Creating More Pathways to Nature
This article was featured in the Spring 2021 issue of Explore, our quarterly magazine for members.
We know how important it is for everyone to get outdoors and experience the benefits of nature. And while we have hundreds of miles of trails across the state, there's more we can do to increase access for even more people in Massachusetts. That is why we are actively working to open up more wildlife sanctuaries and build new trails at existing ones.
Here are a few projects currently in the works.
In the lower Berkshire Highlands ecoregion, this 154-acre wildlife sanctuary is within an area of conserved land of approximately 2,000 acres. Take the short (but steep) 0.2-mile paved trail up to the summit for a spectacular 360-degree vista of the surrounding sugar maple, white ash, and basswood forests. Along the way, look for signs of resident wildlife including moose and black bear. The trail is now open, though parking is limited for the time being.
Tidmarsh Wildlife Sanctuary, Plymouth
The former cranberry bog-turned-wildlife sanctuary is finishing up the next phase of its restoration, which involves the removal of several small dams to provide cold-water stream habitat to many species of birds, fish, plants, butterflies, and other species. It's not just about access for wildlife—the restoration work added two outdoor classrooms, a new boardwalk/bridge, and a new 0.25-mile streamside trail that explores the entire restored stream channel. Next up—a new, half-mile universally accessible All Persons Trail, currently under construction, will offer people of all abilities an opportunity to enjoy the sanctuary.
Oak Knoll Wildlife Sanctuary, Attleboro
It may not be a big addition, but the planned 0.1-mile stretch of trail at this 75-acre wildlife sanctuary minutes from downtown Attleboro will have a huge impact. When it opens this spring, this section will connect the existing trail network with a Greater Attleboro-Taunton Regional Transit Authority bus stop on Park Street, making it easier for anyone using public transportation to enjoy the wooded trails and boardwalk that wind through a red maple swamp, upland forest, and freshwater marsh, and around Lake Talaquega’s perimeter.
Rutland Brook Wildlife Sanctuary, Petersham
Combined with neighboring conservation lands, Rutland Brook is part of one of the most extensive parcels of uninterrupted protected land in central Massachusetts. Here, moderate-to-strenuous interlinking trails wind though cathedral-like stands of hemlocks and white pine and along boulder-strewn Rutland Brook. The latest addition to the Rutland Brook Wildlife Sanctuary trail network is Rum Rock Trail, a 2-mile loop trail off Butterworth Road that leads to Rum Rock, one of the largest glacial boulders in central Massachusetts.
Great Neck Wildlife Sanctuary, Wareham
Nearly all of this sanctuary was designated a priority habitat of state-listed rare species, which is why Mass Audubon collaborated with public and private conservation organizations, as well as private landowners, to protect and manage this sanctuary. Most recently, Mass Audubon acquired 110 acres of land that it previously managed under a conservation restriction. In doing so, we've been able to add an additional 4 miles of trails that explore the rich pine forest and the newly re-wilded property, where more than a half-dozen buildings and structures have been removed and the land returned to nature.
Stony Brook Wildlife Sanctuary, Norfolk
Visitors to Stony Brook have long enjoyed its 2 miles of trails, which offer easy access to open water and wildlife viewing along bridges and boardwalks, through quiet fields, and along woodland paths. Later this fall, they will have an opportunity to explore even more of the sanctuary via a new, 0.2-mile trail that will extend from the existing Esker Loop Trail through mature woodlands to Marshall Street. This trail will provide a link to the Lind Farm Conservation Property, managed by the Town of Norfolk.
Coming Soon: Cedar Pond Wildlife Sanctuary, Wenham
Cedar Pond Wildlife Sanctuary lies within a mosaic of protected conservation land that includes Ipswich River Wildlife Sanctuary and several large state forest and park areas. Mass Audubon maintains an informal and unmarked trail system that currently has limited use. Thanks to a grant from the Essex County Community Foundation, we will be improving the trails and creating a new parking lot. We are also building a universally accessible All Persons Trail to make the sanctuary welcome to all by early 2022. Currently there is extremely limited parking.