On Friday, January 30, 2015, the much anticipated closing occurred between Aquidneck Land Trust ("ALT") and St. Mary's Church on the conservation of 72.18 acres of land in Portsmouth, RI. The conservation of this property began in 2011 when ALT, St. Mary's and its related entity the Sarah Gibbs Trust entered into a binding, contractual agreement to conserve the land in perpetuity. ALT was able to raise the funds needed in the first year of the option term, but was substantially delayed in receiving its largest grant for the project from the United States Department of Agiculture/Natural Resources Conservation Services ("NRCS"). With all the details finally worked out, both parties were elated to close on this property, ALT said in a release today.
"This project has been one full of dedication from a truly amazing and committed group of individuals," Chuck Allott, ALT's Executive Director, said in remarks distributed to the press. "We would not have been able to accomplish this closing without our important financial stakeholders, as well as all those who dedicated their time to the conservation of this parcel. The Church and the Sarah Gibbs Trust were amazing partners as we fought our way through the bureaucratic red tape of the federal funding agency for over a year and a half. In addition RIDEM and local NRCS staff ultimately found the way through to get the deal done. Aquidneck Island received a wonderful gift today, and to all those who helped us make this possible, we are forever grateful".
Jennifer Pedrick, the rector of St. Mary's, said, "The experience of working with Chuck Allott and The Aquidneck Land Trust on this deal demonstrated to us the deep commitment and perseverance of this organization. We are delighted to begin a new chapter in partnership with the Aquidneck Land Trust, our closest neighbor. St. Mary's and I look forward to supporting the great mission and work of the ALT. Congratulations!”.
With the generous contributions ALT raised enough in grant awards and cash from 3 governmental entities, 6 foundations, and 40 individuals to cover the entire project costs of $3,068,569.63. A number of parties made significant leadership contributions including NRCS, the State of Rhode Island/Department of Environmental Management, the Town of Portsmouth, the van Beuren Charitable Foundation, the Prince Charitable Trusts, the Alletta Morris McBean Charitable Trust, The Nature Conservancy through a grant from The Champlin Foundations, and The Rhode Island Agriculture Lands Preservation Commission.
The 72-acre St. Mary's Church and Sarah Gibbs Trust conservation areas are 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 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 feet of frontage on the reservoir property. The St. Mary's Church land therefore acts as a natural buffer to this important island water reservoir from stormwater and nutrient 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 2011 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 endangered species such as the Glossy Ibis. This land, which has almost 1,000 feet of frontage on East Main Road, is also an 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. With today’s closing, the organization has conserved 2519.49 acres on 73 properties across Aquidneck Island since its founding in 1990. ALT is a 501©(3) non-profit organization, and the first land trust in Rhode Island to have received national accreditation.
For more information, visit www.AquidneckLandTrust.org
Editorial note: Written from a press release.