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Thursday, July 30, 2020

Charlestown gets DEM grant for questionable land purchase

DEM will help Charlestown pay over $400,000 for a piece of land owned by CCA political supporters worth $61,900.

The Foster Cove property Charlestown wants to buy at a hugely inflated
price (see details below) is just below the one house on Oyster Drive.
Screenshot from Google Maps.
The Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management (DEM) announced today the award of an additional $1.4 million in grants to help communities and local organizations protect valuable green space throughout the state. 

To complement the $3.33 million previously awarded in February of this year, six projects will receive matching grants to protect 322 acres of open space and farmland across Rhode Island. 

The funding is made possible by the 2016 Green Economy Bond, which was passed overwhelmingly by Rhode Island voters, and invests $35 million in preserving open space, improving recreational facilities, and cleaning up lands and waters.

"The grants we are awarding today from our 2016 Green Economy Bond will help support the health and vitality of our lands, waters, and communities for generations to come," said Governor Gina M. Raimondo. 

"We know that these investments are critical to our state's future, which is why the Beach, Clean Water, and Green Bond I proposed in my FY21 budget includes $7 million to improve local parks and recreational facilities and conserve forested land and farmland." Prest Property, South Kingstown Land Trust

Rhode Island's historic parks, bikeways and green spaces provide opportunity for public enjoyment – in addition to improving the health of the environment, strengthening the state's climate resilience, and supporting the economy. According to the Outdoor Industry Association, outdoor recreation in Rhode Island generates $2.4 billion in consumer spending and supports 24,000 local jobs. Since 1985, nearly 12,000 acres of land have been protected.

"The open space grants being awarded today will contribute to the conservation of an incredible array of properties that delight families and support wildlife," said DEM Director Janet Coit. 

"This year, the grant criteria also included a category aimed at planning for impacts of climate change. I am so proud to partner with cities, towns and organizations that work hard to protect the special places in their communities. Rhode Islanders continue to support environmental bonds – like the Green Economy and Clean Water Bond – which provide needed funds that catalyze and make possible the protection of open space, farmland and habitat across our beautiful state."

Grants up to $400,000 – which may cover up to half of the project cost – were awarded to help preserve lands that offer significant natural, ecological or agricultural value and those that connect or expand existing protected lands. 

DEM's successful open space grant program has provided funding for the preservation of nearly 12,000 acres of land across the state since its inception in 1985. DEM has worked with partners in every municipality to complete 185 easement transactions with land trusts and local communities to date, furthering the mission of preserving Rhode Island's precious resources and increasing the public's access and enjoyment of our natural lands. 

Over the years this grant program has resulted in the protection of places used by residents and tourists alike for outdoor recreation – and has also contributed to the economic health of the state. 

These natural assets play a big role in the state's tourist economy by providing opportunities for the public to camp, fish, hunt, hike, and enjoy the great outdoors, and at the same time bring revenue to the local economy.

The open space grants being awarded today to protect 322 acres of open space and farmland include:

Town of Charlestown – Sachem Passage: $213,000 grant to acquire a 4.27-acre parcel on Ninigret Pond adjacent to Ninigret National Wildlife Refuge. The property has an existing canoe launch that will be maintained by the town for public boating access. Located on Foster Cove, this new boating launch provides a unique opportunity to increase public access to the northern shore of Ninigret while protecting important coastal habitat that supports a variety of wildlife species.

EDITOR'S NOTE: The assessed value of this property is $61,900. Charlestown will have to come up with matching funds for this DEM grant. The current owner, the Sachem Passage Association (SPA), is a key supporter of the Charlestown Citizens Alliance (CCA Party). This will be the second time Charlestown Taxpayers will be giving the SPA a large sum of money.

In 2013, Charlestown paid $2.1 million to rescue the SPA after its botched campaign to block the construction of commercial wind turbines. After a dismal showing in the courts, the only recourse was the town's purchase of the land. 

The property in this case is a white elephant for the SPA, long a subject of protracted litigation. In my opinion, the SPA has already gotten enough of our taxpayer money for its loyalty to the CCA. This is a bad deal for Charlestown.    -Will Collette


Town of Bristol - Wamsutta: $202,500 grant to acquire a Conservation Easement over 11 acres of fields and coastal shrubland on Mount Hope Bay. Located in the Mount Hope section of Bristol, this parcel adds important habitat and green space to an existing conservation corridor of 233 acres. With 550 linear feet of rocky shoreline on the bay, and a patch of coastal wetlands and shrubland, conserving this property will protect our increasingly rare undeveloped shoreline and provide a refuge for habitat and species as sea levels rise. In addition, the parcel contains 7 acres of prime and important farm soils under cultivation.

Hopkinton Land Trust – James: $400,000 grant to acquire a Conservation Easement over 120 acres of fields and forest abutting 481 of existing conservation land. The Tomaquag Brook which runs through this property is part of the Wood-Pawcatuck river system, a federally designated Wild & Scenic River. This property includes a varied habitat from the Tomaquag Brook at its lowest point, to hay fields and upland forest, interspersed with rocky outcrops and wetlands. Its protection will ensure that this rural landscape and its intact ecology remain undeveloped.

The Nature Conservancy – Cassidy: $32,500 grant to acquire 28 acres in Hopkinton in TNC's Canonchet Preserves Area. This property strengthens a pinch point between TNC's Canonchet holdings and land protected by both Audubon Society of RI and DEM. 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 Cassidy property itself consists of mature upland forest with varied topography and a healthy and diverse understory.

Town of North Smithfield – Souza: $214,500 grant to acquire 114 acres of fields and forest abutting 215 acres of City of Woonsocket drinking water supply protection land. It also connects to 136 acres of other conservation land owned by the Town of North Smithfield and the City of Woonsocket known as Booth Pond. The protection of this parcel will result in more than 465 acres of contiguous protected forest land right on the southern boundary of Woonsocket. It will be open to the public for recreational use.

South Kingstown Land Trust – Prest: $400,000 to acquire a Conservation easement over 45 acres of upland forest abutting 51 acres previously protected by the same landowner. Known as the Marchant Farm, it is one of only 10 bicentennial farms in RI, in the same family for 200 years. The parcel sits within a significant unfragmented forest with high quality habitat that supports several rare species, including two colonies of bats, and other species associated with the adjacent Usquepaug River.

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