PROVIDENCE – The Department of Environmental Management, in partnership with The Nature Conservancy, announces the permanent protection of 245 acres of forestland in Richmond. Located off Richmond Townhouse Road, behind the Washington County Fairgrounds, the property abuts the Conservancy's 180-acre Grass Pond Preserve.
DEM purchased the property for $1 million from Delbonis Sand and Gravel, with funding provided by the U.S. Department of Transportation ($500,000), The Nature Conservancy ($300,000), and State open space bonds ($200,000). The Nature Conservancy acquired a conservation easement on the land with a grant from The Champlin Foundations, providing additional legal protection and land management rights. The preservation of the Delbonis property creates a 424-acre conservation area open to the public for recreational activities.
The property had been slated for development as the third phase of Richmond Hills. In 2007, the Town of Richmond gave master plan approval for 53 single-family homes on three-quarter-acre lots, with the remainder held in open space. Conversion to residential development would have altered water flow, increased stormwater runoff, and contributed to groundwater pollution in the area through the addition of impervious surfaces and construction of 53 new septic systems.
"This beautiful forest is now available for the public to use for hiking, bird-watching, and just being outdoors enjoying nature," notes DEM Director Janet Coit. "I am so pleased that the Department was able to protect another part of a priority habitat near the state's Carolina and Great Swamp Management Areas. I hope lots of folks will get out there to explore this gorgeous piece of land and the stunning views from its many ledges."
"Protecting the Delbonis property more than doubles the size of our Grass Pond Preserve," added Terry Sullivan, State Director of The Nature Conservancy in Rhode Island. "Instead of 53 more houses, this land will continue to provide all the benefits of nature to the residents of Richmond and beyond: from storing and filtering the waters we drink to providing a wonderful place to enjoy a hike with family and friends. We encourage all Rhode Islanders to come on out and enjoy this preserve!"
DEM and the Conservancy plan to use existing path and roads on the Delbonis property for hiking trails that will connect to the Grass Pond Preserve. Starting as early as 2013, DEM will open the property to hunting for white-tailed deer.
The Nature Conservancy identified the Delbonis parcel as a high priority tract for conservation in South County, and had sought to acquire the land for more than 15 years. Its forested wetlands play an important role in absorbing stormwater and protecting water quality downstream. In addition, the property represents a classic example of Southern New England forestland with rolling hills, rock outcroppings and old stonewalls. The forest and wetlands supports an array of native plants and animals.