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On the Tully Trail: Newly Rerouted!

Posted Tuesday, February 28, 2023
— News

The Tully Trail, a regional gem for hikers, had one serious flaw that has finally been fixed. That flaw was a dangerous two-mile walk on the narrow pavement of a curvy section of Tully Road in Orange. Now, hikers can follow the familiar yellow blazes through a scenic forest parallel to the road.

The new section features views of a large wetland labeled Tully Meadow on the United States Geodetic Survey maps. That wetland, a haven for assorted wildlife, is created by the confluence of Collar Brook and the Tully River (West Branch).

The Tully Meadow Farm, on the west side of Tully Road, takes its name from this wetland. It is the property of Mount Grace board member Bob Busby and his wife Maureen Conte, who acquired it from the Gale family with a conservation easement negotiated by Mount Grace with the Massachusetts Department of Conservation and Recreation.

Hikers can now enjoy experiencing the new section of the trail, which is mostly the work of Bobby Curley, founder and leader of the North Quabbin Trails Association (NQTA). He devoted many hours of hard labor (aided by some volunteers from the local Hannaford supermarket), as well as many hours of meetings and trail planning. It took more than five years for NQTA to receive an official license from MassWildlife, giving the grass roots organization permission to create the new trail through state property (the Tully Mountain Wildlife Management Area) as well as private Heyes Forest Products land.

Both MassWildlife and Mount Grace were involved with easements on the Heyes land. One parcel acquired by Heyes formerly belonged to the late William Foye, an avid conservationist and dedicated Mount Grace member.

Going from the north to the south, the hiker on this new section starts at the intersection of Butterworth Road and Tully Road, following the yellow blazes just a few hundred feet on the paved road to an opening in the guard rail. There are places to park on Butterworth Road near a set of mailboxes, as well as on the wide shoulder of Tully Road.

The first section offers views of Tully Meadow and a short spur trail to an engraved boulder commemorating the North Quabbin Bioreserve and the Tully Initiative, led by Mount Grace in the 1990s with participation of many private landowners in the Tully River basin. In that area you might observe some huge conifers – these are non-native species planted by previous land owner Peter Gerry of Athol as part of a Christmas Tree farm that never came to fruition.

Further south, the hiker will be close to the road, eventually coming to a big white pine that Curley calls the “Elbow Tree” and a spectacular view of Tully Mountain beyond a pretty meadow in the foreground. MassWildlife has authorized Heyes to work on habitat restoration via forest thinning in recent times.

This new section ends at telephone pole 80, where the hiker must continue a few hundred yards on Tully Road to cross the river and follow the yellow blazes along a logging road through another tract of Heyes land adjacent to the bottom of Tully Mountain. From there, the Tully Trail starts a steep climb to the top.

I congratulate Curley along with the DFW staff, for undertaking and completing this new trail section. It happens to be close to my home, as well as the neighboring home of Mount Grace Board President David Spackman, and we both enjoyed hiking together recently on this new section.

I assert with enthusiasm that this re-routing is possibly a life-saving achievement, given how dangerous the narrow road walk was from the time the trail was created almost 25 years ago to the present. Curley, who hiked the entire Appalachian Trail, told me repeatedly that he had never before seen such a dangerous road walk.

A new map of the Tully Trail is needed, along with some good signage. The existing map is out of print but can be found HERE.

The Trustees, allied with Mount Grace, launched the concept of the Tully Trail around the year 2000, under the leadership of Dick O’Brien. Government agencies generously joined in – both MassWildlife and DCR, and the federal government’s U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the Trails Program of the National Park Service.

Mount Grace volunteer Ann Townsend of Petersham authored a booklet, entitled “The Building of the Tully Loop Trail,” which can be found here.