With funding provided through the US Fish & Wildlife Service and state Open Space Bonds, the $265,000 acquisition will enhance recreational opportunities in southwest Rhode Island
PROVIDENCE – The Department of Environmental Management (DEM) and The Nature Conservancy (TNC) announce the permanent protection of 28 acres of forested land in West Greenwich for public recreational use, including hunting. The parcel abuts 2,370 acres of protected land in Tillinghast Pond Management Area and Wickaboxet Management Area. It is also near several other significant tracts of protected land including Nicholas Farm Management Area, Arcadia Management Area, and URI's W. Alton Jones Campus.
"I am delighted that we've been able to protect this priority habitat at Tillinghast Pond and enhance recreational opportunities for the public," said DEM Director Janet Coit. "Preserving Rhode Island's natural assets enhances our quality of life and helps support sustainable communities. Tillinghast is one of the best spots for hiking, bird-watching, hunting, and just being outdoors enjoying nature. Kudos to The Nature Conservancy and our partners for helping to make this important acquisition in West Greenwich possible."
"The lands around Tillinghast Pond are part of the largest coastal forest in the northeast and regionally important for storing carbon, for wildlife, and for public recreation," said John Torgan, State Director for The Nature Conservancy. "Together with DEM and the people of West Greenwich, we've conserved more than 2,000 acres at Tillinghast, but we're not done yet. We still have more work to do."
The acquisition of this property preserves the rural landscape near Tillinghast Pond Management Area, TNC's largest nature preserve in Rhode Island. Losing this tract to development would have meant the construction of two new homes within 800 feet of the main trailhead, changing the character of the preserve and diminishing the visitor experience. It also conserved the last unprotected tributary stream to Phillips Brook, which originates east of Tillinghast Pond and flows south toward the Wood River. An excellent hunting resource, Tillinghast Pond provides habitat for a wide variety of game wildlife including white-tailed deer and wild turkey.
The property will be incorporated into Tillinghast Pond Management Area, which is owned by The Nature Conservancy and is managed in partnership with DEM and the Town of West Greenwich. Tillinghast Pond offers a 13-mile trail system, designed with guidance from the National Park Service and built with the help of dozens of volunteers, making it one of the most popular hiking areas in Rhode Island. The preserve also is actively managed to improve wildlife habitat. Under a 10-year forest stewardship plan, TNC hires Rhode Island loggers to create pockets of shrub and grassland habitat by removing areas of forest that have succumbed to invasive pests like gypsy moth caterpillars. These projects increase habitat diversity and are already benefitting hawks, bluebirds, and woodcocks.
TNC purchased the property for $265,000. In exchange for a conservation easement over the property, DEM contributed $206,000 towards the purchase price, including $154,500 from the USFWS Wildlife Restoration Program and $51,500 from state Open Space Bonds. The balance of funding was provided by the West Greenwich Land Trust and The Nature Conservancy through a bequest made by a long-time member.
Rhode Island's wealth of historic parks, bikeways, and green spaces provide for public enjoyment – along with improving the health of the environment, strengthening the state's climate resilience, and supporting the economy. Since 1985, over 10,000 acres of land have been protected.
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