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Sunday, August 13, 2017

Public and private funding puts land in trust

By ecoRI News staff

The South Kingstown Land Trust also recently protected more land around Yawgoo Pond. (Joanne Riccitelli/SKLT)
The South Kingstown Land Trust also recently protected more land around Yawgoo Pond. (Joanne Riccitelli/SKLT)

The South Kingstown Land Trust recently protected 22 acres in the neighborhood of Middlebridge owned by the Smith family.

Joanne Riccitelli, director of land protection for the South Kingstown Land Trust, said siblings Heather Collins, Martha McManamy, Christopher Smith, Bruce Smith and Holly Smith worked hard to make the project a reality. She said their perseverance demonstrated the family’s continued commitment to the preservation of this area.

“Our family has long appreciated the many extraordinary features and the view from this beautiful piece of land located up the hill from Middlebridge,” said Collins, daughter of Jane Campbell Smith and Barton P. Smith. “The current generation is pleased to fulfill our Campbell family’s wishes in entrusting this land to the South Kingstown Land Trust to preserve in perpetuity.”

Along the Narrow River is a corridor of protected land owned by the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, the South Kingstown Land Trust, the Narrow River Land Trust and the Audubon Society of Rhode Island. This combined land totals more than 180 acres of riverfront property on the South Kingstown side of the Narrow River.

Funding for this recent project was provided by grants from the Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management and the Bafflin Foundation, a private donation, and a significant bargain sale from the family.


Middlebridge, on the west side of Narrow River, is a densely populated neighborhood in South Kingstown. The surrounding village is highly developed, and this property, with undisturbed wooded frontage on Middlebridge and Torrey roads, provides scenic value.

“Preservation of this land prevents an increase of surface runoff into the Narrow River that could have been generated by the development of 10 additional lots,” Riccitelli said.

The property contains a dense unfragmented second-growth forest, typical habitat for such birds as scarlet tanager, turkey, woodcock, various warblers, wood thrush and ovenbird. Other birds that benefit from this habitat include hawks, owls and bald eagles, which are often seen on the river in winter. This land is also home to cottontails, coyotes, foxes, fishers and deer.

More pond shoreline protected

In 2001, the South Kingstown Land Trust protected 12 acres of land on Yawgoo Pond that was poised to become a subdivision. Since then, the land trust continued working with local landowners and has preserved about half of the pond’s shoreline.

The land trust recently added 33 acres owned by the Littlefield family, on the northeast side of the pond. Riccitelli noted that the family — Abigail Littlefield, Kim Littlefield, Ivory Littlefield, Richard Littlefield and Susan Littlefield — supported this project for more than a decade, until it became a reality last month.

“The Wells property has been loved and cared for by our family since 1908,” Kim Littlefield said. “Our father Chris Littlefield was part of the small group that founded the South Kingstown Land Trust in 1983. The preservation of this land in its natural state has long been a hope and a dream for all of us.”

Funding for the project was provided by grants from DEM, the town of South Kingstown, the Farm and Ranchland Protection Program of the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service and the Bafflin Foundation, private donations, and a bargain sale from the family.

The land trust plans to expand its popular Yawgoo Pond trail onto about 20 acres of the newly acquired land, which will also be accessed by the existing trailhead parking area on Barber’s Pond Road.

Riccitelli said the site has excellent examples of forest and wetland habitats — oak and white pine forest, coastal pondshore and vernal pools, with a remarkable absence of non-native, invasive plants. Abundant pignut hickory trees provide a valuable food source for wildlife.

Rare plants and communities are evident, as are excellent examples of typical Rhode Island natural communities. Many species of birds live in the forest and visit the pond, including whippoorwill, pileated woodpecker, bufflehead, hooded merganser and migrant warblers.

She noted that Yawgoo Pond is an excellent example of an undisturbed coastal plain pond shore community, a globally vulnerable natural community type found only within the North Atlantic Coast region.

Fed only by rain or springs, these ponds are characterized by dramatically variable water tables. The unusual plants and plant communities that survive along their alternately parched and inundated shores are conservation targets.

Maintenance of forest in the surrounding uplands of such ponds is critical for maintaining water quality.

The Wells site is within a sole-source aquifer, a groundwater recharge area and a groundwater protection overlay district, as defined by in the town’s comprehensive plan.