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Mount Grace's newest conservation area to debut this summer in Barre

Posted Tuesday, May 17, 2022

Burnshirt River Uplands

Just east of Williamsville Road in the northeast corner of Barre a network of streams sheltered by the forest slope down into the nearby Burnshirt River.

Old cart roads meander alongside the streams and past massive boulders that are impressive even for Central Massachusetts. Thanks to the thick cushion of trees blanketing the land, it’s quiet here.

The Gionet family has owned this land for 90 years. In 2019 owner Nancy Gionet began mulling over selling the 40-acre property to Mount Grace so these special woods could be protected intact.

With more than 1,000 feet of frontage on the road this land could easily have been developed into many house lots. Thankfully, within months of hearing from Nancy, we heard about a new funding opportunity.

The In-Lieu Fee Program (ILFP), which is managed in Massachusetts by the Department of Fish and Game (DFG), protects and restores aquatic resources and their supporting landscapes. The national program is funded by fees to the Army Corps of Engineers to mitigate the impact of wetland development. These individual fees can be combined to fund meaningful, larger-scale, mitigation projects like conserving these uplands above the Burnshirt River.

Thanks to ILFP funding, Mount Grace will take title to the land this summer and then convey a Watershed Preservation Restriction to the MA Department of Conservation and Recreation-Division of Water Supply Protection.

Upon conservation, the existing family trails on the land will be open to the public, creating a new destination for all of us to experience the old forest’s peace.