Three-day hike draws attention to forests around Burrillville power plant site

Three-day hike draws attention to forests around Burrillville power plant site


CHARLESTOWN — A group of hikers opposed to a proposed power plant in Burrillville hiked the entire 78-mile North-South Trail from Blue Shutters Beach to Douglas State Forest in Massachusetts Sunday through Tuesday to raise awareness about opposition to the natural gas-fired plant.

The 900-megawatt plant, to be called the Clear River Energy Center, is proposed by Invenergy Thermal Development LLC, an energy development company headquartered in Chicago. It is slated to be built in a forested area in Burrillville.

If approved, the facility would be the state’s largest power plant.

The North-South trail cuts through forests in Burrillville that would be affected by the facility and the hikers had plans to stop along the route to observe the proposed site.

The trail passes through Burlingame, Carolina, and Arcadia State Management Areas and then traverses the western edge of the state through preserved land in Exeter, West Greenwich, Coventry, Foster, Glocester, and Burrillville. At the Massachusetts border, the route joins the Midstate Trail and eventually the Appalachian Trail.

Traditionally, hikers who traverse the entire trail start at the north end and finish by putting their feet in Block Island Sound, but this hike was designed to finish in the forests threatened by the proposed facility.

Sean Trinque, a Burrillville native who currently resides in Kentucky, originated the concept for the hike because he wanted to create awareness statewide about the project’s potential impact.

“Growing up in Burrillville, I spent years recreating in the forest around the proposed power plant,” said Trinque, who is one of three native Burrillville hikers who committed to completing the entire journey. “From biking and hiking on the trails to camping at the George Washington campground, I learned how special this area of Rhode Island is and how any loss of its natural habitats and beauty is a price the state can’t afford.”

Hiker Mike Lamoureux, one of the trio, was instrumental in organizing the hike.

“It is one thing to see the proposed location on a map, it’s another to see the location in person,” Lamoureux said.

The plant’s location has been noted as a resource protection area, one of nine in the state, by the United States Environmental Protection Agency New England, Audubon Society of Rhode Island and The Nature Conservancy in Rhode Island.

Another hiker, Paul Ernest, who is studying chemistry at the Community College of Rhode Island, said the plant would be three quarters of a mile from his home where he lives with his wife and two children.

“The proximity of the power plant concerns me, but based on all I have learned, I would oppose a fossil fuel power plant being placed anywhere,” Ernest said.

Gov. Gina Raimondo supports the project, but most residents in Burrillville oppose it.

Former Gov. Lincoln Chafee, 47th District Rep. Cale Keable (D), representing Burrillville and Glocester, and Burrillville Town Councilor Ray Trinque have also expressed opposition to the proposal.

The Charlestown Town Council signed a resolution opposing the project in December and 31 other cities and towns have registered opposition as well. The towns of Douglas and Webster, Mass., and Thompson, Conn., near Burrillville, have officially opposed the plant.

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