Portsmouth leads in open space, says new Aquidneck Island Planning report

AIPC map of Portsmouth Open Space

The Aquidneck Island Planning Commission (AIPC) today released what they call the first comprehensive census of Aquidneck Island's open space, according to a release distributed this morning, and while Portsmouth leads the island with 10,000 acres, the town also has the highest percentage rated most susceptible to development.

The report, available today on their web site, maps and analyzes Aquidneck Island's parks, beaches, farms, ponds and reservoirs, playing fields, and other areas with little or no development. The report is the final product of a year-long AIPC project to identify the island's open space with the goal of providing information that will help the island's communities and policy makers plan for future development, expand recreational opportunities, and protect key watersheds.

Tina Dolen, AIPC Executive Director, said "The existence of these areas is critical to the well-being of Aquidneck Island's communities; they are vital for recreation, food production, and safe drinking water, and they are a key contributor to the island's distinctive character. By understanding what exists today, we can plan more effectively for the future."

AIPC used geographic information system (GIS) technology and data from the island's municipalities and the state of Rhode Island to create the maps and tables in the report. It categorized open space areas by land use, size, ownership type, zoning, and conservation status. Among the report's findings are:

  • Farmland comprises 31.7% of the island's open space, more than any other land use.
  • There are 1,868 acres of land devoted to recreation on Aquidneck Island.
  • There are 3,855 acres of publically-owned open space on the island; the largest public land owner is the City of Newport.

An eight-member advisory committee helped guide the project by working with AIPC to develop goals and verify the accuracy of the data and maps produced through the project. It included representatives from the Aquidneck Land Trust, Preservation Society of Newport County, Newport County Chamber of Commerce, Rhode Island Agricultural Partnership, Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management, Town of Portsmouth, Town of Middletown, and the City of Newport.

The van Beuren Charitable Foundation provided financial support for the project.

Editorial note: Written from a press release.