Newport, R.I. (December 2, 2021) – The SVF Foundation (SVF), a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization, announced today that it has completed its 20-year mission to cryo-preserve the genetics of rare and endangered domestic livestock breeds and granted a conservation easement to Aquidneck Land Trust (ALT) governing approximately 24 acres of land in conjunction with its sale of the property at 152 Harrison Avenue in Newport, Rhode Island. In addition, SVF said that Ocean Hour Farm will operate the property.

“The SVF Foundation’s goals have been attained,” said SVF Executive Director Peter Borden, “and it’s time to preserve the property and pass it on to a new steward.” Conservation easements are binding agreements between a landowner and a land trust that permanently restrict development to protect the land’s conservation values. The conservation easement is the primary tool that has been used by ALT to protect critical open space on Aquidneck Island. SVF will donate the proceeds of the property sale to the Hamilton Family Charitable Trust to be dedicated to charitable purposes on Aquidneck Island, thus continuing the Hamilton family’s commitment to the community.

Founded in 1999 by Mrs. Dorrance H. Hamilton, the SVF Foundation has been operating since 2002 on two historic properties. The first, considered the main campus, was most famously developed by Arthur Curtiss James in the early 1900s. In 1916, James added the Surprise Valley Farm, or what locals referred to as the “Swiss Village” because of its resemblance to the southern region of Switzerland. The second property, a nearby 11-acre site, was formerly part of Hammersmith Farm. The SVF’s 15 buildings on the site include animal facilities, a procedures laboratory, an infirmary, a cryo-room, offices, and residences.

“We are honored to build on the legacy of the SVF Foundation and serve as the next stewards of this unique and beautiful land. Our goals for the future include integrating regenerative agriculture practices, developing experiential education programs, and continuing a robust science program,” said Rob MacMillan, a representative of Ocean Hour Farm. Borden noted that early in his tenure, a large commercial hospital building was removed, restoring five acres of impervious cover to pasture and open space. “Mrs. Hamilton wanted to restore the historic exteriors of the Swiss Village, which were severely dilapidated at the time, while rehabilitating the interiors for a multitude of modern uses,” he said, adding that a 3,500 square foot post-and-beam barn was constructed for the housing of critically endangered livestock as well as the processing of genetic material. In April of 2003, SVF was awarded the Preservation Project Award by Rhode Island’s Historic Preservation & Heritage Commission.

Middletown, RI. – October 20, 2021 – On Wednesday, October 27th, the Aquidneck Land Trust’s Oakland Forest in Portsmouth will be formally inducted into the national Old-Growth Forest Network. Sarah RobbGrieco, Northeast Regional Manager for the Old-Growth Forest Network, will present a plaque to ALT Executive Director Chuck Allott to celebrate the dedication of the forest.

Oakland Forest includes a regionally ecologically unique old-growth American beech forest, with trees estimated to be between 200 and 300 years based on tree coring done in 2000. It was conserved by ALT with the support of the community in 2000. In addition to beech, the forest includes old growth tree forms of other species including white oak and red maple. The property was once part of a ‘gentleman’s farm’ owned by the Vanderbilt family in the 1800 and 1900s. There is a row of 100-year-old rhododendrons running through the forested part of the old estate. The property includes a short 0.6-mile loop trail that traverses a 10-acre meadow and 20 acres of the old-growth beech forest. More information on the trail rules and other ALT trails can be found on their website: www.ailt.org.

“The story of Oakland Forest is a true grassroots conservation success story and one of the first properties ALT worked to save over 20 years ago,” said ALT Conservation Director Alex Chuman. “Once slated for development into condominiums, ALT worked with the community to purchase the land to forever protect this unique resource. It is a truly special thing to have an old-growth forest here on Aquidneck Island, one that is now recognized to be part of a national network.”

The mission of the Old-Growth Forest Network (OGFN) is to connect people with nature by creating a national network of protected, mature, publicly accessible, native forests. The organization’s goal is to preserve at least one forest in every county in the United States that can sustain a forest, estimated to be 2,370 out of a total of 3,140 counties. OGFN’s program works to identify forests for the Network, ensure their protection from logging, and connect people to these properties to experience old-growth forests. OGFN also educates about the extraordinary ecological and human wellness benefits of old-growth forests, and speaks out regarding immediate threats to specific ancient forests.

