Richardsons protect 133 acres in Phillipston

  • Jim‘s title is Land Acquisition Coordinator. He works at the Massachusetts Department of Conservation and Recreation’s Division of Water Supply Protection, which now holds the Watershed Preservation Restriction on the Richardson land.

  • Jim‘s title is Land Acquisition Coordinator. He works at the Massachusetts Department of Conservation and Recreation’s Division of Water Supply Protection, which now holds the Watershed Preservation Restriction on the Richardson land.

For the Athol Daily News
Published: 3/9/2018 11:15:18 AM
Modified: 3/9/2018 11:15:29 AM

PHILLIPSTON — It was the land that inspired Rise and John Richardson to move to the North Quabbin.

The two said they have now protected 133 acres of that land as part of the North Quabbin Regional Landscape Partnership’s Quabbin to Wachusett Forest Legacy Project, which has conserved thousands of acres of land in six towns.

Most of the Richardson land is woods or wetlands, serving to filter the Quabbin’s water and offering exceptional wildlife habitat, according to Mount Grace Land Conservation Trust. Protecting the woods creates a bridge connecting two sections of the Phillipston Wildlife Management Area, making the forest habitat more resilient by preventing barriers to the free movement of native species.

Those kinds of connections are another important result of the Quabbin to Wachusett Project, which has added numerous wildlife corridors to knit together existing protected land thanks to a grant from the U.S. Forest Service’s Forest Legacy Program, with additional funding support from the Bafflin Foundation, the Fields Pond Foundation, and the Community Foundation of North Central Massachusetts, said the conservation trust.

The state Division of Water Supply Protection, under the Massachusetts Department of Conservation and Recreation, holds a watershed preservation restriction on the Richardson land, which is split between the watersheds of the Swift and Ware rivers — part of the water supply for millions of Massachusetts residents.

The couple was part of a circle of friends that came to the Mount Grace region from eastern Massachusetts beginning in 1970s.

“We were among the last of our circle to come out here,” says Rise Richardson. “But we kept visiting our friends in Athol and Royalston and saying, ‘This is the place.’ We always knew we would raise our kids in the country.”

The Richardsons and many of their friends joined a group of local parents that formed the Village School, where Rise Richardson serves as director.

“We all felt like kids could have more of a direct connection with nature as part of their schooling,” she explained. “Kids discover things outside. You don’t need playgrounds. You need woods, so they can climb trees, splash in puddles, and look at anthills.”

The Richardsons’ farm on Narrow Lane has hosted Village School students every spring. It has also given the Richardsons a place to connect themselves to nature, growing their own vegetables, tapping sugar maples and raising hay for their small flock of sheep.

When the Village School classes return to the farm, students will tap maple trees, collect sap, stack firewood and watch lambs give birth. This year, they said, they’ll also get a chance to play in and explore the newest protected forest in Massachusetts.

Mount Grace is a member-supported regional land trust that serves 23 towns in Worcester and Franklin counties and works to benefit the environment, the economy, and future generations by protecting significant land and encouraging land stewardship. Mount Grace has helped protect more than 32,000 acres since 1986. Visit www.mountgrace.org for more information.


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