State of Rhode Island adds $400K to ALT effort to save Portsmouth's St. Mary’s Church land

The Aquidneck Land Trust (ALT) campaign to save the St. Mary's land in Portsmouth got a major boost today from the State of Rhode Island, the group announced in a statement. Governor Lincoln Chafee and Director Janet Coit of the Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management presented a $400,000 open space grant award certificate to Executive Director Ted Clement of the Aquidneck Land Trust (ALT) for ALT’s Campaign to Save the St. Mary’s Church Land. In the competitive 2011 State of Rhode Island Open Space Acquisition Grant Round, there were 30 applicants from municipalities and land trusts throughout the State with only 15 being selected.

On May 25, 2011, ALT, St. Mary’s Church Portsmouth and the Trustees of the Sarah Gibbs Trust signed an Option Agreement that gives ALT until May 24, 2013 to raise over $3 million to conserve about 70 critical open space acres of the St. Mary’s Church land between East Main Road and the St. Mary’s Pond Reservoir in Portsmouth.

With this State of Rhode Island grant award, ALT has raised about $2.6 million in grant awards and cash against the agreed upon $3 million purchase price for the proposed 70 +/- acre conservation area and additional projected transaction costs for ALT.

The proposed approximate 70-acre St. Mary’s Church conservation area is strategic from a conservation perspective. Pursuant to the Town of Portsmouth’s 2002 Local Recreation, Conservation and Open Space Plan, the subject land is located within a Town of Portsmouth designated Open Space and Active Agriculture Area, Resource Protection Overlay District Area and Greenways Plan Area. The St. Mary’s Church land is located next to a number of previously conserved parcels within ALT’s Center Island Greenway thereby building upon and enhancing this past conservation work. The land also falls within the St. Mary’s Pond Watershed, directly abutting the St. Mary’s Pond Reservoir area with over 1,000 ft. of frontage on the reservoir property. The St. Mary’s Church land therefore acts as a natural buffer protecting this important island water reservoir from harmful runoff. The 2000 study Critical Parcel Identification for Watershed Protection in Newport County, Rhode Island, done by the Aquidneck Island Partnership, recognized the subject St. Mary’s land as critical to protect from a watershed protection perspective. ALT’s recently completed year-long mapping and prioritization study of all the remaining and threatened open space parcels within Aquidneck Island’s seven primary watersheds also identified the St. Mary’s Church land as a high priority for protection. The woods, fields and wetlands of the land provide diverse wildlife habitats that support various listed species such as the Glossy Ibis. This land, which has almost 1,000 ft. of frontage on East Main Road, is also a priceless and iconic property that provides joy to numerous passersby everyday with its spectacular scenic vistas. Furthermore, the fields of the proposed conservation area consist of mostly Prime Farmland Soils as recognized by the United States Department of Agriculture making the property an important agricultural resource.

ALT’s time-sensitive mission is to conserve Aquidneck Island's open spaces and natural character for the lasting benefit of our community. The organization has conserved 2,352.55 acres on 63 properties on Aquidneck Island since its founding in 1990. ALT is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization, and the first land trust in Rhode Island to have received national accreditation. For more information, visit

Editorial note: Written from a press release. But still awesome.