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Fern Glenn Conservation Area (Winchendon)

Fern Glenn Conservation Area (Winchendon)

Fern Glenn takes its name from the lush growth of more than ten species of ferns that give the forest understory and wetland a soft, feathery feel in the summer. Clubmosses including groundcedar, running pine, shining firmoss, and Hickey’s tree clubmoss run everywhere along the ground, looking from above like a miniature forest within a forest. Plant enthusiasts will find much to marvel at here, particularly along the fringes of the spruce-tamarack swamp where rose pogonia orchids bloom profusely in July.

Paul Dunn Woodland Preserve (Ashburnham)

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.

Aurora Ranch (Royalston)

Aurora Ranch (Royalston)

Aurora Ranch, started in 1979 by Kate Collins and George Northrop, sells organically grown chickens, lamb and beef, sheepskins and fleece. The couple added 20 acres Mount Grace protected during the Tully Initiative to the ranch in 2004.

Charlie's Redhouse Farm

Charlie's Redhouse Farm

Kees and Paul Overgaag operate Charlie’s Redhouse Farm in Winchendon, which supplies organic produce (and will supply free range meat) to the Cambridge restaurants Charlie’s and The Red House, which Paul operates. The 62-acre farm, once known as Bittersweet Farm, was protected with a conservation restriction in 1998.

Ladner-Bruso (Ashburnham)

Ladner-Bruso (Ashburnham)

This painted turtle is doubly protected. It lives on 392 acres of land owned by the Massachusetts Audubon Society as part of their Lake Wampanoag Sanctuary. Mount Grace has held and monitored a conservation restriction on that land since 2004.

Mount Watatic (Ashburnham)

Mount Watatic (Ashburnham)

Mount Watatic is one of the most visited mountains in central Massachusetts. Mount Grace assisted a partnership of six groups including the Ashburnham Conservation Trust and the Ashby Land Trust in protecting 280 acres of the mountain in 2002. A trail map is available online.

Murdock Farm (Winchendon)

Murdock Farm (Winchendon)

Since 1964 a favorite sign of approaching summer in Winchendon has been the opening of the Murdock Farm Dairy Bar, selling local farm-made ice cream. Each year the ice cream stand brings thousands of people out to the farm, on the border between the country and the town, surrounded by sloping fields farmed for over a century. The brothers began working with Mount Grace to protect the farm in 2007, protecting 99 acres with an APR and 72 acres with a CR in 2009.

Henry Girouard bought Murdock Farm in 1959. His sons, Ray, Frank and Ken, no longer raise cows but still hay the fields, and serve ice cream from May to September (weather dependent).

Red Apple Farm (Phillipston)

Red Apple Farm (Phillipston)

Red Apple Farm features farmstand and pick your own apples, nectarines, peaches, pears, and berries. Apple picking begins the last week in July and the farmstand stays open until Christmas Eve. Mount Grace helped the Rose family place a CR on 103 acres of land they own adjacent to their orchards in 2007.

Wiinikainen (Gardner)

Wiinikainen (Gardner)

Mount Grace worked with the Town of Gardner in 1993 to place a CR on 195 acres of land that was then transferred to the Massachusetts Audubon Society as part of their Lake Wampanoag Sanctuary. The sanctuary is open for hiking and passive recreation.

Lawton State Forest (Athol)

Lawton State Forest (Athol)

The 365-acre Lawton Tree Farm was the first Mount Grace project. Mount Grace protected the forest, which abuts the trust’s Skyfields Arboretum, in 1986 in collaboration with Peter Gerry and the landowner, Robert Lawton. For historic articles on the Lawton Forest see here.

Morgan Memorial Fresh Air Camp (Athol)

Morgan Memorial Fresh Air Camp (Athol)

Morgan Memorial Goodwill Industries protected 330 acres of land with Mount Grace in 2007.  The property was formerly home to Goodwill's Fresh Air Camp.  The land is located between the southern end of Lake Rohunta and South Athol Pond and includes 7,500 feet of road frontage that could otherwise have been developed.  Most of the lake frontage on the east side of North Spectacle Pond in New Salem is also included in the conservation restriction.  Diverse valuable wildlife habitats on the land include upland pine forest and both wooded and open wetlands. Recent ecological research has identified numerous rare species as well as a multitude of more common flora and fauna.

