Richmond opens new hiking trail on land donated by developer

Richmond opens new hiking trail on land donated by developer

Record-Journal


RICHMOND — Federal, state and town officials, residents and volunteers braved blustery conditions Friday morning to cut a ribbon officially opening the new Richmond Heritage Trail, located on 47 acres of land on Route 138 donated to the town by Richmond Commons developer John Aiello Jr.

Sections of the trail have been designed to comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act, and U.S. Rep. James Langevin, D-R.I., said he was looking forward to getting on the trail in his wheelchair.

“I’m going to try the trail, and I look forward to coming back again and again,” he said. “I’m also excited by the fact that it’s an accessible trail. It’s built with accessibility in mind, and it’s going to allow so many more people to take advantage of it as well.”

State Sen. Elaine Morgan, R-Hopkinton, said the completion of the trail was a major accomplishment for Richmond.

“It’s great for tourism,” she said. “I’d like to see the residents utilizing the trails. We have some of the best trails in Washington County.”

The heritage trail features six interpretive signs tracing the history of the area and explaining how land use has evolved over several centuries. There is also a platform with a picnic table.

Lt. Gov. Dan McKee congratulated the town and its Conservation Commission for recognizing the need to preserve natural spaces and acknowledge the area’s history.

“It takes a conservation group to really protect our towns and our history,” he said. “Congratulations to you and the Conservation Commission for doing just that, and of course the Town Council stepping forward and understanding that we need leadership to create this balance between the need for economy and the need to protect our history.”

The Richmond Conservation Commission began planning the 1.5-mile trail system in 2013, and in 2014 the town was awarded a $97,473 open-space grant from the Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management for its construction. The Rhode Island Foundation contributed $15,000 and the town gave $125,000 from its open-space recreation fund.

“We started looking at the site almost exactly four years ago,” said commission Chairman James Turek. “It’s been quite a challenge, but it’s worked out quite well. We’ve done piece-by-piece to make it happen.”

The initial planning and design of the trail began under former Town Council President Henry Oppenheimer, who attended the opening ceremony.

“I think it’s great,” he said. “It was tough getting the money together. I thought it was a great project.”

“It’s something we’ve worked on for years, before my time, actually,” Town Administrator Karen Pinch said.

The trail is the result of a collaboration between the Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management, the Environmental Protection Agency, Richmond officials, and numerous groups and businesses. Local engineer C.J. Doyle designed the project and surveying was performed by Dowdell Engineering and Alfred DiOrio RLS Inc. Construction was done by SumCo Eco-Contracting, and local Boy Scouts from Troop 1 and the town’s Department of Public Works also worked on the trail.

Town Council member Gary Wright said the new trail would enhance the rural character of the town.

“It’s a rural town, we love it rural, and this is just adding to that,” he said. “I’ll be here probably multiple times. I like walking trails.”

The trail is not far from Richmond Elementary School, and Principal Sharon Martin said it would be a valuable new learning resource for her students.

“At Richmond, we are really focused on health and wellness and on studying our community and celebrating our community, so I’m envisioning our students coming here often and using the space for their social studies research, for enhancing what they’re learning in the science classroom, for becoming a part of what we do in health and P.E.,” she said.

The commission hopes to eventually secure an easement that would allow the extension of the trail all the way to the North-South Trail in the state’s Arcadia Management Area.

cdrummond@thewesterlysun.com

@cynthiadrummon4


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