by Charles Tracy, Trail Administrator, NET, National Park Service
Designated in 2009 as the New England National Scenic Trail (NET), this historic 220-mile hiking trail route has been in existence for more than 70 years. Providing a “close to home” trail experience that exemplifies the primary purpose of the National Trails System Act—to establish trails near urban areas—the NET traverses 40 communities in Connecticut and Massachusetts, and is comprised primarily of the Mattabesett, Metacomet, and Monadnock (M-M-M) Trail systems.
Two of the oldest conservation organizations in the U.S.—the Appalachian Mountain Club (1876) and Connecticut Forest and Park Association (1895)—manage the trail, in partnership with the National Park Service. Organized trail construction and maintenance by the Connecticut Forest and Park Association for what is now the NET officially began in the 1930s in Connecticut. Twenty years later, taking up a dare to extend the trail north into the Massachusetts, a corps of 15 hiking enthusiasts began laying out the trail in Massachusetts in 1951.
Since its Federal designation, the NET has made steady progress in three key areas: land protection, trail stewardship, and community outreach. Trail planners worked closely with local communities to achieve two significant route changes: a 15-mile extension to a new southern gateway on Long Island Sound in Guilford, CT; and an 11-mile reroute to permanently protected lands near Quabbin Reservoir in Massachusetts. Trail stewardship has been enhanced by regular volunteer trainings, a growing network of college outdoor clubs, and summer trail crews. The management team is always seeking creative ways to invite new users and expand the NET community.
Over the last decade, its innovative artist-in-residence program has hosted several artists, including musicians, poets, sculptors and new media. Art-related events and exhibitions have opened the door for nontraditional partnerships with museums, libraries, cultural foundations, colleges, and brewpubs. The Hike50 Challenge, the NET’s most recent social media campaign, attracted more than 1,500 participants from all the New England States and six countries.
As it begins its second decade, the New England Trail Advisory Council is undertaking a comprehensive review of the management plan, a website update, and is setting ambitious goals for land and visual resource protection, accessibility, and youth engagement.
Unless otherwise indicated, all material in Pathways Across America is public domain. All views expressed herein are perspectives of individuals working on behalf of the National Trails System and do not necessarily represent the viewpoint of the Federal agencies.