North Quabbin Eagle Reserve permanently protects land

Sunday, October 02, 2016

In the 1960s, J. Angelo Solinas, whose family immigrated to Gardner from Italy, stumbled upon a vast, isolated wetland in the heart of a heavily forested part of north central Massachusetts.

He spoke to his children of the land as, “God’s green earth.”  

In the early 1970s, Solinas and some friends purchased three parcels that are now being protected as the 139-acre Royalston Eagle Reserve.

Their vision, at the time, was to create a “camp” for hunting, fishing, canoeing and getting back to nature with family and friends.

On Aug. 24, their families transferred the land to Mount Grace Land Conservation Trust, permanently protecting the new reserve on Winchendon Road in Royalston so that it will be open to everyone.

Solinas’ son Jim has fulfilled his father’s vision for future generations by offering the town an opportunity to partner with the land trust to create the Royalston Eagle Reserve Conservation Area.

His son said the two will be “stewards of God’s creation” by protecting the 83 acres of open water, bog, shrub swamp and marsh, five acres of agricultural fields, and 51 acres of working forest.

In January, after Royalston’s Town Meeting unanimously voted to authorize and accept a Massachusetts LAND Grant for Royalston to purchase a conservation restriction on the land, Mount Grace began raising money to purchase it.  

“Eagle Reserve is a unique place that includes a magnificent pond ringed by mature forest, wetlands and an esker,” said Aaron Ellison of the Royalston Conservation Commission. “In addition to conserving habitat for bald eagles and other birds, the reserve will provide new opportunities for recreation, including kayaking, canoeing and hiking.”

Royalston Community School plans to enhance its longstanding environmental education program at the Eagle Reserve.

Canoeing across this sheltered wetland is a dramatic experience — no signs of human habitation are visible. There is a thriving colony of beavers, but the area remains a patchwork of ponds and wetlands providing habitat and refuge for numerous important wetland birds. A breeding pair of bald eagles is nesting near the waterside.