PROVIDENCE – The Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management will award the town of North Smithfield $214,500 to acquire 114 acres of fields and forest on Old Smithfield Road for open space and recreation.

The grant is part of a $1.4 million effort to help communities and local organizations protect valuable green space throughout the state.

Funding will be used to purchase a vacant lot owned by the Souza Family Limited Partnership. The property abuts 215 acres of City of Woonsocket drinking water supply protection land and connects to 136 acres of additional conservation land owned by the Town of North Smithfield and the City of Woonsocket, known as Booth Pond.

Town Council members have been discussing the potential purchase of the lot in executive sessions with the landowner since September of 2019. It is currently listed for sale for $429,000 with firm Mott & Chace Sotheby’s Intl. as 0 Old Smithfield Road.

“The protection of this parcel will result in more than 465 acres of contiguous protected forest land right on the southern boundary of Woonsocket,” noted a release from RIDEM on the grant. “It will be open to the public for recreational use.”

The grants mark the second round of statewide awards for open space and farmland in 2020. The funding will complement $3.33 million in matching grants awarded in February to 21 local municipalities, which included two projects in neighboring Burrillville. 

The latest round covers six projects aimed at protecting a total of 322 acres of open space and farmland across Rhode Island. The funding will come through a $35 million Green Economy Bond approved overwhelmingly by state voters in 2016 to preserve space, improve recreational facilities and clean 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 Gov. Gina 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.”

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.”

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.

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, according to a release from RIDEM.

The other projects to receive funding include:

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.

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.

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.

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.

For more information on DEM programs and initiatives, visit www.dem.ri.gov. Follow us on Facebook at www.facebook.com/RhodeIslandDEM or on Twitter (@RhodeIslandDEM) for timely updates.

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