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Mass Central Rail Trail Bridge

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Special, Protected, and Even "3rd Places"

Preserving our land and communities

Do you ever wonder why our beautiful valley looks a bit different from other similar river valleys? Most mountain ranges in North America run north to south. Here, the local mountain range runs east to west. I like to say that this influences our relationship with the land. The culture of this area is driven by land preservation. Did you know that Massachusetts has more land trusts than any other state in the US except California? However, CA is 20 times larger than MA.

Around 1890, the land trust movement began in MA when The Trustees of Reservations was formed, and they began to assemble parcels of land into a hybrid of public parks. Their parcels today range from mansions owned by notable residents to places with rare geological features. Almost 200 such places are open to the public, spreading the word on the importance of not only land preservation, but historic preservation, too.

One land trust in the area doing innovative work is the East Quabbin Land Trust. It is one of a dozen partners developing the Mass Central Rail Trail. At 100+ miles long, the MCRT is the longest rail trail in the Northeast. EQLT has bought about five miles of the corridor that included three large bridges and they are transforming it into a safe trail for families. They are also aware of the “3rd place” concept and have taken action to preserve that 3rd place in a small community in their service territory.

The 1st place in your life is your family. The 2nd place is work. The 3rd place is where you meet people outside of the first two. In the small community of Petersham, the all-important 3rd place was the more than 180-year-old Country Store. Badly run-down and in danger of closing, it was purchased by the EQLT. They took on all the deferred maintenance capital projects and then leased the store to a young couple who loves their crucial role in the community. Kudos to the EQLT, and their commitment to land preservation and an enriched quality of life for their community.

Craig Della Penna is the consummate local Realtor but with a nationally recognized practice.  He specializes in homes near rail trails. He is also the author of five books and along with his wife Kathleen, he also operates an award-winning bed & breakfast, Sugar Maple Trailside Inn, in Florence, Mass.

  • The Country Store in Petersham
  • Mass Central Rail Trail Bridge