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Walking Their Music to the People

Mabel Cronquist donated the 67-acre Hidden Valley Memorial Forest to Mount Grace Land Conservation Trust in 1996. Now, the trust has added a second level of protection to the property, offering a conservation restriction on the land to the Town of Wendell.

Charles Smith of the Wendell Conservation Commission described the Commission as “pleased with the decision to give us the conservation restriction.”  He added “It’s in keeping with our mission for the Commission to hold conservation restrictions and thereby ensure that the interests of the Town are met by Mount Grace as it manages its stewardship of Hidden Valley Memorial Forest.”

Mount Grace commemorated the completion of this project in on June 20 when the Massachusetts Walking Tour stopped in at Hidden Valley to perform a free concert.  The tour, which celebrates local art and culture in Massachusetts towns, followed the New England National Scenic Trail.  Musicians Mark Mandeville and Raianne Richards hiked from performance to performance during the summer and played Hidden Valley before their show at Montague’s Red Fire Farm.

Since 2010, co-founders Mark Mandeville & Raianne Richards have organized a non-profit bipedal concert tour of Massachusetts in support of arts and culture in towns throughout the state. Each free community concert collborates with local artists, musicians, educational programs, trail managers and land trust groups to highlight both the arts and the land.  

The forest is traversed by New England’s National Scenic Trail and lies entirely within the Wendell State Forest.  It is dedicated as a memorial to the life and work of internationally known botanist Arthur Cronquist (1919-1992)—an expert on asters who became best known for developing the Cronquist system of taxonomy for all flowering plants.  Cronquist, who observed that “time here refreshes my soul,” owned the property and used it as a research site. 

The new conservation restriction helps complete the Metacomet-Monadnock Forest Legacy Project—named for the trail which was recently designated New England’s National Scenic Trail—which has protected 1,069 acres in six towns around the trail. 

“The Forest Legacy program protects environmentally important forests from conversion to non-forest uses," explained Mount Grace Project Manager Paul Daniello.  "The USDA Forest Services provides the program funding by paying up to 75% of acquisition costs. Mount Grace secured the remaining 25% of Metacomet Monandock Forest cost share from landowner contributions (including bargain sales and easement donations) and state agency partners.”

Partners in the Metacomet-Monadnock Forest Legacy Project include local towns, Mount Grace, the Massachusetts Department of Conservation and Recreation, the Greater Northfield Watershed Association, and the USDA Forest Service, which provided a $1,645,000 grant to conserve the land.  DCR’s Bureau of Forestry serves as the lead agency to administer the Forest Legacy Program in Massachusetts.  Other grants in support of the project were provided by the Bafflin Foundation, the Community Foundation of Western Massachusetts, and the Fieldstone Foundation.