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Friday, December 28, 2012

DEM makes new open space purchase in Westerly

Four-Acre Parcel will Enable Creation of Fishing, Boating Access Site on River

PROVIDENCE - The Department of Environmental Management has acquired four acres of land in Westerly that will enable the creation of an excellent fishing and boating access site on the Pawcatuck River.

"The Pawcatuck is very popular for fishing, canoeing, kayaking, and other forms of outdoor recreation. But currently, no safe public access exists between Bradford and Westerly on the Pawcatuck – a beautiful stretch of river that supports Rhode Island-raised stocked trout and warm water fish species," said DEM Director Janet Coit. "Thanks to this acquisition, DEM will be able to make this spectacular site and several miles of the river readily accessible to the public."

Located on Post Office Lane, the property includes over 500 feet of river frontage. In conjunction with DEM's purchase of the land, the state obtained an easement across the right of way from Potter Hill Road which will be used by the public to access the riverfront property. Using federal funds from the US Fish and Wildlife Service, DEM will proceed with building demolition and site development to create a public access area and parking amenities on site.

"Acquisition of this property by DEM is a boon for the Pawcatuck River and for those who use the river for recreational purposes," according to Chris Fox, Executive Director for the Wood-Pawcatuck Watershed Association. "We know the State will be good stewards to the river. We look forward to seeing new public access at the site that uses best management practices to stabilize the river bank and minimize human impact to the habitat."

A popular recreation spot, the Pawcatuck River is located in the southwest corner of the state and flows through a relatively rural area of forest, farmland, and small towns. There is a lot of protected land in both the upper reaches of the watershed and along the main stem of the river.

The Pawcatuck's water quality is excellent and supports a diverse population of freshwater fish. Cold water streams in the headwaters support both wild and stocked trout, along with warm water species and stocked trout in the lower reaches of the river. 

Fish ladders have been installed at the remaining dams along the river to encourage sustainable populations of diadromous fish such as shad and river herring. The property was purchased for $205,000 from Richard Wucik, Jr. with funds provided through state open space bonds.