Hilltown Families


Our river ecosystems are about more than just water – they about thousands of species of plants and animals, fascinating natural history, and the connections between humans and their surroundings. By utilizing resources made available by a handful of local community-based organizations, families can learn about and connect with our local landscape.

Hilltown Families and Mass Appeal (a weekday, hour-long lifestyle program on NBC) have teamed up to offer a live monthly segment on WWLP 22News! Each month, Hilltown Families’ Founder & Executive Director, Sienna Wildfield, joins Mass Appeal hosts to talk about ways to engage in your community while supporting the interests and education of your children (and yourselves!).

This monthly segment continued on Monday, June 20, 2016. This month Sienna and Lauren talked about intergenerational ways to engage in natural resources to support interests and education, including River Walks and Nature Centers!

A handful of local paths and trails provide access to the natural and human history contained on the banks of western Massachusetts rivers. From short, interpretive paths to remnants of ancient trail systems, these paths and trails bring families closer to the waters that sustain the landscape.

During the coming months, the Westfield River Committee is offering a series of Saturday workshops, work days, guided explorations, and other events in order to engage the community in a process of learning about and how to care for the river and its watershed. The Wild and Scenic Saturdays offer a mix of educational activities, opportunities to engage in community service, and adventures into the watershed’s fascinating wilderness.

Take thee to the river! This month in “The Ripple: Stories About Western MA Rivers,” Kurt challenges you to stop and look for the rivers and brooks nearest you, and to take a moment to experience the aromatherapy they possess during this time of transition from green to brown… you’ll be doing yourself (and your family) a favor! Oh, and be sure to bring your camera!

Last week an energetic group of Hilltown Families citizen scientists and Kurt Heidinger, Executive Director of Biocitizen, conducted our fourth annual rapid biotic assessment of the Westfield River in West Chesterfield. This month in Kurt’s post, “The Ripple,” hear all about it, what we found and images from the afternoon…

Kurt’s call to action this month in “The Ripple”… be stewards of the rivers! Take action in September as citizen scientists by joining Hilltown Families and Biocitizen for our 4th annual rivers health check-ups, through the EPA approved method called Rapid Biotic Assessment or “RBA” of the Westfield River upstream from the Chesterfield Gorge.

Chester On Track Celebrates 174th Anniversary Saturday, May 18th, 2013 Chester, MA Celebrate the 174th anniversary of the coming of the railroad to Chester, MA. Chester became a significant railroad hub during the age of steam. 150 men worked around the clock at the roundhouse maintaining the “pusher” engines to move passengers and freight up and over the Berkshire Hills westward. Visit with living history re-enactors and explore the stories of the… Read More

Westfield River Wild & Scenic Call for Hilltown Artists The Westfield River Wild & Scenic advisory committee invites local artists of all ages to paint wooden suitcases that will “Travel the Watershed” this summer! “Many artists choose to live in the Hilltowns because of the inspiring landscape and the pristine river that runs through it,” writes the Westfield River Wild & Scenic advisory committee. “The idea for a call to artists is to… Read More

Families Learn about the Relationship Between Benthic Invertebrates and River Ecology with Hilltown Families & Biocitizen Halloween’s upon us and the leaves are almost down—and for river lovers that means it’s time to do Rapid Biotic Assessments (RBA), which involves capturing and cataloging the bugs—benthic invertebrates —that live on the riverbed. Certain bugs like stonefly-nymphs need lots of oxygen to survive, and when you find a bunch of them, it’s a sign… Read More

Trustees of Reservation Property Awarded Grant Glendale Falls in Middlefield, MA Exciting News for the Hilltowns! The Trustees of Reservations was awarded a Mass trails grant for the One Step at a Time Down Glendale Falls Project. It has been four years since a National Wild & Scenic Westfield River volunteer in the  Walkin’ the Watershed program noticed a need for a clearer and safer route to the bottom of the stunning TOR… Read More

Thinking Like A Watershed One of the funnier thoughts I’ve heard goes like this: “I want to be one with nature.” You might have heard of this thought, or a variation of it, too. The reason I find it funny is that it’s actually impossible not to be “one with nature,” if being “one” means directly, physically and existentially connected to the vital sources of being. If, by any chance, you are… Read More

Adopt Your Local Stream or River Rivers and streams are beautiful. That’s why we are drawn to them, deeply and elementally. The first colonists in Western Massachusetts hugged close to the rivers because of the abundance of life that issued from and through them, and our (or at least my) favorite town of all—Northampton—still retains much of the vibrancy of its original biocultural character: an idealistic, community-oriented and caring character generated by… Read More

Heart of the Biome: Rivers A few days ago I was walking along the Connecticut River, at the Bashan in Hatfield (the green space off “Bashin Rd.” on this map), and the mist from the low-belly clouds touched its soft, purling surface—connecting the earth and the heavens. I was alone; there were no motor boats (this river is often a highway) and—dripping like the leaves—I absorbed serene, wonderful moments of simple raccoon… Read More

As You’d Expect, Hurricane Irene Drastically Altered Local River Ecology Kurt Heidinger, Executive Director of Biocitizen School of Westhampton, MA writes: The past Wednesday afternoon, Biocitizen teamed up with Hilltown Families to do our annual rapid biotic assessment of the Westfield River downstream of the Route 143 bridge in West Chesterfield, MA. Thank you volunteer citizen scientists! Before we began, our hosts Sienna, Jim and Persephone described how scarily high the river… Read More

Kurt Heidinger, Executive Director of Biocitizen School of Westhampton, MA writes: How many times have you looked at a river thinking, how beautiful—and pulled out your camera to capture the swells of whitewater, a striking blue heron, or blazing maple tree in the autumn overhanging its banks? A river is not just beautiful, though; it’s alive, and those who witness this life, this bios, never look at or appreciate a river the… Read More

Gorge aprés Gorge Community Walk/Run in West Chesterfield, MA Sunday, November 29, 2009, 10AM The Sunday morning following your Thanksgiving dinner gorge, rise and shine to join friends and neighbors for the 6th annual Gorge aprés Gorge run/walk at the Chesterfield Gorge in West Chesterfield, MA. Community members are invited to embrace winter by being outside with friends and neighbors in a three mile out and back run/walk/bike/snowshoe/ski along the beautiful Westfield… Read More

Gorge aprés Gorge at the Chesterfield Gorge This is the time of year families are cooking and traveling and getting ready for their big Thanksgiving feast (= gorge #1). Following a Thanksgiving gorge, this is the time of the year area families are getting ready for the 5th Annual Gorge aprés Gorge at the Chesterfield Gorge in West Chesterfield (= gorge #2)! The GaG is a 3 mile walk/run (out & back)… Read More

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