Land Trust, Nature Conservancy Acquire New Property
By Cynthia Drummond for BRVCA
RICHMOND – The Richmond Rural Preservation Land Trust and The Nature Conservancy have joined forces to purchase a 52-acre parcel which will be added to the 214-acre Beaver River Preserve.
Land Trust Chair Suzanne Paton said the land, which is mostly wooded, includes 500 feet of frontage along the Beaver River.
“It’s a beautiful, forested parcel that abuts the upper watershed and the Beaver River, and it’s adjacent to other protected open space, other TNC [Nature Conservancy] land, so it fills a larger contiguous tract of forest for the wildlife species that really benefit from having a larger, contiguous, un-fragmented tract of habitat like that,” she said. “The water quality, the cold water habitat in those northern parts of the watershed for things like brook trout and other species that need cold water habitat – it’s just really high quality habitat for wildlife.”
Tim Mooney, Communications Manager for The Nature Conservancy, said the effort to acquire the land began about eight years ago.
“I actually walked this property, … a different landowner,” he said. “We wanted to add it to the Beaver River Preserve, but we just couldn’t agree to a number and we were not sure where we would raise the money anyway, and so we never got an agreement.”
The property eventually changed hands and a few years later, Mooney said the conservancy was approached by the new owner, Lancelot Banfield.
“The new owner came back to us and re-started a conversation, and the meantime, the assessment of the Beaver River had been done and the Richmond Land Trust had funding which they didn’t have before,” he said.
The Beaver River had, by this time, been designated by the National Park Service as part of the “Wild and Scenic Rivers” system.
The property was purchased for $350,000, with each group paying one half, or $187,500. Funds for The Nature Conservancy’s share came from the Bafflin Foundation, the Ginty Fund and individual donors.
Mooney said that had the land not been purchased for preservation as open space, it would almost certainly have been developed.
“It’s highly developable,” he said. “To the extent that there are wetlands, they’re really down by the river. So, it starts at Hillsdale Road, sort of high and dry meadow, old field, and to pretty dry woods and then gradually, it slopes down to the river. … It was more about the property being vulnerable to development, and so the impact of a subdivision and all that goes with it, from runoff to the strain on the groundwater, that would have been felt directly on the river.”
There are currently no walking trails on the property, but now that it is part of the Beaver River Preserve, Mooney said there were plans to move an existing, informal trail head from Fox Ridge Drive to Hillsdale Road.
“The current trailhead is at the end of Fox Ridge Drive, which is the dead end of a subdivision, and you sort of park along the edge of the road of the subdivision and that’s the entrance to the Preserve,” he said. “I think what we’d like to do is flip that around and make the front door the back door and put a more intentional and more welcoming small, off the road parking area with a formal trailhead.”
Paton said it was possible that several species considered to be at risk might be present on the property.
“There are natural heritage maps that we can see and they don’t identify what specific species occur there, but there are natural [areas] both to the northwest and to the southeast of the property and sort of abutting the edges of that property,” she said. “So, there are rare species that have been identified by the State of Rhode Island that occur in the vicinity that I would expect would also occur on the site, and it could be plants or insects, I don’t know, but just haven’t surveyed the site, because it was privately owned…It has the potential to support rare species.”
This latest land purchase beings the total of open space conserved by the Land Trust to more than 600 acres.