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Paul Dunn Woodland Preserve (Ashburnham)

At 166 acres, the Paul Dunn Woodland Preserve is Mount Grace’s second largest conservation area. Unlike most land in central Massachusetts, the Dunn property has never been farmed. It has been a source of lumber for the region's numerous wood turning and furniture factories. The Dunns acquired the property at auction in 1982 to forestall a proposed 147-lot development. As part of the conservation effort, they also established a modest endowment that permits the property to remain on the property tax rolls as a forest management demonstration area.

Ownership: 
Mount Grace Land Conservation Trust
Gift From: 
Paul and Laura Dunn (1991)
Directions: 

From the junction of Route 12 and Route 140 in Winchendon, take Route 12 east. Turn north on Depot Road toward Sunset Lake. Cross Sherbert Road, continuing on Dunn Road. Turn right (east) onto Hewitt Road (an unmarked dirt road just opposite Blueberry Road). Park at the end of Hewitt Road.

Paul Dunn Woodland Preserve is Mount Grace’s second largest conservation area. From the trailhead, walk east past the Mount Grace sign along the old logging road. Several informal trails and old skid roads thread through this area. Stick to the clearly blue-blazed path. You will take a leisurely climb through a young stand of head-high white pines, with the silhouettes of large black spruce looming behind them. Within a few moments, you will notice that the footpath follows a narrow, sinuous ridge which slopes down steeply both to the left and right of you. This ridge is an esker, a line of mounded gravel and sand that melted out from the underbelly of a glacier some 14,000 years ago. The gravelly soils on eskers tend to be very well-drained, so plants more characteristic of dry areas -- like the very fragrant sweetfern, wintergreen, and trailing arbutus -- abound here. The ridge forms a peninsula that looks out over a large grassy wet meadow with open water meandering through it.

The trail turns south along the big wetland and descends from the esker, leading you through closed-canopy woods dominated by large white pines and red maple. Look for young fir saplings with their long, soft green needles on branches that lie close to the ground; fir often layers forming new trees from horizontal offshoots that root in the soft, mossy soil. Returning north toward the parking area, the trail widens out into a logging road lined with raspberries, blackberries, black raspberries, blueberries, and many other fruiting shrubs that make great forage for wildlife and hikers alike.

Paul Dunn Woodland Preserve is open to the public for non-motorized outdoor recreation including hiking, bird watching, nature study, and hunting.

 

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