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Local and state officials and members of the Rev. Thomas Begley's family cut the ribbon at the hiker campsite named in his honor.
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Cheshire Holds Dedication for Father Tom Campsite

By Brian RhodesiBerkshires Staff
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A Henry David Thoreau quote that Begley often used is affixed to the campsite's bike rack.

CHESHIRE, Mass. — Three years after the town received its official Appalachian Trail Community designation, nearly 100 community members gathered for a dedication of the Father Tom Appalachian Trail campsite.

The site, located at 6 Main St., is named after former pastor of St. Mary's Church, the Rev. Thomas Begley and opened in late 2020. The dedication, which included a ribbon-cutting by members of Begley's family, was part of the town's third annual Appalachian Trail community celebration on Friday.

"Over the past three years, the town government, along with a dedicated group of volunteers and supporters, have invested significant energy into the campsite, making it what it is today," said Cheshire AT community coordinator Eileen Quinn. "Cheshire, being one of only 51 officially designated Appalachian Trail communities, has become quite famous within thru-hiker circles for this one-of-a-kind refuge."

Quinn said the need for such a campsite came when the church could no longer offer housing for Appalachian Trail hikers, a practice Begley had started.

"Father Tom provided the church hall as a safe haven for over 6,000 hikers from around the globe," she said. "His conversations with these visitors inspired Father Tom to hike the trail himself, and he finished the entire 2,200 miles over a 12-year period."

Selectmen Michelle Francesconi, Ronald DeAngelis and Shawn McGrath attended the ceremony. Francesconi said she, despite not knowing Begley well, had heard numerous stories from residents of his dedication to Cheshire.

"I think that the people really came together and recognized that the spirit of what Father Tom created needed to be recreated and moved here," she said, "And I think everybody has done an amazing job pulling that together. Despite the challenges of COVID-19, the site is an amazing stopping point on the Appalachian Trail. It's something that I know that Father Tom would consider to be a blessing."

Jim Masse, Begley's brother-in-law, thanked the community for the dedication, noting how much Begley would have enjoyed the site.

"Father Tom really revered the beauty, the sacred beauty, of nature," he said. "So it is in this dedication we echo his reverence. Wouldn't he be happy?"

State Rep. John Barrett III was in attendance and said the campsite would not have been possible without the work of Begley and others in the Cheshire Community.

"When you can touch the lives of people that you've never met in a positive way, then you know your walk through life has been a good one. Father Tom's walk through life was a good one," he said. "And we should emulate what he's done."

Tags: Appalachian Trail,   camping,   

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Adams' Valley Street Shed Still Needs Funding

By Brian RhodesiBerkshires Staff

ADAMS, Mass. — Construction of the new shed at Valley Street Field may be delayed due to a lack of funding. 


Mike Benson of the Adams/Cheshire Little League attended Monday's Parks Commission meeting and said the league is still working on obtaining funds for the shed. The town appropriated $3,000 for the shed as part of the fiscal 2023 budget and asked the league to match. 


"I've done a ton of fundraising this year to try to keep the costs low for the kids," Benson said, noting he could probably contribute about half of the $3,000 needed right now.


The league, Benson said, is in the process of ordering a new scoreboard for the field, one similar to the one recently installed at Russell Field. He said financing the scoreboard came first, as it was in the works before planning for the new shed began. 


"We had started the scoreboard thing before we heard anything about the shed," he said. "... We haven't asked the town for anything to do to help with the scoreboard. We're doing it all on our own, it's $3,500." 


Mark Pizani, an equipment operator at DPW, said they would likely be able to get more time out of the old shed if the league needs more time for funding. Benson said he would happily work with the town to clean the shed. 


"We can work it out with what we have. If we need another year out of it, it's really not a big deal," Pizani said. "That's my personal feeling. It would have been nice to have." 


Commission Chair James Fassell agreed the current shed can keep being used and said the group will revisit the issue in the future. 


"I just want to make sure it's for the good of the league and for the good of Adams," he said. 


In other business, Pizani updated the board on a berm near Russell Field, which the group was concerned could overflow onto the field. He said a significant amount of brush and debris was removed from the water since the last meeting, making an overflow less likely. 


"We cleaned that whole river out," he said. "We cleaned it out; it's in good shape. We took truckloads of debris and stuff out of the river." 

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