The Recorder – Mount Grace to protect shores of Tully Lake

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Published: 4/18/2022 6:19:01 PM

Modified: 4/18/2022 6:17:43 PM

ATHOL — Mount Grace Land Conservation Trust has reached an agreement with a local landowner and the state Department of Conservation and Recreation (DCR) to permanently conserve nearly 200 acres of land on the southeastern bank of Tully Lake.

“It has been a long uphill challenge to safeguard such an important natural resource,” neighbor Johanna Lawlor Moore said in a Mount Grace press release. “It is a relief to know not only the views from Tully Lake and Tully Mountain will be conserved, but also that the Tully Lake watershed and the immense variety of wildlife it harbors has been protected. So many neighbors, friends and organizations worked together for so many years to make this possible.”

In 2003, then-owner Gregg Duquette proposed creating a 42-lot subdivision, to be named “Grand View Acres.” Over the years, the subdivision plan grew to 55 homes. According to Mount Grace, neighbors in Athol, Royalston and Orange formed the Friends of Tully Lake and mobilized to raise public awareness about the proposal’s environmental risks. The Athol Planning Board ultimately denied the project its permits.

Over the years, other owners and other proposals followed, with plans floated for a gravel pit and then a commercial solar array.

Eventually, the land was bought by Paul and Jill Vento, who began to discuss protecting the land with Mount Grace in 2020. The land conservation trust has a long history in this neighborhood, having helped protect 9,000 acres around Tully Mountain. Mount Grace has also been working on a 700-acre collaborative project in Orange, Royalston and Warwick with landowners, conservation commissions, DCR, the state Department of Fish and Game, and Mass Audubon.

According to Mount Grace, DCR’s role as the eventual owner of the Vento property means that Tully Lake will be connected to the Lawton State Forest by woodland.

“Mount Grace is honored to be part of this decades-long effort to conserve the eastern shore of Tully Lake,” Mount Grace Executive Director Emma Ellsworth said in the release. “Every time I put my canoe in at Tully Lake and enjoy the eagles and herons, or paddle out to an island to pick blueberries, I will be grateful to the generations of neighbors and community that contributed to the protection of this unique spot.”

According to Mount Grace, the conservation effort has been supported with a grant from the Community Foundation of North Central Massachusetts. Mount Grace is now raising the rest of the funding needed.

The property includes a house on one 18-acre lot and a second lot consisting of 189 wooded acres. After meeting with Mount Grace in 2021, DCR agreed to buy the 189 acres pending an agreement between the Ventos and Mount Grace. After transferring the larger lot, Paul and Jill Vento will live on the remaining 18 acres.

“Jill and I are so happy to have moved to such a gorgeous part of Massachusetts,” Paul Vento said in the release, “and we are honored to be part of this community’s long effort to protect the beauty of Tully Lake. We are thrilled that these acres will be conserved for perpetuity.”

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