Hawley Bog Nature Preserve Boardwalk Gets a Makeover

The Nature Conservancy and Five Colleges, Inc., team up to make improvements to Hawley Bog Preserve in northwestern Massachusetts.

NORTHAMPTON, MA – Hawley Bog Preserve, a nature preserve in Franklin County popular with hikers and as an outdoor classroom for Western Massachusetts colleges and universities, is getting an upgrade to keep it accessible and safe for years to come.

Work crews from the Student Conservation Association of Massachusetts are rehabbing the preserve’s more than 700-foot boardwalk. Paid for by the preserve’s owners—Amherst-based Five Colleges, Inc., and The Nature Conservancy in Massachusetts—the work started in early July and is expected to wrap up by early August.

The 65-acre preserve, located near Hawley’s Old Town Common, is closed until Aug. 3 so crews can complete the improvements to the boardwalk, which provides safe public access for research and nature study without harming the bog.

Hawley Bog Preserve is a spectacular example of a high-altitude New England bog. Its fragile wetland community includes a mat of peat 30 feet thick that floats on the open water. It’s both a living classroom for Five Colleges’ campuses and a popular hiking destination.

Five Colleges is a nonprofit higher education consortium of Amherst College, Hampshire College, Mount Holyoke College, Smith College, and the University of Massachusetts Amherst.

“Hawley Bog offers our campuses a unique natural laboratory for research and discovery,” said Neal Abraham, executive director of Five Colleges, noting that newly documented ant species, Ice Age-era pollen and climate change have all been studied there. “The boardwalk reconstruction project is an excellent example of how our partnership with the Nature Conservancy helps keep Hawley Bog open and accessible to our students and faculty members.”

Said Leslie Luchonok, The Nature Conservancy’s Western Massachusetts program director: “Hawley Bog is a truly special place. We have a great partnership with Five Colleges, and I'm pleased we are working with the Student Conservation Association to do the necessary repair and reconstruction work. The goal of the project is to protect the sensitive ecology of the bog and, at the same time, provide access for public enjoyment, research and education.”

The lumber for this project was harvested and manufactured by Heyes Forest Products in Orange, Mass., and is certified under the guidelines of the Commonwealth Quality Program, which assures it is 100 percent Massachusetts grown and harvested according to the long-term harvest requirements of the Massachusetts Forest Cutting Practices Act.  The wood is also harvested in a way that safeguards streams and wetlands, reducing erosion and maintaining the ability of the forest to produce clean drinking water. Use of these of these products also provides Massachusetts jobs, fosters the growth of Massachusetts businesses and increases our local quality of life. 

“The Commonwealth Quality Program focuses clearly on awakening the public to the value and environmental advantages of sustainably-managed local products from the fields and forests of the Commonwealth,” said Fred Heyes, owner of Heyes Forest Products. "As a founding member of the Commonwealth Quality program, I’m particularly pleased to partner with The Nature Conservancy and Five Colleges at Hawley Bog. The future of the Massachusetts forests is closely linked to the public's awareness, desire and support for our well-managed working forests.”

Two five-member Student Conservation Association (SCA) crews are doing the work. One crew finished its stint at Hawley Bog on July 17; another crew began work on July 23. SCA crew members come from around the country to spend five to 10 months performing service in Massachusetts.

SCA is a nationwide conservation organization that enlists college and high school volunteers to protect and restore America’s parks, forests, and other public lands.

“At the end of this season, this crew will have contributed over 30,000 hours of direct service to the lands and people of Massachusetts,” said Bryan Blankenstein, director of SCA Massachusetts. “It continues to amaze and inspire me to see what a group of motivated young adults can accomplish.”


The Nature Conservancy is the leading conservation organization working around the world to conserve the lands and waters on which all life depends. The Conservancy and its more than 1 million members have protected nearly 120 million acres worldwide. Visit The Nature Conservancy on the Web at www.nature.org/mass