EASTHAMPTON — After roughly 20 years, the Manhan Rail Trail is starting to show its age. Tree roots are coming through the pavement and sinkholes and cracks are appearing. To fix these safety issues, the city plans to submit a grant application to Massachusetts Rail Trails and has garnered the support of the City Council for the application.

At its Jan. 17 meeting, the council voted unanimously to submit a letter of support as part of the grant application. The letter will be alongside several others from departments and people in the city with hopes of making a stronger application. The application is due at the beginning of February. Jeff Bagg, director of planning and community development, said he expects to hear a decision in June or July.

Bagg, who called the rail trail Easthampton’s “most important asset,” explained that the city currently doesn’t have a cost estimate for the project, but he expects it could be near $1 million. This grant could provide up to $500,000 for the repairs and paving. He also noted that with costs constantly rising, putting off this work would just increase the cost of it.

Wendy Hammerle, president of Friends of the Manhan Rail Trail, spoke earlier at the meeting to support the council’s backing of the grant application.

“We know that the trail brings people to Easthampton,” said Hammerle, noting the tremendous importance of the trail in the city.

The remainder of the council meeting focused on some housekeeping tasks and appointments.

Councilor Owen Zaret was reappointed to the BEES Committee and announced its first meeting on Jan. 29.

Easthampton residents Kira Henninger and James Crawford were appointed to the Parks and Recreation Commission and Manhan Rail Trail Committee, respectively.

The council approved spending $6,075 for Nearmap, an imaging system that will take pictures of the city twice per year. The goal is to give assessors a view of properties they wouldn’t normally have to check for additions and renovations. It can also provide information about property boundaries and proximity to wetlands. While the system could help with revenue sources, it can also serve as a public safety support so that first responders have an accurate view of properties.

Tina Lesniak
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