committee member Karen Daigle said there are other components to the application and she is organizing an educational portion of the program. She has been in contact with local teachers who may be interested in using the trail as a teaching tool.
She also hopes to hold student cleanup sessions on the trail.
Daigle added that the town also has to share long-term and short-term goals to improve trail community relationships.
"As much as we are doing to get approved we have to have plans for the future," she said. "We just can't sit on our laurels once we get approved."
Quinn said the hope to improve signage on the trail, improve the kiosk in town and possibly "adopt" the Cheshire Cobbles -- which is part of the trail.
"Unfortunately, some stupid people like to throw beer bottles over and break them on the rocks and do graffiti," she said. "So that is happening and we want to change that and clean it up."
Daigle said they also are gathering letters of support from business leaders in the community.
Quinn said the last part of the designation is to hold a celebration that they hope to do in the late summer if approved.
"I think we will be approved and we plan to have a party once that happens," she said.
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