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While development of infrastructure and commercial building assists in creating positive economic signs for the Commonwealth, the conservation of our rural land is equally important towards protecting the environmental systems we depend on to ensure a positive and healthy quality of life. Supporting efforts to maintain conservation and environmental protection can also contribute to our economy by offering our local heritage to culture to travel and tourism opportunities. Our region is rich with farmland, hiking trails, parks, rivers and wetlands and working to enhance our natural green infrastructure is essential toward protecting our resources for future generations.

And as we struggle through a pandemic, residents have looked to our systems of parks and open spaces for recreation as many parts of our “normal” part of life has been shuttered.

Recent grants made available to municipalities and land trusts is step in the right direction to ensure our our public lands remain accessible while protecting our natural resources.

Grants of more than $8 million awarded through the Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs will fund 46 projects in 35 communities creating or renovating 20 parks and helping farmers and landowners improve the management of soils and natural resources.

Lieutenant Gov. Karyn Polito said, “The ongoing pandemic has made clearer than ever the significant benefits outdoor spaces offer Massachusetts residents, including for physical and mental health.”

A Project in West Springfield will include $400,000 for the Pohl Acquisition, a project that will preserve a fragmented wildlife corridor, as well as the headwaters of Block Brook. The Mt. Tom Trailhead Park Development project in Easthampton will receive $374,000 that will assist in the development of a new park and parking area; an accessible trail; a picnic area for viewing; shrubland habitat restoration and new hiking trails. And Springfield will receive $400,000 for a project on Loon Pond that will include a non-motorized boat launch, a fishing peninsula and walking trails.

Our natural resources define our culture and efforts to protect these green spaces will allow the history and heritage of our region to stay alive for future generations.