Founded in 2012, OGFN has over 145 forests in 27 states currently in the Network. Oakland Forest will be the first Rhode Island forest to join the Old-Growth Forest Network. It will join other northeast forests such as Mohawk Trail State Forest in Franklin County, MA, Belden Forest in Hartford County, CT and Zoar Valley Unique Area in Cattaraugus County, NY. The full list of forests in the Network may be viewed at www.oldgrowthforest.net.

Sarah RobbGrieco, OGFN’s Northeast Regional Manager, states, “We are thrilled to be welcoming this beautiful and important forest to the Network as the forest representative for Newport County and our first Rhode Island forest. We applaud Aquidneck Land Trust for their work in preserving this special forest for generations to come.”

OGFN depends on a volunteer in each U.S. county to help identify and induct forests into the Network. Nathan Cornell of Warwick and Rachel Briggs of Chepachet are volunteer supporters of the Old Growth Forest Network and are County Coordinators for Newport County. Interested volunteers are welcome to contact OGFN through www.oldgrowthforest.net.

Contact:
ALT: Gretchen Markert, Communications Manager, 401-849-2799, ext. 13, gmarkert@ailt.org
Old-Growth Forest Network: Sarah RobbGrieco, Northeast Regional Manager, 978-807-7409, sarahrg@oldgrowthforest.net

About the Aquidneck Land Trust: Aquidneck Land Trust’s time-sensitive mission is to preserve and steward Aquidneck Island’s open spaces for the lasting benefit of the community. The organization has conserved 2,641.11 acres on 85 properties across Aquidneck Island since its founding in 1990. ALT is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization and the first land trust in Rhode Island to have received national accreditation.

For more information, visit www.ailt.org.
790 Aquidneck Avenue | Middletown, RI 02842| 401.849.2799 | www.ailt.org

Middletown, RI. – September 15, 2021 – The Aquidneck Land Trust (“ALT”) announces the start of its annual Art & Writing Contest, a competition for local students to portray their favorite Aquidneck Island vistas. The contest encourages students to create artwork, written essays and poems that express their appreciation of the island’s natural beauty. Winners are awarded generous cash prizes and family memberships to ALT. Entrants must live, or attend school, on Aquidneck Island.

The prompt for art and written entries is: Show your favorite Aquidneck Island vista as an artwork on paper or describe it in an essay or poem. Submissions are due no later than noon on Friday, November 19, 2021. Teachers, students, and parents should enter student work via the submission portal on the ALT website. Homeschoolers are welcome to apply. There are first-, second-, and third-prize awards for each of the three age categories: kindergarten–grade 4, grades 5-8, and grades 9-12. Student prizes range from $50 to $250. Cash grants of $500 are awarded to the schools of the first-place winners, to supplement their environmental education programs. A panel of art judges and a panel of writing judges will determine the winners, who will be recognized at ALT’s annual meeting in February.

“Aquidneck Island is renowned for its abundant natural beauty and scenic viewscapes,” said Chuck Allott, Executive Director at ALT. “This annual contest encourages students to think about the open spaces that they treasure on our island and to share the special features of those places through their artwork and written pieces. This is exactly why we conserve land – so that the next generations will be able to cherish the natural world in the same way that we do today.”

The contest is sponsored by the design firm Sixteen on Center. More information may be found on ALT’s website, www.ailt.org/our-work/art-writing-contest/, or by calling ALT at 401-849-2799, ext. 13.

Middletown, RI. – July 22, 2021 – Aquidneck Land Trust (“ALT”) announces a land campaign to conserve two properties in Portsmouth. The properties total 27.4 acres and have important conservation values, including farmland, forestland, wildlife habitat, and scenic vistas. ALT has raised a significant portion of the $1.44 million needed to conserve the properties but must raise the final $150,000 by December, 2021, to permanently protect them from development.

