Accessible Trail On The River In Sunderland, Mass., Is Now 'Heart Of The Town'

Jul 11, 2019

This weekend is the official opening of new trail on the Connecticut River in Sunderland, Massachusetts.

The trail will be more than just a place for a nice stroll, according to officials. It's part of the town’s new Riverside Park, and it will be a connector in this small town. 

The three-fourths of a mile loop is a modest walk, and is wheelchair accessible — which Sunderland resident Margie Dow thinks is great.

"I have a daughter who uses a power chair, and I'm really hoping to bring her here," Dow said. "She will love it."

Before Saturday’s festivities, Dow came down to the river to see for herself what it looked like. The shady gravel path starts where School Street meets the Connecticut River and goes north. It then travels around a large playing field, next to the library and the town offices. 

Librarian Katherine Hand sees the new river walk as an extension of her work. She plans to take "story time" out to the trail's deck — an overlook with benches that juts out over the water — and maybe host a series of talks there on nature and history.

"Our nature and natural resources are [some] of the best resources Sunderland has to offer," Hand said. "We're excited to find ways to connect people with those resources."

Librarian Katherine Hand plans to make connections between the new Riverside Park in Sunderland, Massachusetts, and the library, starting with an art exhibit featuring Connecticut River landscapes.
Credit Jill Kaufman / NEPR

Inside the Sunderland Library this month, an art exhibit features Connecticut River landscapes in the community room. Some paintings feature the iconic blue bridge that spans the river between Sunderland and South Deerfield.

Next year, the library will have three kayaks to sign out, Hand said — sort of like books.

Riverside Park has been five years in the planning and building. The only delay was over an archeological dig on the site, asked for by the state, said Sunderland’s town administrator Sherry Patch.

In the end, a dig conducted a few years ago for another project satisfied the requirement, Patch said. 

Most of the funding for Riverside Park came from state grants and Sunderland’s community preservation fund.

Patch said it's being called "the heart of the town."