This post was written by Anna McHugh ’17
Madison County is home to a variety of recreational trails open to the public. Trails in the United States began as hunting and transportation paths for Native American tribes. Walking for pleasure is the most popular outdoor recreation activity in the United States. Local trails continue to be ideal areas because of the diversity and suitability for many different activities and experiences. The Chenango Canal Association and Southern Madison Heritage Trust aim to protect, preserve, maintain, and improve local trails and reserves. This summer research focused on promoting the newest addition to SMHT’s property, the Gateway Reserve, as well as maintaining trails such as the Chenango Canal Towpath.
Early trails became migration systems for explorers and pioneers and were eventually integrated into the road and highway system. The earliest recreational trails were foot paths from nineteenth-century guides to the summits of New England peaks. Today, the trail system in the United States is comprised of over 60,000 miles in all 50 states. Recreational trail walking can improve health through fitness and relaxation and also provides an outlet to experience and enjoy natural, historical, and cultural sites.
The Gateway Reserve, acquired in 2014 by SMHT, is a 4 acre property that provides access to a hiking trail along the historic Madison Feeder. This trail passes alongside the wetlands of the Gateway Reserve as well as beautiful ponds. Southern Madison Heritage Trust (SMHT) is an all-volunteer land trust that protects land in a manner the previous owner wishes to see. SMHT can own land or hold a protective easement, which is a legal document describing the specific activities that are allowed on the property, for example, farming, or open space or an educational reserve open to the public. The land trust is bound by the agreement forever. Should the land trust cease to exist, the agreement responsibilities would be transferred to another similar organization which would be required to abide by the conditions of the easement.
The Chenango Canal Association has a mission to protect, develop and maintain the five-mile summit of the original towpath trail and the canal for the public’s enjoyment for fishing and as a walking and mountain bike trail. In 1834, as many as 500 men stayed in each area, hand-digging the 2.5 million dollar, 97-mile Chenango Canal project. The Chenango Canal was unique in that it was the first in America to be fed entirely from a system of rain and spring fed reservoirs. In 1878, the Canal closed after 41 years due to loss of revenue and the creation of the railroad but now remains as an accessible trail open to the public.