The first property, known as Rego Farmland, is a 12-acre active hayfield with 100% prime soil. It is approximately .5 miles north of Glen Road and is one of several farmland parcels that provide scenic views along East Main Road. It is within the ALT Sakonnet Greenway habitat corridor, an area that includes 40 properties already protected by ALT. The corridor covers 1,365 acres of land on the east side of Aquidneck Island. ALT plans to purchase the land outright and continue to lease it for farming.

The second property, known as Jones Preserve, is a 15.38-acre site situated within a 92-acre tract of forestland. It is approximately .5 north of Bramans Lane and is contiguous to other ALT-conserved land. Like the Rego property, it is also located within the Sakonnet Greenway habitat corridor. The property serves as habitat for resident and migratory birds, raptors, and small mammals. Aside from one new home site that will be allowed to be built on site in a half-acre outzone, the land will be managed as a combination of wildlife habitat and farmland protected under a conservation easement.

“This is a tremendous opportunity to conserve two very important properties on Aquidneck Island,” said Chuck Allott, ALT Executive Director. “We are grateful to the property owners for agreeing to conserve their land, and we are thrilled to extend the acreage in the Sakonnet Greenway habitat corridor. The contiguous wildlife habitat, prime farmland, and scenic viewscapes are irreplaceable.”

More information on the properties is available on the ALT website, www.ailt.org.

Middletown, RI. – July 13, 2021 – Aquidneck Land Trust (“ALT”) announces a series of free online presentations titled “Citizen Planning 101,” with one event focused on each of Aquidneck Island’s three municipalities. The workshops will be led by GrowSmart RI, a non-profit consultancy that works for sustainable and equitable economic growth. The events will provide participants with information about the land use planning process and will inform them about ways to advocate within their planning and zoning boards, city and town councils, and other decision-making bodies.

The first event, on July 21, will be geared to Middletown residents; the second, on August 31, to Newport residents; and the third, on September 28, to Portsmouth residents. A fourth workshop on October 20 is open to all islanders and will include a presentation of best practices in land use planning and zoning, in particular related to conservation and how communities can best allow for economic growth and development while still preserving open spaces.

“We know that Aquidneck Islanders are interested in having their voices heard within their communities, but it can be difficult to understand the ways in which individuals can participate in the decisions that affect land use, zoning, development, and conservation,” said Chuck Allott, ALT Executive Director. “These workshops will provide useful information and enable people to participate more fully in their local government.”

All workshops will take place at 5:00 p.m. via Zoom links. Participants may register at https://us02web.zoom.us/webinar/register/WN_IyML4FjZTrWpuO75EZ2UDQ or through ALT’s website (www.ailt.org). The presentations are funded by a grant from the van Beuren Charitable Foundation.

Middletown, RI. – May 20, 2021 – Aquidneck Land Trust (“ALT”) announces the opening of a new 165-foot boardwalk at its Little Creek Preserve property on Bramans Lane in Portsmouth. The boardwalk is one of many improvements made to the 15+-acre site, which was conserved by ALT in 2018. The boardwalk terminates in an 8’x16’ viewing platform over a marsh. The property features picnic tables, benches, and a half-mile loop trail that links to the Sakonnet Greenway Trail, a 10-mile nature trail through ALT-conserved properties stretching from Linden Land in Portsmouth to Wyatt Road in Middletown.

“The boardwalk is a terrific addition to this beautiful property,” said Chuck Allott, Executive Director of ALT. “We are very grateful to the hundreds of donors who contributed both to its purchase and, later, to the improvement fund. We thank the Bafflin Foundation and the Betty Byrne de Zahara Charitable Fund for their generosity as well, and invite everyone to enjoy the results of this community-supported project.” The boardwalk was built by JAM Construction and designed by Narragansett Engineering.

Little Creek Preserve is home to the headwaters of Little Creek and is bordered by three other ALT-protected open spaces. Formerly part of a dairy farm, it is now conserved in perpetuity as a public open space and wildlife refuge. The mix of meadow, upland scrub-shrub, marsh, forested wetlands, vernal pools, and riparian areas around Little Creek provide habitat for a range of amphibian, mammalian, and avian species. The property is a great spot for birding and is free and open to the public daily, from dawn until dusk.

