North Quabbin group opens two new trail systems in Athol, Winchendon

  • The Orange-based North Quabbin Trails Association has unveiled several new trails, including three Flatlander Accessible Trails at the Cutthroat Brook Tree Farm, located at the top of Briggs Road on the Athol/Petersham town line. There is a map at the parking lot, and a sign explaining which trail markers are associated with each trail. STAFF PHOTO/ZACK DELUCA

  • North Quabbin Trails Association President Bobby Curley speaks during last weekend’s “grand opening” hike on the Flatlander Accessible Trails for people with mobility challenges. NQTA owns an all-terrain wheelchair that hikers can reserve. Staff Photo/ZACK DeLUCA

  • The Cutthroat Brook Tree Farm Gnome Trails gets their name from the dozens of gnome figurines scattered throughout the wooded property. Hikers are greeted by Gnorbert the Gnome, carved by Mark Bosworth, as they walk from the parking lot to the trail head. STAFF PHOTO/ZACK DELUCA

  • The North Quabbin Trails Association has been completing stewardship projects at the Winchendon Community Park. President Bobby Curley sits at the Forest Cove Vista, located along one of the park’s newly cleared trails. STAFF PHOTO/ZACK DELUCA

  • The Winchendon Community Park trails system also features a “Fishing Point” platform on Whitney Pond. North Quabbin Trails Association President Bobby Curle stands on the platform that was constructed as an Eagle Scout project. STAFF PHOTO/ZACK DELUCA

  • North Quabbin Trails Association President Bobby Curley follows the trail signs to the “Fishing Point” platform on Whitney Pond trails at Winchendon Community Park. STAFF PHOTO/ZACK DELUCA

Staff Writer
Published: 9/7/2020 12:47:03 PM

ATHOL — Those looking for a new, fully accessible spot to enjoy nature need look no farther than Ben and Susie Feldman’s Cutthroat Brook Tree Farm, where there are three newly cleared Flatlander Accessible Trails.

Bobby Curley, president of the Orange-based North Quabbin Trails Association, has overseen the stewardship projects, and cleared the trails with a team of volunteers. The three short trails can be taken one at a time for people with mobility challenges, or they can complete all three.

The North Quabbin Trails Association also offers an all-terrain wheelchair that is available for people to use. Those who are interested in reserving the chair can contact Curley at nqtrail@gmail.com.

“The concept is to bring everybody out here onto these trails,” Curley said. “Last month I took out a person who hadn’t hiked, hadn’t been out of her house in 10 years. She was able to make it around the Purple Perimeter, but couldn’t do the other trails. But she’ll come back and try again.”

There are several trails maintained by North Quabbin Trails Association on the south side of the property, and all start from a small field a short walk from the parking lot on the left at the top of Briggs Road in Athol. By expanding the trail system with North Quabbin Trails Association, Susie Feldman said she and Curley both hope to “plant the seed” and grow children’s love for the outdoors. Thanks to grant funding received through the Mount Grace Land Conservation Trust, there is also a 2½-mile “Learning Loop” marked by green and white trail signs that teach children about plant life and natural features.

“These trails are about the fanciful children,” Curley said. “How cool is all that spirit?”

“Kids are my big thing,” said Feldman, a former art teacher in the Orange elementary schools. “We want kids in the woods. Adults are wonderful, they’re great, I’d love to have you. But I want to plant the seed in children.”

There is a map at the parking lot at the top of Briggs Road, and a sign explaining which trail markers are associated with each trail. The Flatlander Accessible Trails are marked by green circles. The Purple Perimeter trail is named after the Feldmans’ neighbor, World War II pilot Vincent “Bill” J. Purple. Another trail is the Curley Q. Hike, named by Feldman after Curley.

“I’ve got legacy,” Curley said proudly.

Nearly all of the trails feature handmade, wood-burned signs made by Susie Feldman that point out different landmarks. There are also five benches that were carved from trees on the property.

Feldman said the land has been in her family since 1947 when her parents, Barbara and Richard B. Ellis, purchased 40 acres for roughly $3,000. Over the years, the property was expanded until the family owned hundreds of acres of contiguous land in Phillipston, Petersham and Athol. Feldman and her husband, Ben, ultimately put most of the land into a stewardship with Mount Grace Land Conservation Trust in 2014, permanently protecting roughly 297 acres with a conservation restriction.

Winchendon Community Park trails open

After three years under North Quabbin Trails Association’s stewardship, Curley estimates he has put in thousands of hours of work at the Winchendon Community Park on Ingleside Drive. He has worked alongside park directors to expand access to the park, which is home to waterfront views of Whitney Pond, thick forest sections and fielded meadows. The park now has a 1.4-mile trail that connects from Elm Street, and another trail continues to the Forest Cove Vista.

“This peninsula is a beautiful natural resource,” Curley said while hiking at the park. “We’ve just given it new life.”

In addition to North Quabbin Trails Association’s own efforts, the town of Winchendon is funding and constructing a viewing platform that will look out onto Whitney Pond. The park also features a “Fishing Point” platform, constructed as an Eagle Scout project, with signs marking the path to get there.

Curley said he has seen a tremendous uptick in the use of the associations trails since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, as studies have shown that the outdoors is the safest place to be to avoid transmitting the virus. He said anyone who uses the various trails in the system is asked to maintain more than 6 feet of distance between non-household members.

More information on the North Quabbin Trails Association can be found on its Facebook page or at NQTA.org.

Zack DeLuca can be reached at zdeluca@recorder.com or 413-930-4579.



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