Photo credit: John Burk

Shaw (Winchendon)

Shaw (Winchendon)

Mount Grace worked with Victoria Shaw in 2009 to protect this extremely rare 81-acre wetland which contains an exemplary northern Atlantic white cedar swamp, one of only two in Massachusetts. Mount Grace pre-acquired this property and re-sold it to the Massachusetts Department of Fish and Game.

Victoria Shaw lives on a wooded lot in North orange next to her family’s sawmill. Three generations of Shaws have earned a livelihood in part from timber harvests on family owned woodlands around the region.  This winter Shaw permanently protected 104 acres of those woodlands, including an extremely rare wetland in Winchendon.

Two tracts were protected.  The first is a 23-acre inholding in Royalston entirely within the Millers River Wildlife Management Area.  The second, 81 acres in Winchendon, contains an exemplary northern Atlantic white cedar swamp, one of only two in Massachusetts. 

Shaw, who has owned the land since the 1970s, always insisted in keeping the cedars standing, turning down several offers for the property.  “People would come around with plans to buy it,” says Shaw, “the town told them they could put in a road, cut the trees, and put up all kinds of houses, but I said those trees have been around for a long time.  They deserve to stay”

Atlantic white cedar were extensively cut after European settlement and are still under pressure today.  All four varieties of Atlantic white cedar swamps in the state are imperiled and are state priorities for protection.  Northern Atlantic white cedar swamps, which thrive at higher elevations and contain black spruce, tamarack, and other distinctive plant species, are the rarest. 

“These swamps in general are rare in Massachusetts.” says Mount Grace Conservation Director David Graham Wolf, “What’s even more unusual is that I found no evidence of past timber harvesting in this stand, and it exhibits a number of old growth characteristics.  I’ll be taking core samples to be sure, but right now I estimate the stand to be 200-250 years old, which makes this spot an incredible find.”  If confirmed, this would be the only old growth stand of these trees in Massachusetts.

In October, after being contacted by Mount Grace, the Department of Fish and Game offered to purchase the land, but budget constraints prevented them.  With Victoria Shaw hoping to complete the sale by Christmas, Mount Grace agreed to pre-acquire both parcels and re-sell them to the state in fiscal year 2011.  The sale, funded by a loan from The Conservation Fund, an Arlington Virginia based foundation, conserves a fragile and extraordinary place that survived into the 21st century largely due to the landowner’s goodwill and personal stewardship ethic.  “In Massachussets rare natural communities are not protected by law,” adds Wolf, “so we were very lucky to be working with a landowner who understood the value of this unique spot.”

Thousand Acre Swamp (Athol and Phillipston)

Thousand Acre Swamp (Athol and Phillipston)

Thousand Acre Swamp, a unique and incredibly rich and diverse wetland system shared by Athol and Phillipston, has been a conservation priority of both towns for years. The excellent water quality and the isolation from heavily developed areas have made the swamp important habitat for migratory birds and other wildlife. In one year’s sampling by the Athol Bird and Nature Club over one hundred bird species were observed in the wetland, including breeding American black duck, wood duck, and mallard. Since 2009, Mount Grace has helped protect more than 400 acres in the wetland, which drains into the Millers River.

Noonday Farm (Winchendon)

Noonday Farm (Winchendon)

Farm managers Beth Ingham and Bob Jennings have incorporated a nonprofit to serve residents of Winchendon by providing free organic food to those in need and offering education programs in growing healthy food and sustainable living practices. Noonday Farm currently works with the Winchendon Community Action Council to serve 350 Winchendon families. The farm also provides educational programs with hundreds of participants annually.

Mount Grace served as the fiscal sponsor for the farm as they secured legal status as an independent non-profit. In 2013, Noonday Farm placed a conservation easement on the property to ensure the permanent protection of the acreage as farmland—helping to secure more sustainable agriculture in Winchendon.

Featured conservation projects are marked with red arrows.
All other conserved land is represented by the key below.
 


KEY:

Conservation Areas (23 Parcels / 1,732 Acres)
Conservation Restrictions (69 Parcels / 5,136 Acres)
Stewardship Assists (8 Parcels / 1,935 Acres)

All Property Managed and Monitored by Mount Grace: 8,803 Acres

Facilitated Projects (223 Parcels / 22,936 Acres)
Project Assists (22 Parcels / 1,755 Acres)

All Land Protected by Mount Grace: 31,559 Acres

Other Protected Land (172,594 Acres)

Total Protected Land: 204,153 Acres
Total Land in Mount Grace Region: 510,640 Acres