After a morning hike to the Cheshire Cobbles nearly 75 residents, friends of the trail and even a few thru-hikers met at Diane’s Twist Saturday to celebrate the town’s official designation and hear stories of trail magic.
"The one thing I never expected on the trail was to be witness to kindness and generosity from total strangers," Cheshire native and thru-hiker Mark St. John said. "They are called trail angels and they hand out trail magic which can be anything from a ride, a glass of water, to a roof over your head."
St. John said he found this trail magic throughout his hike in 2014 and of course came upon it in Cheshire as he passed through. He said what really surprised him came two years after when a friend of his was on the trail and passed through Cheshire.
"It was a crummy rainy August Sunday and… he arrived in Cheshire and called me looking for a place to stay," he said. "I leaned on the good people in Cheshire and made some calls and quickly not only found him a place to stay but a ride. I called him to give him the good news, but he said thanks but no thanks because another Cheshire resident had allowed him to stay in their garage for the night.
Congratulations Cheshire for being recognized for something you have done for many years…Keep doing what you are doing."
For over a year the town has been pursuing Appalachian Trail Community designation, a designation that promotes the community as "trail friendly" to thru-hikers but also asks local businesses and community members to support hikers, maintain the trail and educate community members.
The Cheshire Appalachian Trail Community Committee formed and worked on the lengthy application process. They were officially designated by the Appalachian Trail Conservancy in March.
Chairwoman of the Committee Eileen Quinn said during this application process she learned that the town was already carrying many of the responsibilities of an Appalachian Trail Community.
"The trail is a big part of Cheshire…it just seemed like a no-brainer that this would be a perfect fit for our town," she said. "We formalized what Cheshire has been doing for years - offering support and kindness to hikers coming through the town."
Outreach coordinator for the New England Region of the Appalachian Trail Conservancy Katie Mann welcomed Cheshire into the AT family and said since 1921, when Benton MacKaye imagined the trail, the trail has been maturing. She said it took decades to form the trail and even longer to protect it.
She said the next stage of the trail is to bring on communities to act as stewards of the trail.
"The number of partnerships over the last 97 years that made Benton MacKaye’s vision a reality are too numerous to count and today we celebrate and recognize those partnerships," she said. "This special partnership will continue to exist between Cheshire, the Conservancy and the AT community…and we are thrilled to have Cheshire become the 47th Appalachian Trail community."
Chairman of the Massachusetts Appalachian Trail Committee Jim Pelletier also spoke and said Cheshire was a "Shoo-in" for designation and noted the designation comes with more than just acknowledgment and handed Quinn a trail maintenance guidebook.
"It is a wonderful thing to have a community like Cheshire to have this kind of interest in the trail…and Cheshire has been connected to the trail for decades," he said. "We tend to talk about the honor of this but the is another part of this that I waist to touch on…there are responsibilities that go with this job."
Before some live entertainment and a catered lunch put on by Bass Water Grill, State Rep. John Barrett III read a citation and said the designation makes the town more special.
"This really means so much to the community especially one like Cheshire…because it brings a lot to it and brings a lot to the table," he said. "It brings the community teeth and it also allows the opportunity…to basically take a small community tucked away in the western part of the state and make it just a little bit more special to thousands and thousands of hikers."
Selectman Ed St. John IV read a citation from State Sen. Adam Hinds and said it is an honor to be part of the trail community.
"Living on the trial and watching the hikers whether they are day hikers or thru-hikers is a profound honor to be a part of this community," he said. "I take a great measure of pride knowing that while we may be a small town we are a part of something so much larger."
Before closing three hiker sculptures were unveiled as part of the town’s "Art On Trial" initiative.
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