PROVIDENCE – The Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management (DEM) announced today the award of more than $3.75 million in grants to help communities and local organizations protect valuable green space throughout the state. Seventeen projects will receive matching grants to protect 889 acres of open space and farmland across Rhode Island. The funding is made possible by the 2016 Green Economy Bond, which was passed overwhelmingly by Rhode Island voters, and invests $35 million in preserving open space, improving recreational facilities, and cleaning up lands and waters.
"Rhode Island's unparalleled natural beauty and wealth of green spaces are at the heart of what attracts people and businesses to locate here," said Governor Gina Raimondo. "The grants we are awarding today – and the Green Economy and Clean Water Bond included in my budget – will help us preserve and protect precious open space and farmland. These are smart investments that will benefit Rhode Island's economy, communities, and families for generations to come."
Rhode Island's historic parks, bikeways and green spaces provide opportunity for public enjoyment – in addition to improving the health of the environment, strengthening the state's climate resilience, and supporting the economy. According to the Outdoor Industry Association, outdoor recreation in Rhode Island generates $2.4 billion in consumer spending and supports 24,000 local jobs. Since 1985, over 10,000 acres of land have been protected.
"The open space grants being awarded today will contribute to the conservation of an incredible array of properties that delight families and support wildlife," said DEM Director Janet Coit. "This year, the grant criteria also included a category aimed at planning for impacts of climate change. I am so proud to partner with cities, towns and organizations that work hard to protect the special places in their communities. Rhode Islanders continue to support environmental bonds – like the Green Economy and Clean Water Bond – which provide needed funds that catalyze and make possible the protection of open space, farmland and habitat across our beautiful state."
Grants up to $400,000 – which may cover up to half of the project cost – were awarded to help preserve lands that offer significant natural, ecological or agricultural value and those that connect or expand existing protected lands. DEM's successful open space grant program has provided funding for the preservation of over 10,000 acres of land across the state since its inception in 1985. DEM has worked with partners in every municipality to complete 172 easement transactions with land trusts and local communities to date, furthering the mission of preserving Rhode Island's precious resources and increasing the public's access and enjoyment of our natural lands. Over the years this grant program has resulted in the protection of places used by residents and tourists alike for outdoor recreation – and has also contributed to the economic health of the state. These natural assets play a big role in the state's tourist economy by providing opportunities for the public to camp, fish, hunt, hike, and enjoy the great outdoors, and at the same time bring revenue to the local economy.
The open space grants being awarded today to protect 889 acres of open space and farmland include:
Aquidneck Land Trust – Silvia: $151,500 to acquire 15.6 acres at the headwaters of Little Creek in Portsmouth, which drains to the Sakonnet River. The parcel is adjacent to the Aquidneck Land Trust's 10-mile Sakonnet Greenway Trail and will provide an opportunity to reroute the trail onto the property and create a trailside park for passive recreation. The property also contains important wetland and early successional habitats.
Audubon Society of RI – Brien: $150,000 to acquire 75 acres on Saugatucket Road in South Kingstown adjacent to existing protected land owned by ASRI. This parcel will create a 120-acre swath of protected land that will help reduce the ever-present impacts of habitat fragmentation. This parcel is located in the Saugatucket River watershed; protecting this property's significant wetlands will contribute to water quality improvements in the river.
Barrington Land Conservation Trust – Vendituoli Farm: $50,000 to acquire a 3.2-acre farm. This acquisition will enable the Land Trust to provide educational and agricultural opportunities in Barrington, while protecting a significant wetland system that drains to Volpe Pond and the Providence River. An existing farm stand on the property has been in continuous operation since the late 1800s.
Town of Bristol – Creek Lane: $168,000 to acquire 2 acres along the banks of Silver Creek, a tidal stream just north of downtown Bristol. Silver Creek empties into Bristol Harbor and has been the subject of a concerted effort by the town to improve habitat and water quality over the past several years. The town has provided public recreational and educational opportunities with the nearby Guiteras Elementary School while conducting marsh restoration, habitat protection, and stormwater management on these parcels. The Creek Lane parcel will provide a crucial connection between existing protected parcels.
Burrillville Land Trust – DeCarpini: $75,000 to acquire 50 acres in a budding conservation corridor starting at DEM's George Washington Management Area, and eventually to extend to Pascoag. Located with an extremely large unfragmented forest block and home to a variety of important conservation species, including salamanders, migratory birds, bobcats, and threatened bats, this property is a key acquisition for the land trust.
