Half-Mile Line

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A pristine Berkshires wetland adjoins this family residence. A meandering boardwalk, constructed by hand, in situ, allows residents to observe, cherish, and preserve this rare ecology.

Originally commissioned to aid the owners in stewardship efforts, primarily addressing the regrowth forest covering 70% their site, we came upon an unexpected possibility: to unite the entire property by constructing a circuit trail extending into the neighboring wetland—a place previously unreachable and unknowable.

Conservation biologists, permit specialists, contractors, the property manager, and municipal commissioners all collaborated on a design approvals process that took nine months. Path alignments originally designed in plan using aerial photograpy, were tuned on site to navigate among trees and snags, woody thickets, beaver impoundments, significant perennial stream courses, and wildlife corridors. Carpenters assembled the boardwalk in the water, without machines. They hauled materials in by hand and on floats. They drove helical support piles into the subsoil with crowbars and contained the debris with silt curtains and shovels. The scheme employed locally-milled hemlock planking (5,000 pieces) for the decking surface, chosen for its rustic, raised grain and ease of cutting in the field. The project demonstrates a participatory process that resulted in active stewardship of a wetland resource among professionals, conservation officials, owners, and contractors.

Experience on the Half-Mile Line is dynamic and varied. The walk departs from the upland path at three connecting points and becomes a series of contrasts among intimate, closed-in woody thickets, emergent marsh grasslands, and larger areas of open running water. Arriving at the project’s two observatory platforms set in open waters, one perceives the larger geographic context of surrounding forest and the Berkshires. Its design structures the observation and contemplation of nature that is equally powerful in its intimacy as in its expansiveness and drama.


West Stockbridge, MA




50 acres



  • Honor Award for Residential Design, American Society of Landscape Architects
  • Merit Award for Residential Design, Boston Society of Landscape Architects