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Wednesday, January 1, 2014

DEM buys Hopkinton estate property to expand Rockville Management Area

Property Provides Connectivity from Blue Pond to the Ell and Long Pond Preserve for Public Recreational Use

PROVIDENCE - The Department of Environmental Management announces the permanent protection of 31 acres of forestland in Hopkinton. The property abuts DEM's 1,069-acre Rockville Management Area and will provide connectivity from state-owned land around Blue Pond to 945 acres of conservation land held by The Nature Conservancy, Audubon Society of Rhode Island, and the Hopkinton Land Trust. 

Public access will be maintained on the property to provide for hunting and passive recreational uses such as hiking.

DEM purchased the property for $285,000 from the estate of Dorothy Fisher, with funding provided by a Statewide Land Acquisition grant from the US Fish and Wildlife Service. The Fisher property contains several thousand feet of dry road frontage, which could be easily built upon. Its acquisition prevents residential encroachment onto existing conservation land and provides additional recreational opportunities for the public to enjoy.

Mountain Laurel

"I hope lots of folks will get out to explore this gorgeous piece of forestland in Hopkinton to do some bird-watching or simply enjoy spending time outdoors," said DEM Director Janet Coit. "In the spring when the mountain laurel shrubs are in bloom, this area is one of my favorite places to hike. How fortunate that we are able to maintain these glorious places where a diversity of plants and animals flourish, and where people from all walks of life can revel in nature."

The forested property consists of a thin canopy of Red Maple, red and black oak, with a high quality understory of mountain laurel that has some patches of rhododendron and blueberry. The vegetation is typical for this part of Rhode Island, which features shallow moist soils often on top of ledges or boulder fields. Although the shallow soils in this area are not suitable for most conifers, there are a few scattered large white pines and Hemlock trees on the property. The land also contains numerous stone cairns – piles of stones set to mark a spot – that reflect the agricultural legacy of the parcel.

This southwest section of Rhode Island supports several species of animals and birds that are less common or not found elsewhere in the state. Examples of this phenomenon include the Black Rat Snake and several nesting birds. The shrubby habitats dominated by mountain laurel support an interesting nesting bird assemblage that includes the Hooded Warbler.

Acquisition of this parcel will provide connectivity from DEM land around Blue Pond westward to the Ell Pond/Long Pond conservation land. Public access will be maintained on the property to provide for recreational use including hiking and hunting. The preservation of the Fisher property creates a 2,045-acre conservation area open to the public for recreational activities.

The abutting Rockville Management Area consists mostly of deciduous forest cover and contains four freshwater ponds including Blue Pond, Ashville Pond, Long Pond, and Ell Pond. It features several unique natural habitats including a southern New England level bog community and thick rhododendron forests. The management area supports habitat capable of providing for a wide variety of game wildlife including cottontail rabbits, snowshoe hare, white-tailed deer, fox, coyote, ruffed grouse, wild turkey, and woodcock.

DEM Director Coit added that land conservation and protection remains a priority for the Department, and that open space is a critical component of supporting and building sustainable communities. "I am so pleased that the Department was able to protect another part of a priority habitat near the Rockville Management Area. Rhode Islanders truly enjoy these special places and the positive benefit such natural assets provide to our quality of life."