Land Trust wins $250,000 & town of Burrillville awarded $70,000 in state open space grants

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BURRILLVILLE – Gov. Dan McKee and the Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management announced this week that both the Burrillville Land Trust and the town of Burrillville will be among ten recipients to receive more than $2.7 million in grants to protect valuable green space throughout Rhode Island.

The trust has won $250,000 for purchase of the 65-acre O’Leary farmland, a parcel contiguous with the 150-acre Buck Hill Scout Reservation and 1,300-acre Buck Hill Management Area. The property contains roughly 20 acres of prime agricultural soils and 45 acres of forestland according to RIDEM.

“The O’Leary farmland is one of the last remaining working farm parcels in the town and boasts more than 4,000 feet of road frontage along Buck Hill and Croff Roads,” noted the announcement this week.

“We are very happy with this announcement,” said Paul Roselli – president of the all volunteer Burrillville Land Trust.

The town of Burrillville itself was also named among the green bond recipients, with a $70,000 grant for the purchase of three acres that abut Granite Mill Park in Pascoag. The forested property has approximately 1,000 feet of shoreline along Union Pond and would be accessed by a connecting trail from Gonyea Park and a new parking area to be built on the property off High Street.

That waterfront lot is currently owned by Independent Management, LLC and appraised at $113,000.

Both grants will be used as matching funds for the property purchases.

Roselli noted that the announcement comes on the heals of the latest Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report titled The Sixth Assessment Report, which calls for changes in how we view agricultural land. IPCC is the United Nations body for assessing the science related to climate change.

“This 65-acre farm has been farmed for decades and we can’t keep bulldozing prime agricultural soils and expect our food supply to continue to be as robust as it is today,” Roselli said.

One of the findings of the most recent IPCC report is that climate-related extremes have affected the productivity of all agricultural and fishery sectors, with, “negative consequences for food security and livelihoods.”

Roselli said if the land trust is successful in purchasing the property, the farm will always remain a farm.

“Local production of food crops is essential for a healthy environment and a healthy society,” Roselli said.

The two projects are among ten to receive grants that will help to protect 400 acres of open space and farmland across the state. The funding was made possible by the 2016 and 2018 green economy bonds, both of which were passed overwhelmingly by voters and made investments in preserving open space, improving recreational facilities, and cleaning up lands and waters.

McKee noted that he has proposed another green bond in his fiscal year 2023 budget that includes $5 million for the further preservation of open spaces.

“From clean water, natural flood control, and wildlife habitat to biodiversity and recreation opportunities, there are many diverse benefits from open space and Rhode Islanders recognize this,” said McKee. “Green bonds support what we love about Rhode Island.”

“We are grateful to those who voted for making land preservation a top priority in our state. RI voters have historically supported the preservation of land,” Roselli said. “We can’t make more land and every chance we get, we have to save what is left.” 

He noted that the grant requires one to one matching funds, which mean the land trust will have to raise the other half.

The group is reportedly hoping to purchase the property by this summer.

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