Connecticut River Greenway State Park is a state park in the U.S. state of Massachusetts, located between Hadley and Northampton on the banks of the Connecticut River. The park was developed by the Metropolitan District Commission (MDC), which at that time operated most of the trolley/streetcar systems in Greater Boston, as part of an effort to provide service along the riverbank from downtown Boston to New Hampshire.
There are also several short footpath trails within walking distance of the parking lot, including one leading north past the old freight yards to the Ipswich Railroad Station. Other nearby public access points include the Bay Circuit Trail, the Big Dig trail, and numerous city parks. The park has been used annually since 1958 as part of the Bay Circuit Trail, which connects Longwood Medical Center with Wonderland Scenic Reserve. Section managers are the staff members in charge of managing specific portions of the park, each of whom reports directly to the superintendent. Managers supervise up to four section workers, typically high school or college students working under supervised study programs, who perform a variety of tasks.
For instance, one recent year there were about 200,000 visitors during the season, and perhaps half that number again during off-season months. Sections of the park close entirely for extended periods of time without warning, usually due to lack of funds, poor weather conditions, or other extenuating circumstances beyond the control of the management team. When a section does close, signs are posted alerting hikers to take alternate routes because of dangerous conditions, although closing hours are generally avoided if possible. Hikers using closed sections should always be prepared to finish the entire hike and bring emergency gear with them in case they get lost.
As of March 2012, the entire length of the greenway was open to pedestrians. Prior to this date, parts of the park had been closed to walk on, especially near the railroad tracks where trains still occasionally run on the line. These areas have now been re-opened, though still somewhat rocky. On weekends throughout the summer, there are often hundreds of people strolling down the path, many of whom carry dogs and children. This popular use extends well beyond the boundaries of the park, so much so that parking lots on Route 9 frequently fill by noon on Friday and Saturday. Parking fees are no longer charged, however donations can be requested when entering the park via the donation box at the entrance to the park. The park is staffed by three full-time employees consisting of the superintendent, a lead manager, and a secretary, as of 2016. The superintendent is responsible for overseeing maintenance and staffing of the park, while the lead manager is primarily concerned with financial issues and legal matters. The office is located just inside the main gate, adjacent to the superintendent’s house.
Connected with Waterfront Park Accessible From Interstate 95 Exit #275 Southbound on Massapoag Ave., then East on Main St. to the Tocks Island Bridge. Access from I95 is only allowed southbound on exit ramp, eastbound travelers must use the Shoreline connector. No access fee. Seasonal tolls may apply, contact the Department of Conservation and Recreation for more information. Blackstone Canal State Park – Note: This park requires wading or swimming through shallow waters. Only accessible by boat. Boat launch available mid-April through October. Accessibility varies depending on water levels.
Campground facilities vary widely, primitive campsites with outhouses and water pumps are common, some sites have electric hookups, others do not. Backflow from canal creates swampy lowlands, ideal for mosquitoes and other insects. Areas around docks and campgrounds consistently have high water levels, and therefore frequent flooding. Traveler’s checks and credit cards are accepted forms of payment. Equestrian Campground features 50 equestrian campsites, modern restrooms, showers, hot water, and electrical hookups. Horses are required to have current negative Coggins papers before being brought onto the camping grounds. All horses are currently kept in quarantine for 14 days.
During that time, owners are expected to maintain a record of their horse’s health problems and treatments, and to pick up loose manure daily. If a horse becomes ill or dies, the carcass must be buried at least five deep in prearranged locations. Unacceptable horses will be sent back to their owners. Canoe rentals are available April through November. Half day, full day, and multi-day canoe rental options are offered. Canoes must be returned by 5 p.m. on the final day of the rental period. Bike paths are separated from pedestrian traffic, except at certain points where bridges cross the bike path. Bikes are not permitted to ride on the sidewalk or go against the flow of traffic. Pedestrians have right of way at all times, bikes must yield. Bike lanes exist in some places, but are narrow and crowded.
Dedicated bus service is provided from May through Columbus Day, running approximately every 20 minutes Monday through Friday, roughly every 40 minutes on Saturdays, and once per hour on Sundays. Passengers board the buses at the rear door, sit towards the front of the bus, and disembark through the side door. The route serves the waterfront, Old Colony, and Forest Hills stations, making stops along the way to allow passengers to get on and off. Although there is regular scheduled service, ridership fluctuates greatly, particularly on weekends. Service is limited in the fall and winter, and completely shuts down during bad weather.
Connecticut River Greenway State Park opened with its northernmost portion, a 3.5-mile (5.6km) linear track between Bradley Street and Willowdale Road, opening July 1, 1924. A second section, comprising 0.8 miles (1.3km) of right-of-way plus a 2.2-mile (3.5km) bridge across the river, was added later. In 1929, the MDC transferred ownership of this section to the Commonwealth of Massachusetts; it became known as the Paul F. Wildermann State Parkway. Additional sections were built through the 1930s, but these all belonged to the MBTA, not the MDCC. After serving as a freight yard for nearly two centuries, the site was transformed into a recreational area named after the commission’s first chairman, John C. Riggs, who died in 1921.
The greenway offers opportunities for:
- cross-country skiing
- sledding ice skating