OK, first off, many of you have already probably seen the alert that was sent out, stating that the mud hole on MaBell is off limits.
The thing that most of you may not have seen is why and what is going on with the area.

I feel that in order for the general wheeling public (not necessarily the organized groups operating under umbrella organizations like EC4WDA or NEA) to be able to grab ahold of why they shouldn't go through it or turn around or not, they need to be fully informed.

When I first heard about the situation via an email from an E4W member telling me to take a look at the post over on NEOW; I read the alert and my first response was.. "Uhh, who says?" Why? Because a 5 gal container was found in it? Why didn't someone just pick it up? Whats going on, and why haven't I heard anything about this?"

Well, after a little prodding over in the super secret sections of the Friends of Coy Hill site (this has become a place where both NEA and EC4WDA secret operatives meet and discuss the behind the scenes issues of New England land use issues before they hit the general public ) I was able to get this information.

Bic White and Mike White have been working with the town of Northampton for some time now. As a matter of fact, back in 2006, the town of Northampton started the procedure to take possession of the initial piece of property that enters one into the MaBell trail. That parcel has been listed as "no owner" for many years. Our organizations simply did not have the cash available to purchase the parcel or even pay the back taxes.
So, the town takes possession officially in early 2007 and has been recently watching over the land.
Somewhere in this, Bic and Mike start working with the town, apparently unbeknownst to all but a couple of people within the NEA. They did mention in a post on FoCH that they were attempting to start a dialog with the town but didn't go much further with that info.

What has now transpired is the town, in its regular check of the area (although rather impressed with how clean the area is kept), stumbled across the 5 gal bucket apparently filed with oil/petroleum based product.
The conservation commission considers the the mud hole a vernal pool ( do a Google to find out what that is) and hence we can no longer drive through it. This is a statement from the Town of Northampton, as current land owner, NOT something that NEA came up with. Unfortunately, we can not post any signs stating that or do any work to prevent it...yet.

The town of Northampton is willing to continue allowing use of the their piece of the pie (which btw, is the section from the face back to, but NOT including, Committed). As long as certain stipulations are kept to.
They are:

We do have verbal permission from the city to travel within the 50' telephone line path but not through the mud hole.

* We are not allowed to expand the parking area.

* For the time being, we cannot post any signs (we need to put signs in the plan first)

* We cannot advertise?
(I'm not sure what this means)

* We cannot begin any work that is not part of an approved and adopted plan

* We cannot cut new trails (Focus on preservation!)

* No camping

* No fires

These are the major concerns the town currently has:

1. Oil Spills

2. Parking & vehicles in the road

3. Trail braiding

4. Environmental impact to wet areas

5. Complaints (continue avoiding any)

The most current work will be to identify EXACTLY where we are or will be allowed.
Identify all the challenges to operating a sustainable trail.

Identify specific tasks to preserve the surrounding land and minimize impact.

Identify where we are not allowed to recreate and which side trails need to be closed.

Explain? Volunteer Trail Patrols and how signs will help establish a sustainable trail.?

Set up VTP on MaBell.
(A Volunteer Trail Patrol is pretty much what it sounds like.. Educating people who are wheeling there of the specific stipulations and how keeping to them will allow us to continue wheeling there. Failure to do so will almost immediately close the place down.)

There are also some long term goals that have been set. I won't hit on them here. I also don't know if the goals are NEA's goals or the town's.

The last piece of important information is the "rest of the trail".. what about from Committed on?

I will not list the landowner's name, however, several years ago, contact made presented us with the fact that he would not "officially" give permission but wasn't going to actively chase anyone away. His major fear of course, was/is liability. This stance has not changed but he has expressed a concern with what so many trucks may have done to his property. He has not been there in years. His land runs from Committed out past Zuki Hill and almost to the clearing. I have read that Mike and Bic are confident we will get permission.

NEA has instructed their clubs to turn around before Committed.
If things haven't changed with the landowner, I'm not sure if I'm going to mandate that EC4WDA clubs turn around. If we vote on that stance at our region mtg, then I will pass that word along to the masses.

The main point of all of this is:
The Town owns it, IS watching and will shut it down if we screw up.
Please pass this word along to any and everyone who does or may at some point in the future, drive at MaBell.


Talk soon,