Hopkinton, Charlestown and the Nature Conservancy are among the recipients of $1.4 million in state open-space grants.
The Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management announced on July 30 that Hopkinton will receive $400,000, while Charlestown will receive $213,000. The Nature Conservancy will receive $32,500. The grants, which require matching contributions from the towns and organizations, are from the Green Economy Bond approved by voters in 2016.
The $400,000 awarded to the Hopkinton Land Trust will pay for up to half the cost of acquiring a conservation easement on over 120 acres of forest and fields. The property includes the Tomaquag Brook, which is part of the federally-designated Wood-Pawcatuck Wild and Scenic river system.
Hopkinton Conservation Commission Chair Harvey Buford said he had been part of a group that gave DEM representatives a tour of the property.
“I walked it with the Land Trust and with the DEM people,” he said. “It’s a nice property to be involved in.”
Buford said he hoped that the easement would be the first step in enhancing public access to the land.
“Some other stuff may yet be going to happen,” he said. “It’s kind of phased. I’m interested in having trails and stuff on it, and I don’t think the way it is now we’d get to that point, but we got the easement.”
The property, Buford said, met all the Land Trust’s criteria.
“It touches other preserved land,” he said. “It’s something that’s been on their radar screen for quite a few years. It’s in the James family … on our want list is to create trail system the entire length of the [Tomaquag] valley and this would have potential to be a part of that.”
In Charlestown, the $213,000 grant will help the town acquire a 4.27-acre property on Ninigret Pond next to the Ninigret National Wildlife Refuge.
An existing canoe and kayak launch on Foster Cove will be maintained by the town, providing additional public access to the pond.
Planning Commission Chairwoman Ruth Platner said the purchase would add to town-owned open space on the pond.
“It would protect more of the pond shore along there,” she said.
The DEM grant must be matched by town funds.
“Getting the grant is just the first step in the application,” she said. “I think it’s important to know the town can’t pay more than the appraised value because DEM won’t participate in the purchase if the price is higher than the appraised value.”
The property is currently owned by the 100-member Sachem Passage Association. The value, according to an appraisal commissioned by the homeowners’ group, is $426,000, which will leave the town responsible for half of the purchase. The appraisal must still be approved by the town and the DEM.
The Parks and Recreation Department would have a town-owned access to the pond, but Platner said the parcel would otherwise remain largely as it is.
“It wouldn’t get any more developed except maybe to expand the parking area, so it’s a 4-acre parcel, but the part that would be used for kayaking would be the part that’s already developed,” she said.
If the town approves the appraisal and comes to an agreement with the homeowners’ association on a price, the members of the association would then be asked to approve the sale.
The Cassidy property
The Nature Conservancy has received a $32,500 grant to help the nonprofit land preservation group purchase 28 acres in the conservancy’s Canonchet Preserves area in Hopkinton. The land will add the open space between property already owned by the conservancy and parcels that are protected by the DEM and the Audubon Society of Rhode Island.
The DEM announcement of the grant describes the property as an important forest ecosystem.
“This section of the state lies within a very large, regional-scale network of unfragmented forest, and represents one of the last opportunities to protect a landscape of this quality,” the DEM states. “The Cassidy property itself consists of mature upland forest with varied topography and a healthy and diverse understory.”