The Recorder – Mount Grace to protect the shores of Lake Tully

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Published: 04/18/2022 18:19:01

Modified: 04/18/2022 18:17:43

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 southeast shore of the lake Tuly.

“It has been a lifelong challenge to save such an important natural resource,” neighbor Johanna Lawlor Moore said in a Mount Grace press release. “It is a relief to know that not only will the views of Tully Lake and Tully Mountain be preserved, but also that the Tully Lake watershed and the huge variety of wildlife it supports has been protected. So many neighbours, friends and organizations have worked together for so many years to make this possible.

In 2003, then-owner Gregg Duquette proposed to create a 42-lot subdivision, to be called “Grand View Acres.” Over the years, the subdivision plan grew to 55 houses. According to Mount Grace, neighbors of Athol, Royalston and Orange formed the Friends of Tully Lake and mobilized to raise awareness of the environmental risks of the project. The Athol planning board ultimately denied the project its permits.

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

Eventually the land was purchased by Paul and Jill Vento, who began discussions about 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 also worked 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 woods.

“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 statement. “Every time I put my canoe in Tully Lake and admire the eagles and herons, or paddle to an island to pick blueberries, I will be grateful to the generations of neighbors and community who have helped the protection of this unique place.”

According to Mount Grace, the conservation effort was supported by a grant from the Community Foundation of North Central Massachusetts. Mount Grace is now raising the remaining funding needed.

The property includes a house on an 18-acre lot and a second 189-acre wooded lot. After meeting Mount Grace in 2021, DCR agreed to purchase the 189 acres pending a deal 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 beautiful 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 delighted that these hectares will be preserved in perpetuity.

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