Thanks to a Northfield family and a Massachusetts Department of Conservation and Recreation trails grant, Mount Grace is now working on completing the Gunnery Sergeant Jeffrey S. Ames Nature Trail, a loop trail at Mount Grace’s new conservation property--the 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 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. Mount Grace is now being helped by volunteers from the North Quabbin Trails Association and by students at Pioneer Regional High School who have offered to construct trailside benches and the observation deck. Thanks to community support, the trail is now almost complete and this October we welcomed the first test of the trail 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 where the trail will go as well as permanently protected private land nearby. The trail will meet the standards of the American Disabilities Act and will allow people of all ages and abilities to immerse themselves in nature.
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.”
Funds Raised and Pending $340,000+
Land conservation fundraising is now complete. Gifts are still accepted for the trail building project.
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.