After more than 30 years of advocacy, Burrillville conservationist Dionne to step down

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BURRILLVILLE – A volunteer who has served the town for more than three decades, working to protect Burrillville’s natural resources, will not seek reappointment when his term expires at the end of this month.

Richard Dionne has submitted his letter of resignation from the Burrillville Conservation Commission, leaving the board to nominate a new chairman when his current term ends on Thursday, March 31.

“Richard is probably the longest serving volunteer in the town,” noted Councilor Stephen Rawson as the council accepted the resignation last week. “He’s done a bang-up job for the Conservation Commission over the years. He’s very dedicated to that cause. He’s going to be sorely missed by the town.”

A seven-member group tasked with protecting and preserving the town’s resources, the Burrillville Conservation Commission in known for more than just the regular meeting schedule common for other town boards. Commission members have often rolled up their sleeves for physical work over the years, with projects adding both beauty and recreation opportunities to the Burrillville landscape.

The board maintains the Joseph Brock Blanchard Memorial Management Area off of Round Top Road, and adopted the Gateway Project, a long-term plan to beautify a once blighted area along Broncos Highway adjacent to the intersection of Route 102. Members worked to establish the Nipmuc Trail, designed and built the Clear River Canoe Watch in Mapleville, and also maintain the Wallum Lake Canoe watch.

The appointed commission reports directly to the Town Council, Planning Board and Zoning Board, with a mission of protecting the health, safety and welfare of Burrillville residents.

Members have also been involved in some advocacy, becoming a voice of opposition to an attempt to build a massive power plant in Burrillville’s pristine forests, which was ultimately defeated in 2019.

“I do believe that the role of the BCC in the town-wide opposition to the proposed Invenergy power plant was critical in educating the general public as to the value of resource conservation in the northwest corridor of our state,” Dionne noted in his resignation.

The commission, often under Dionne’s leadership as chairman, has played a key role in events such as Burrillville Earth Day, which consists of an annual town-wide cleanup; and the Family Fair, where they hand out trees and other plantings to residents.

While that work will continue, it will up to the remaining members to spearhead projects and attract talent from a new generation of environmental advocates in town.

“As the commission continues to evolve through the succession of members past and present, the one goal that remains continued is the devotion to uphold the tranquil, natural and rural quality of life within Burrillville,” notes the town website.

“I’m passing the torch on to the next generation of conservation advocates for the town,” Dionne said. “I have indicated to the BCC that I am always available to provide a smooth transition to the leadership of the commission and will continue to assist in ongoing projects as needed that have yet to be completed.”

“The town of Burrillville has a rich tradition in supporting conservation and open space for our townspeople and I’m sure that this position will continue for many more years to come,” Dionne noted in the resignation.

Councilors publicly thanked the longtime volunteers and said they plan to recognize Dionne’s work at a future meeting.

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