Western Gateway Heritage State Park is a history-focused heritage park in the city of North Adams, Massachusetts. The state park preserves buildings and sites associated with the Hoosac Tunnel construction, which connected the Hoosac River with the Nashua River, enabling easier travel to New England from the Hoosac Valley and central Massachusetts. It was listed on the National Register of Historic Places as the Western Gateway Site in 2003. Buildings include an 1834 farmhouse, a blacksmith shop, carpenter’s shop, ice house, schoolhouse, and tavern. Other features are a footbridge across the Hoosac River, remnants of railroads, tunnels, bridges, trestles, retaining walls, culverts, concrete water tanks, and pipes.
A boat launch allows access to the river for canoeing and kayaking. In summer, there is also a small farmers market held at the park. There are no admission charges; however, parking fees are in effect during certain times of year. Parking fees are waived for those with disabilities or residents age 62 & older and their spouses. Passes good for three days or a week are available; annual passes good at all six gates are offered at a cost of $75 for out-of-state visitors or $60 for Massachusetts residents. The park is located off Massachusetts Route 2 near the Hoosac Tunnel entrance. To the west of the park, accessible via Exit 26N, is Hoosac Common, where the Hoosac Tunnel meets the Hoosac River. Accessibility for the disabled was assessed by Westfield College in 2017.
Of five areas of the park that were evaluated, two were rated “accessible” and three were rated “partially accessible”. Areas included the trail leading up to the tunnel portal, the interior of the tunnel itself, and the exterior of the tunnel including its roof structure. The college noted that although some ramps were missing, other than one major ramp being blocked by debris, the park was generally accessible to people using mobility devices. Park amenities include picnic tables and shelters, playing fields, playgrounds, bike paths, and a footpath spanning the Hoosac River.
The park has several walking trails, mostly around the perimeter but also including a portion of the Hoosac Canal Trail. The canal path runs along both sides of the Hoosac River through ten miles (16km) of forest and fourteen towns before reaching Palmer Mountain. The Appalachian Trail can be reached from the northern end of the park grounds after passing under the Interstate 95 bridge. The park is used as a starting point for many hikes, including Hanging Gardens, Hoosac Cliffs, and Wompatuck Trails. The park is crossed by the Bay Circuit Trail. On public land adjacent to the park, the Commonwealth of Massachusetts operates the Hoosac Tunnel Visitor Center Museum. Exhibits focus on the history of the Hoosac Tunnel project, with emphasis on the men and women who built it, as well as the natural resources that were harnessed to make this possible – forests, rivers, lakes, granite, and slate.
- cross-country skiing
- wildlife watching