Middletown, RI. – May 13, 2021 – Aquidneck Land Trust (“ALT”) has awarded thirteen grants totaling $18,000 to local community and neighborhood groups through its annual grant program, the Merritt Neighborhood Fund. Grant awards ranged from $500 to $2,500.

Established in 1999 to honor the late Peter M. Merritt, the organization’s president emeritus, the Fund supports projects that strengthen community identity and character, and which model the ethic of land conservation and stewardship through community volunteerism. It has awarded grants each year since its founding, distributing over $146,000 in total. A committee of ALT volunteers and board members determines the awards.

“We received grant submissions for many wonderful projects this year,” said Chuck Allott, ALT Executive Director. “It gives us great pleasure to support tree and landscape plantings, non-profit gardens, community and educational gardens, and other public enhancements that encourage an appreciation of the outdoors. Though each award is modest, collectively they improve our community by instilling neighborhood pride and fostering an appreciation for the natural world.” A 2017 grant from the van Beuren Charitable Foundation has enabled ALT to increase its Merritt Neighborhood Fund distribution in recent years.

Awards were given to the following applicants:
• Aquidneck Community Table: improvements to the Food Forest
• Bike Newport: solar water pump at community gardens
• Newport Boys & Girls Club: restoration of exterior landscaping
• Butts Hill Fort Restoration/Portsmouth Historical Society: removal of vegetation at historic site
• Daffodillion: daffodil bulbs for island beautification
• Eastern Rhode Island Conservation District: four raised garden beds at Portsmouth Aginnovation
• God’s Community Garden: garden supplies and improvements
• Norman Bird Sanctuary: improvements to vegetable garden and preparation area
• Newport Tree Conservancy: planting of 30 trees at Miantonomi Park
• The Pennfield School: raised bed gardens for the Outdoor Classroom
• Portsmouth Garden Club: improvements to three public gardens
• St. John the Evangelist Church: landscaping on west side of the church grounds
• Town of Middletown: bike racks for public beaches

Information on the 2022 Merritt Neighborhood Awards will be announced in February, 2022.

Middletown, RI. – February 18, 2021 – The Aquidneck Land Trust (“ALT”) has announced that two new board members have been appointed to its board of trustees. The new trustees were appointed at the organization’s annual meeting, held February 4, 2021. Ellen Bowman and Dr. Martha McConnell were voted onto the board at the event, which was conducted virtually and is available to view on the ALT website.

Ellen Bowman is a resident of Rye, NY, and Newport, RI, where she is active in numerous organizations that support the arts, historic preservation, garden conservation and education. She has experience in fundraising and board governance. She is a trustee of the Newport Art Museum, was past President of the board of trustees for The Windward School in New York, and is a member of The Garden Conservancy Fellows, Rye Garden Club, Daughters of the Revolution and the National Society of Colonial Dames, New York Chapter.

Dr. Martha McConnell is a Lecturer at the University of Rhode Island Graduate School of Oceanography. Prior to moving to Newport, Martha managed the Polar Programme for the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), directed studies on ocean, polar, and climate science policy issues for the National Academy of Sciences (NAS), and served as Visiting Faculty at the United States Coast Guard Academy. She led the first legislative process to advance ocean acidification research and monitoring, and has participated in four expeditions to Antarctica. A member of The Explorers Club, Martha holds a B.A. in Geology from Colgate University and a M.S. and Ph.D. in Paleoceanography from the University of South Carolina.

Middletown, RI. – January 29, 2021 – ALT has announced 18 student winners in the 2020 ALT Art & Writing Contest, held annually to promote an appreciation of the island’s natural beauty. Students who live or attend school on Aquidneck Island were invited to submit art or written work portraying their favorite local vista.

“The response to the contest was fantastic,” said Chuck Allott, Executive Director of ALT. “Despite the challenges of this school year, we received 170 entries from students attending ten island schools. Their entries show a deep appreciation for the natural beauty of Aquidneck Island, and we thank the students and their teachers for sharing their special places with us.”

