Bristol receives grant to purchase development rights to small farm

With the help of federal and state funds, Bristol may be able to protects another 11 acres from development

By Christy Nadalin
Posted 8/6/20

Last week the Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management (DEM) announced an additional $1.4 million round of grants (in addition to $3.3 million awarded in February) to help communities and …

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Bristol receives grant to purchase development rights to small farm

With the help of federal and state funds, Bristol may be able to protects another 11 acres from development

Posted

Last week the Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management (DEM) announced an additional $1.4 million round of grants (in addition to $3.3 million awarded in February) to help communities and local organizations protect green space throughout the state. Of six projects targeted to receive matching grants to protect 322 acres of open space and farmland across Rhode Island, one is in Bristol.

Located at the southern end of town off Metacom Avenue, “Wamsutta” is an 11-acre parcel of field and coastal scrubland on Mt. Hope Bay that is nestled between the Weetamoe Farm condominium complex and the short Church Cove Road dead-end street. With 550 linear feet of rocky shoreline on the bay, and a patch of coastal wetlands, conservationists are excited to see it preserved. In addition, it contains seven acres of farmland under cultivation.

According to Ed Tanner, Bristol’s town planner, the property is part of the estate of Janice Williams, and the Williams family continues to operate a farm — Fish Hawk Farm — on the property. They have a farm management plan with the United States Department of Agriculture, and the land is cut for hay several times a year, which is used as livestock feed. “It’s been farmed for many, many years,” said Mr. Tanner.

In purchasing a conservation easement, the town would not be acquiring the land but rather the development rights. “It’s similar to what we have done with some of the other farms in Bristol, like Fales Farm and Stony Hedge Farm. It remains private property, they keep farming it, but we buy the rights to develop it,” said Mr. Tanner.

The funding is made possible by a 2016 Green Economy Bond, which was passed overwhelmingly by Rhode Island voters, and invests $35 million in preserving open space, improving recreational facilities, and cleaning up lands and waters. 

“The open space grants … will contribute to the conservation of an incredible array of properties that delight families and support wildlife,” said DEM Director Janet Coit in a statement.

“It’s in a part of Bristol that’s important to protect. There’s a lot of protected land down there, and this would fit in nicely with other protected space,” said Mr. Tanner of the Wamsutta property. “We thought it was an important one to preserve.”

The matching grant is for $202,500, and the town hopes to hear soon about another grant, this one from the Department of Agriculture, that will help to further defray local costs.

The plan would still require Town Council approval before the deal could be finalized.

DEM’s 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.

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