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Volunteers trained in stone wall repair in Portsmouth

Two-day session is part of The Aquidneck Stone Wall Initiative


PORTSMOUTH — It’s like putting pieces of a puzzle together — only these are big, heavy pieces.

The Aquidneck Stone Wall Initiative, a joint effort being led by The Preservation Society of Newport County and Preserve Rhode Island, made its first foray into Portsmouth yesterday, with a group of would-be stone masons learning the craft from an expert.

The program is intended to protect and improve Aquidneck Island’s scenic quality by preserving its historic stone walls, which are visible reminders of the island’s rural agricultural history and contribute to its sense of place and scenic character.

Aquidneck Island’s surviving historic landscapes are fragmented, in varying states of repair, and are increasingly threatened by development. By repairing stone walls along key transportation corridors, the partnership seeks to mend the landscape and improve the historic and scenic quality of the Island. 

With financial support from the van Beuren Charitable Foundation, The Preservation Society and Preserve Rhode Island are helping property owners restore stone walls through grant funding, education, and contractor facilitation. 

Using seed funding from van Beuren, the project completed its pilot phase in 2018-2019 at two sites — Simmons Farm and Norman Bird Sanctuary, both in Middletown — to explore the feasibility of repairing stone walls across the island on an ongoing basis. 

The initiative then shifted its focus to Portsmouth, with local volunteers recruited to get involved. A two-day mandatory volunteer training workshop began Monday at Glen Farm, which has no shortage of stone walls. There, local residents learned the art of stone wall construction and repair. 

The program will continue in Portsmouth through Aug. 28, although any plans are subject to change as the initiative follows Rhode Island’s COVID-19 reopening plan.

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A lifelong Portsmouth resident, Jim graduated from Portsmouth High School in 1982 and earned a journalism degree from the University of Rhode Island in 1986. He's worked two different stints at East Bay Newspapers, for a total of 18 years with the company so far. When not running all over town bringing you the news from Portsmouth, Jim listens to lots and lots and lots of music, watches obscure silent films from the '20s and usually has three books going at once. He also loves to cook crazy New Orleans dishes for his wife of 25 years, Michelle, and their two sons, Jake and Max.