Art winners in the kindergarten through grade four category are: Hyunsung Lee, Pell Elementary School (first place); Nathaniel Morgan, Melville Elementary School (second place); and Joel Morgan, Melville Elementary School (third place).

Art winners in the grade five through grade eight category are; Agatha Howell, Pennfield School (first place); Margaret Humphrey, Pennfield School (second place); and Erin Alphonse, Portsmouth Middle School (third place).

Art winners in the grade nine through grade twelve category are: Oliver Marshall, (first place); Emma Bartlett (second place); and Delaney Gouveia, (third place), all of Rogers High School.

Writing winners in the kindergarten through fourth grade category are: Grace Dalton, Pell Elementary School (first place); Caroline Whitlock, St. Michael’s School (second place); and Brayden Martin, Melville School (third place).

Writing winners in the grade five through grade eight category are: South Fulweiler, St. Michael’s School (first place); Charlotte Colby, Pennfield School (second place); and Mollyana Nuki, St. Michael’s School (third place).

Writing winners in the grade nine through grade twelve category are: Travon Anderson (first place); Hiroto Bito (second place); and Karla Costa (third place), all of Middletown High School.

Art entries were judged by a panel that included Norah Dietrich, Executive Director of the Newport Art Museum; Erik Greenburg, Director of Museums at the Newport Restoration Foundation; Susan Woythaler, artist and musician; and Jonathan Gewirz, ALT board member. Written entries were judged by Annie Sherman Luke, writer; Katherine Gagliano, principal, Amplify Marketing; and Jonathan Gewirz, ALT board member. The contest was underwritten by a grant from local design/build firm Sixteen on Center.

Winners will be acknowledged at the ALT Annual Meeting on February 4, 2021. The public is invited to attend the annual meeting; registration is on the ALT website (www.ailt.org). The school of each first-place winner will receive a $500 grant to support their environmental science curriculum. “We are very grateful to Sixteen on Center for their generosity and commitment to environmental education,” said Allott. “We also thank the teachers, who understand the importance of encouraging an appreciation for the outdoors and the environment in their students.”

Middletown, RI. – January 21, 2021 – ALT announced the conservation of 13.62 acres of land in Newport, split between two properties located on the island’s south end. The conservation easements, which permanently protect the properties from development, were donated to the land trust by their respective owners. Mary Cushing Coleman donated 9.85 acres and EC Properties LLC donated 3.77 acres. Both properties are private, but their conservation assures that they will remain as open space forever.

The Cushing Coleman property, located on Ocean Drive, includes the landmark geological formation known as Spouting Rock, which still explodes in high surf. It has 3,000 feet of rocky shoreline, natural vegetation, and lawn areas, jutting into the Atlantic Ocean between Bailey’s Beach and Gooseberry Beach. The property’s natural features, elevation, and topography provide unique scenic views from the east (Cliff Walk, Bailey’s/Reject’s Beach, and Ocean Avenue), the south (the public waters of Rhode Island Sound), and the west (Gooseberry Island, Ocean Avenue, Gooseberry/Hazard’s Beach, and Gooseberry Cove). In addition to the cultural and historic values that its setting provides, it offers other conservation values such as wildlife habitat and coastal water resource protection.

The EC Properties LLC parcel, located on Ledge Road, has 200 feet of coastline and is visible from the publicly-accessible Cliff Walk trail. The site offers scenic views from Ocean Avenue, Bailey’s Beach, and Reject’s Beach, and to boaters and sailors passing by on the ocean. The site has typical Newport rock out-croppings, a scenic feature of the Newport Neck area, and a number of tidal pools.

Both properties are located within the center of the Newport Neck Greenway, which includes over 400 acres of land protected by either conservation easement or deed restriction. The conservation of these properties will help increase contiguity of the habitat and viewshed corridor in the Newport Neck Greenway. ALT has conserved 2,619.32 acres of land on Aquidneck Island on 83 properties since its founding in 1990.