Guiney Memorial Forest is 33 acres of land in the southeast corner of Royalston and abuts protected land forming thousands of acres of open space. The land to the south is part of the Army Corps of Engineers' Birch Hill Dam managed property. To the east, the abutting land is part of the Otter River State Forest, which together with other protected land extends miles to the north and east.
Forest cover is principally old field white pine arising on land once used for farming. Stone walls and scattered old barbed wire fencing remains from past use of the land as pasture. The hurricane of 1938 impacted this area severely, and trees with large sweep, root throw mounds and down trees show evidence of the damage done. Some breakage occurred in the ice storm of December 2008, with the principal impact being downed trees and branches across the trail.
Topography is flat to gentle slopes with the highest land in the center, falling off to the east and west. A small perennial stream in the eastern third of the lot flows out of a small man-made pond on the northern border and runs to the south where it enters Beaver Pond whose outlet, Stockwell Brook, flows into the Millers River to the south.
The Guiney Memorial Forest is open to the public for non-motorized outdoor recreation including hiking, bird watching, and nature study.
40 Morse Rd, Royalston, MA 01368
From Route 202, take Route 68 north to South Royalston and turn onto River Rd. Follow River Rd about .4 miles to turn left on to Neale Rd. Turn right when Neale Rd ends at a T and head east on Neale Place, which becomes New Boston Rd, for a total of .6 miles. Turn right on Morse Rd. Park at the south end of Morse Rd. at the gate.
Note: Do not park at the residential house.
Mount Grace Land Conservation Trust
Father John Guiney (1998)
Father John Guiney’s family donated this 33-acre property to Mount Grace on the condition it be maintained as a wildlife sanctuary. Father Guiney retired from a parish in Watertown to a house on Morse Road adjacent to the land where he kept trails open throughout and spent much time walking there.
Forest Restoration – Project Spotlight
In 2022, Mount Grace and partners in the Massachusetts Dynamic Forest Restoration Initiative (MADFRI) were awarded a Landscape Scale Restoration grant by the US Forest Service. MADFRI is a collaboration on public and private lands in north central Massachusetts and the Berkshire Highlands regions that enhances forest resilience, restores fish and wildlife habitat diversity and mitigates invasive species through forest habitat restoration, community engagement, and long-term landscape planning.
Partners in the Big Picture
Guiney Memorial Forest, a 33-acre wildlife sanctuary in Royalston, is just north of the Army Corps of Engineers' Birch Hill Dam property. MassWildlife is working at the Birch Hill Dam site to restore globally rare fire influenced habitats including oak woodlands and inland oak and pine barrens.
In keeping with the Massachusetts Dynamic Forest Restoration Initiative's goal to build partnerships between public and private landowners to benefit the whole landscape, the forest management plans at Guiney address both the individual goals of Mount Grace to be in keeping with the Guiney family's wishes and compliment the habitat restoration projects at Birch Hill.
Supporting Rare Wildlife & Habitat
With the support of the 2023 Cornell Lab’s Land Trust Bird Conservation Initiative Grant, Mount Grace is harvesting timber on 12 of the 33 acres of the land and girdling trees on 1.5 acres in the tamarack swamp.
After hours of on-site planning and consulting with Indigenous partners from No Loose Braids to incorporate traditional ecological knowledge (TEK), the forest management plan was written by professional forester Mike Mauri. Mauri has also completed the professional development training from Mass Audubon and DCR's Forestry for the Birds program. Once logging on the site concludes, volunteer birders will be regularly conducting eBird surveys of the area.
The area is a envisioned to be a demonstration site for landowners interested in replicating site management techniques to improve bird habitat on their own land. Tours for landowners and professional are planned throughout 2024.
“Small landowners play a significant role in forest stewardship in southern New England,” says Stewardship Manager Tessa Dowling. “This project is an opportunity to engage local landowners in bird-friendly forestry by demonstrating ecological restoration work on a scale that is relevant to private owners of small forest tracts.”
Thea 12 acres of early successional habitat create an opening in the forest canopy, leaving select mature trees to reseed the area, promoting forest regeneration.
This early succession cut is important for forest ecosystem health in many ways:
- A single age class of pines have dominated the land since its farm fields were abandoned - we're removing the unhealthy and diseased pines to make room for a more diverse-aged forest.
- The thick canopy of pines also limits the diversity of plants growing in the understory - the more diverse plant species that emerge with more sunlight in turn increase the amount of wildlife the forest can support.
- Early successional forests are vital for the life cycles of many species, especially rare and endangered birds.
- This site's management plan is designed to promote oak regeneration - oaks host a high diversity of insect species which in turn help feed bird insectivores.
- Opening the canopy provides more sunlight to the remaining trees, which can improve their resilience to disease and the effects of climate change
By girdling hardwood trees in the forested swamp areas of the site, we'll promote the health of the fir, spruce, and larch that are an uncommon and important habitat. The tree girdling will create standing dead trees, called snags, that are needed for wildlife habitat.
As part of the project we will also be controlling invasive plant species. When invasive plants dominate a forest they can inhibit the regeneration of native plants and provide less valuable wildlife habitat and food sources.
Restoration of forests can help enhance the ability of forest ecosystems to adapt to the effects of climate change, providing benefits to both wildlife and human communities. Given the importance of forests to the planet, sustainable management is essential to ensure society’s demands don’t compromise the resource. Sustainable forest management offers a holistic approach to deliver social, environmental and economic benefits, balance competing needs and improve forest health now and in the future.