Volunteers for Land Stewardship in North Quabbin always a need 

  • A TerraCorps member removes a tree from a trail. COURTESY OF MGLCT

  • Wildlife biologist Brad Compton shows two volunteers a red baby newt during a property visit. —Courtesy of MGLCT

  • Molly, a former TerraCorps member, installed trail blazes on a property in Ashburnham. COURTESY OF MGLCT

Staff Writer
Published: 7/28/2019 9:55:21 PM
Modified: 7/28/2019 9:55:17 PM

ATHOL – Conservationist and author Rachel Carson wrote that the real wealth of the nation lies in the resources of the earth – soil, water, forests, minerals and wildlife, and that “insuring their preservation for future generations requires a delicately balanced and continuing program.”

The preservation efforts of Mount Grace Land Conservation Trust located at 1461 Old Keene Road have protected more than 33,000 acres since 1986, spreading to 23 towns in north central and western Massachusetts.

MGLCT, which is an accredited Land Trust, acquires land and development rights through a legal agreement called a Conservation Restriction (CR). In a CR, the landowner gives up the right to develop the land while retaining ownership, permanently limiting use of the land. Landowners can do what they want on the property as long as it is within the guidelines of the conservation restrictions. Each CR is tailored to the landowner.

“We have to monitor each property annually to make sure it’s still being conserved,” according to KimLynn Nguyen, Land Stewardship Coordinator and TerraCorps member serving at MGLCT. Currently there are about 115 Conservation Restrictions through MGLCT, including 23 conservation areas that the Trust owns that were either donated or acquired.

Nguyen said they are always seeking volunteers to serve as land stewards of these properties. Stewardship involves monitoring and trail upkeep. A three-year commitment is preferred. “The terrain is variable,” Nguyen said. “We try to match volunteers in regards to level of difficulty and if they express an interest in a certain area.” 

Training includes safety rules and procedures, information about what the job entails, and an on-site visit to the property where volunteers are taught how to look for anything unusual such as natural alterations or manmade changes.

The land steward “adopts” the CR and can monitor additional properties if interested. A report must be submitted after each site visit with pictures if there is a violation.

A monitoring steward goes on the property to ensure it is still being upheld as a CR with no signs of development or violations, reporting new sightings such as hunting stands, buildings, or if abutting neighbors are encroaching on the property.

Trail stewards are asked to visit their designated area once or twice a year during growth season to maintain the trails. Nguyen said currently there are about 35 trail stewards. MGLCT also holds trail work days geared for everybody.

Nguyen said each property is different. “We recently opened up a new property, Eagle Reserve in Royalston that offers three new trails for the public; the Stone Road Trail that moves through a hayfield then weaves through a forest; the Peninsula Trail that lets you walk along an esker for an amazing view of the unique level bog and tamarack bog, and a view of Mt. Monadnock through the tree line.”

She said the recently opened David H. Small Community Nature Trail on Winchendon Road in Royalston has a crushed stone path for the mobility challenged that ends at a viewing platform with a scenic view of the wetland. The Stone Road Trail and Peninsula Trail require “just a little more love” in that they are both rough nature trails, so upkeep to remove debris is always needed. For the David H. Small Trail, “just visiting the trail and reporting any erosion and removing hanging limbs on the trail would be ideal.”

Not only can stewardship bring about an appreciation for the adopted property, it can also be fun to explore it, Nguyen said. “It’s like hiking with a purpose.”

For more information, call 978-248-2043 or visit www.mountgrace.org.

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