Thanks to a Northfield family and a Massachusetts Department of Conservation and Recreation trails grant, Mount Grace has opened the Gunnery Sergeant Jeffrey S. Ames Accessible Nature Trail, a loop trail at Mount Grace’s Alderbrook Meadows Wildlife Sanctuary in Northfield. The trail route winds through a stunning grove of white pines and culminates at an observation deck overlooking a beautiful hidden pond.
Volunteers are still needed to care for the trail and help monitor the property on an ongoing basis.
Volunteers from Lane Construction met with Mount Grace and representatives of the Nipmuc and Wampanoag nations last October to examine and assess the site. The groups have collaborated on plan to create a trail that ensures that no potential artifacts on site would be impacted by digging. More volunteers from the North Quabbin Trails Association and Pioneer Regional High School helped with trail clearing, trailside benches and the observation deck. The trail was also tested by volunteers from the Carson Center for Human Services and North Quabbin Trails Association.
Located just south of the center of Northfield with parking on Route 63, Alderbook Meadows Sanctuary includes five acres of public land around the trail, as well as permanently protected private land nearby. The trail is being designed to meet the United States Forest Service's standards for accessibility and allows people of all ages and abilities to immerse themselves in nature. Please be advised that some sections of the trail are moderately challenging, with a grade of approximately 12%, (there is a short video tour of the trail that gives you an idea of the grades and the site starting at 1:35 in the video above). You can also take a remote tour of the trail signs at the bottom of this page.
For many years, landowners Bill and Nancy Ames have invited Scouts and the New England Wildflower Society to conduct nature walks on the land. The Ames family has now protected most of their 142 acres with a conservation restriction and has donated the woods and wetlands that contain the new trail route to Mount Grace. “We have about 3/4 of a mile of hayfield edge - that marvelous habitat between forest and field, protection and exposure,” said Bill. “There are shrubs, bushes, and wild flowers in this narrow and magical space. Mammals and birds rest and forage and have safety close at hand. This alone is worth protecting, and, of course, the fields will still be actively farmed and that habitat will be maintained.”
Fundraising to protect the land and create the trail is now complete. Gifts are still accepted for the Friends of Alderbrook Meadows.
The project has also been supported by Northfield Community Preservation Act funds, gifts from the Snowmobile Association of Massachusetts and the Northfield Area Tourism and Business Association, gifts from members of the Northfield community, and a Massachusetts Local Acquisition for Natural Diversity Grant.