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Clearing the Bike Path: Partnering With Friends of Northampton Trails

Volunteers Gather to Clean Up Trail
By:Dana Shugrue| Last Updated:03/22/2024
Time to Read: 3 min

Cleaning Up With Friends of Northampton Trails

Twice a year, Friends of Northampton Trails cleans the 27-mile bike path in Northampton, Massachusetts. A popular hangout spot in the spring and summer, volunteers made sure this area was fully ready for the warmer weather on April 4.


About Friends of Northampton Trails

Founded in 2006, Friends of Northampton Trails (FNT) seeks to beautify local greenways and grow their community of trail users. The nonprofit works with government agencies, chambers of commerce and similar organizations to put on sustainable events throughout the year. In addition to trail cleanups, it hosts different biking and beautification initiatives for volunteers.

Biannual Trail Cleanups

While it has an Adopt-a-Trail program, FNT’s spring and fall cleanups get the most volunteer engagement. Earlier this month, 80 volunteers gathered at the Northampton Rail Trail and headed to their respective cleanup sites from 9 a.m. until 11 a.m. Due to COVID safety concerns over the last two years, in-person events were extremely limited. As restrictions were lifted and cases started to decline, the nonprofit was finally able to host a large-scale cleanup. Volunteers removed over 5,500 pounds of trash from the Northampton Rail Trail.

Dumpster Filled With Trash Bags and Debris

Cleaning the Northampton Rail Trail

There were seven cleanup sites across the bike trail, each with a volunteer captain. While suburban areas weren’t in bad shape, sites closer to downtown Northampton became somewhat of a dumping ground. In fact, there was an abandoned homeless encampment that became an unsightly mess, leaving piles of trash and debris in its wake.

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“Some people have nowhere to go in the winter, so encampments are pretty common in our downtown areas. Tourists like to bike that part of the trail in the spring and summer, so we wanted to clean it up before the warm weather sets in.”
George Kohout, President, Friends of Northampton Trails


Supporting a Larger Cause

The Kiwanis Club, another sponsor of the event, recruited several local school districts to participate. For each pound of trash collected by a student, funds were donated to a Ukrainian relief fund. This is merely one of FNT’s efforts to support Ukraine, as it fixes old bicycles and donates them to refugees for a reliable form of transportation.

A part of its “Bikes-for-All Program,” FNT also donates bikes to children and teenagers who can’t afford to buy one. The nonprofit partnered with two local bike shops, Northampton Bicycle and Speed & Sprocket Cycle Works, to make this possible. “A lot of people accumulate old bikes and don’t know what to do with them,” says Kohout. “Our program gives these bikes a second-life, and helps kids get active and outside.”

Volunteers Pose Before Trail Cleanup

Need a Dumpster Donation for your community cleanup? Request a dumpster for your event!

Getting Riders On the Bike Trails

FNT’s primary goal is to keep local bike trails litter-free and user-friendly. Along with its community events and beautification projects, the nonprofit hosts “tweed rides,” where riders dress in old-timey clothing, and other themed tours for bikers. Northampton was a landmark during the emancipation movement, and the trail highlights several historical sites on self-led bike tours. During these rides, cyclists can stop at these landmarks and learn about the significance of each one.

In order to continue these events, FNT needs support from its surrounding suburbs. Getting volunteer engagement isn’t an issue, and the nonprofit is always looking for new ways to involve the public-spirited Northampton community.

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“When it comes down to it, people want to volunteer but don’t know where to start. No matter how ugly the chore is, giving back is something we all want to do. Having events like these gives people the chance to do that.”
George Kohout, President, Friends of Northampton Trails


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Give Back to Your Community

Want to give back to your community? Try planning a cleanup of your own. Whether you’re clearing a bike path or pulling litter from a local waterway, we have you covered.