Town of Cumberland – Mercy Woods: $400,000 to acquire 211.5 acres abutting Water Supply Board land around the Diamond Hill Reservoir. This project will provide significant public recreational opportunities, conserve important habitat, and help protect a drinking water resource. Agricultural fields, hiking trails, and active recreational fields are all key features of this large project that will be an important resource for the town.
Glocester Land Trust – Colwell: $50,000 to acquire 48 acres of mixed forestland and agricultural fields. This property consists of 35 acres of upland forest, 7 acres of red maple swamp at the back of the parcel and 6 acres of cleared prime agricultural soils at its frontage – providing both scenic resources and important habitat protection. In addition, the parcel contains a tributary to Moswansicut Pond, a public drinking water supply.
Hopkinton Land Trust – Weeden/James: $400,000 to acquire 124 acres of farmland and woodlands within an important unfragmented forest block of over 900 acres. An existing protected farm abuts this acquisition, adding to the agricultural resources of the area. Early successional habitat, prime agricultural soils, combined with significant wetlands and forested upland make for a critical diversity of important natural resources worthy of protection.
Town of Jamestown – Rafferty: $153,750 to acquire 5.5 acres abutting existing protected land around Jamestown's reservoir – a sole source aquifer. This parcel abuts 133 acres of conservation land and will help to protect the town's drinking water supply. In addition, it is part of an impressive swath of protected land visible from Route 138 and adds to the scenic resources of the state.
Town of North Kingstown – LYF: $124,500 to acquire a 5.3 acre vegetated peninsula on Gilbert Stuart Road that extends into Carr Pond. This coastal wooded habitat is extremely important to migratory birds and provides drinking water protection. The property is located in an area with significant protected open space and its acquisition fills in the last remaining gap around Carr Pond with a ring of protected land.
Town of North Smithfield – Gold: $400,000 to acquire 144 acres on Tarkiln Pond. This property represents an interesting diversity of habitats and historic resources: it is the site of an impressive piggery ruin dating to the 1800s – once New England's largest. Open fields, pond frontage, and upland forest create a diverse array of habitats while a series of well-maintained trails make this property ideal for public recreational opportunities.
South Kingstown Land Trust – Tucker: $400,000 to acquire 34 acres in the Matunuck Hills. This parcel contains frontage on Tucker Pond and will connect two previously protected parcels owned by the South Kingstown Land Trust. This property, with an impressive understory of rhododendron, will provide excellent habitat protection while allowing for public access.
Tiverton Land Trust – Manchester: $137,000 grant to acquire 42 acres in the Pocasset Ridge Conservation Area, which consists of 500 acres of unfragmented forest within a mile of the Sakonnet River. The Tiverton Land Trust, the Town of Tiverton, and The Nature Conservancy have worked to conserve this area for several decades with the funding support of the Open Space Grant program. The property consists of a variety of forested habitats in excellent condition and will provide additional public recreational opportunities.
Tiverton Land Trust – F&J: $96,600 grant to acquire 60 acres in the Pocasset Ridge Conservation Area. A companion grant to the Manchester property – these two properties nearly abut each other and together make up 102 acres of additional conservation land in this important protection area.
Town of Warren – Barker: $200,000 to acquire 14 acres on Mount Hope Bay. The acquisition of this property offers a unique opportunity to provide public access to the shoreline on the Touisset peninsula. In close proximity to Audubon's Touisset Marsh, conserving this property will also serve to protect important and threatened coastal habitat and will provide protection against storm surges and coastal flooding.
City of Woonsocket – Holley Springs A&B: Total of $800,000 over two separate projects to protect 54 acres within the city limits of Woonsocket. These parcels, on the far eastern end of the city, provide a green space link to existing protected land and present an important public recreational opportunity for residents of Woonsocket. In addition, the parcels are home to several critical species including salamanders and wood frogs.
Yesterday, Governor Gina Raimondo joined DEM and other partners at an event in Providence to highlight the proposed 2018 Green Economy and Clean Water Bond. The measure, included in the Governor's budget proposal, provides funding to improve parks, bikeways and recreational areas, preserve open space, strengthen climate resiliency, and clean up contaminated land for productive use. Visit DEM's website for a fact sheet on the bond proposal.
For more information on DEM programs and initiatives, visit www.dem.ri.gov. Follow us on Facebook at www.facebook.com/RhodeIslandDEM or on Twitter (@RhodeIslandDEM) for timely updates.