PROVIDENCE – Governor Dan McKee and the Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management (DEM) announced today the awarding of more than $2.73 million in grants to help communities and local organizations protect valuable green space throughout Rhode Island. Ten projects will receive matching grants to protect 400 acres of open space and farmland across the state. The funding is made possible by the 2016 and 2018 green economy bonds, both of which were passed overwhelmingly by voters and made investments in preserving open space, improving recreational facilities, and cleaning up lands and waters.
"From clean water, natural flood control, and wildlife habitat to biodiversity and recreation opportunities, there are many diverse benefits from open space and Rhode Islanders recognize this," said Governor Dan McKee. "This is why I proposed a green bond in my fiscal year 2023 budget that includes $5 million for the further preservation of open spaces. Green bonds support what we love about Rhode Island."
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. Outdoor recreation in Rhode Island generates $2.4 billion in consumer spending and supports 24,000 local jobs, according to the Outdoor Industry Association. Since 1985, DEM has helped protect nearly 13,000 acres of land through open space grants.
"The value of our state's historic investments in open spaces has come into sharper relief in the past two years with the COVID pandemic as Rhode Islanders have explored open spaces in greater numbers, looking for places to unwind and forget their troubles," said DEM Acting Director Terry Gray. "The investments we are announcing today are for our children and the generations to come who are counting on us to be good stewards of 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 nearly 13,000 acres of land across the state since its inception in 1985. DEM has worked with partners in every municipality to complete 197 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 400 acres of open space and farmland include:
Town of Charlestown: $400,000 grant to acquire 90 acres of forestland in northern Charlestown. The property contains an important wetland complex that surrounds Saw Mill Pond. The land is part of a greater than 250-acre area of unfragmented forest and is nearly contiguous with The Nature Conservancy's Carter Preserve, which includes 1,000+ acres of conservation land.
Town of East Greenwich: $400,000 grant to acquire 42 acres in southern East Greenwich. This property anchors the southern end of a National Register Historic District and is under intense development pressure. The Hunt River flows through its scenic viewshed of upland hardwood and agricultural fields, which provide a diverse array of habitats and recreation potential.
Cumberland Land Trust: $400,000 to acquire 84.3 acres of forested upland in Cumberland. The Cracco property sits between DEM's 400-acre Diamond Hill Reservation, and 700 acres of conservation land owned by the Cumberland Land Trust. The property is dominated by upland forest, wetlands, numerous stone walls, historical orchards, and steep slopes. The significant wetlands flow to the Pawtucket and Diamond Hill Reservoirs, a major source of drinking water for the Pawtucket and Cumberland residents.
South Kingstown Land Trust (SKLT): $400,000 grant to acquire a conservation easement over 52 acres that abuts Rhode Island Audubon's Marion Eppley Wildlife Sanctuary, which contains over 1,100 acres in both South Kingstown and Exeter. The property also supports the integrity of protected lands and SKLT's trail system on the east side of Yawgoo Pond, an important coastal plain pond, the shoreline of which is already about 65% protected.
Little Compton Agricultural Conservancy Trust: $375,000 to acquire 5 acres at the mouth of the Fogland/Donovan Marsh estuary. The Ratcliffe property contains a sandy beach that supports nesting piping plovers, mudflats that supply foraging opportunities to a host of shore and wading birds, high and low salt marsh, and coastal thicket. With direct road access, this property will be open for swimming, paddling, fishing, and passive recreation.
Town of Middletown: $200,000 grant for the Town of Middletown to purchase 9 acres of a larger 60-acre farmland (wholesale nursery) tract with the remaining 51 acres being purchased using Open Space bond funds issued by Middletown. The Town's plan for the 9-acre parcel includes preserved open space and scenic vistas while the remaining 51 acres would be slated for recreation and municipal functions.
Town of Burrillville: $70,000 grant for the Town of Burrillville to purchase 3 acres that abut Granite Mill Park in the historic village of Pascoag. This forested property has approximately 1,000 feet of shoreline along Union Pond and would be accessed by a connecting trail from Gonyea Park and a new parking area to be built on the property off High Street.
Pocasset Pokanoket Land Trust (PPLT): $42,500 grant for Pocasset Pokanoket Land Trust to purchase several adjoining parcels totaling approximately 38 acres in northeastern Tiverton. This land abuts the Rhode Island/Massachusetts state boundary and is within proximity to the Fall River metropolitan area. PPLT intends to use this land for conservation, recreation, memorialization, and preservation of historically significant tribal lands.
Town of Bristol: $197,500 for the Town of Bristol to purchase 7 acres abutting the 110-acre Perry/Tavares open space tract owned by the Town and managed for public access and passive recreation by Bristol Conservation Commission. This forested property contains an intermittent stream that connects to a perennial stream on the existing protected open space to the north. This is the last sizable parcel abutting the Perry/Tavares tract that remains open space.
Town of Burrillville: $250,000 for the Burrillville Land Trust to purchase the 65-acre O'Leary farmland contiguous with the 150-acre Buck Hill Scout Reservation and 1,300-acre Buck Hill Management Area. The property contains roughly 20 acres of prime agricultural soils and 45 acres of forestland. The O'Leary farmland is one of the last remaining working farm parcels in the Town and boats more than 4,000 feet of road frontage along Buck Hill and Croff Roads.
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