Recent Success Stories
Spruce Acres Farm, Middletown & Portsmouth, RI
In July 2016 ALT announced an ambitious new project at its annual fundraiser: the purchase and conservation of Spruce Acres Farm, a property at risk of imminent development on the Middletown and Portsmouth line. A year later, with the help of donations from 460+ individuals, grants from both the Town of Middletown and Town of Portsmouth, a grant from the State of Rhode Island Agricultural Land Preservation Commission, and the help of multiple foundations, ALT successfully purchased the 22.7-acre property for the $2 million purchase price.
Spruce Acres has numerous conservation values making it an ideal priority for conservation. It includes prime farmland soil; is located within the Sisson Pond drinking supply watershed; includes wildlife habitat for various small mammals, birds, and pollinators; and is adjacent to other conserved lands. The property also includes 1.5 miles of trails, numerous outbuildings, and a farmhouse in front.
The vision for Spruce Acres will be a publicly-accessible property with walking trails, community gardens, and small plots for farmers to lease. ALT will be able to educate Aquidneck Island residents on land stewardship issues, whether it be on managing invasive species or installing a rain barrel. Eventually, ALT will move its office to the farmhouse on the property, giving us a true home connected to the land.
Purchasing the farm was the first big step – ALT is now in the process of implementing the vision of the property as a conservation center for the community to enjoy. ⌃
Arnow Property, Middletown, RI
The Arnow property is 12.49 acres of land permanently protected in 2015 in Middletown near the Norman Bird Sanctuary. The parcel was a high priority for a number of reasons. It is partially located within the Maidford River/Paradise Brook watersheds, includes prime farmland soil, is 20% woodland with walking trails, includes wildlife habitat for small mammals and birds, and also has a historic barn. This property is an example of a privately owned parcel with multiple conservation benefits, but it does not include public access.
The property provides a scenic backdrop along Third Beach Road and is at the southern tip of the corridor of protected open space known as the Sakonnet Greenway. Howland Avenue, the road the property sits along, is also formerly the road to the Taggart’s Ferry Landing, a ferry line that ferried produce from Little Compton to Newport from the 1700s until 1870. The property even hosts a cricket league on one it’s fields.
ALT worked with Dr. Arnow to permanently protect the land he has lived on for decades, agreeing to a generous bargain sale conservation easement. Said Dr. Arnow, “I’m glad my mission and the Land Trust’s aligned. I’ve been on this beautiful property since the late 1960s — It means a lot to me to know my property is now preserved forever.”
The land continues to serve as habitat, the local cricket pitch, and even hosted our annual volunteer and landowner appreciation party in 2017! ⌃
St. Mary’s Church, Portsmouth, RI
St. Mary’s Church is an example of a long but fruitful conservation deal. In 2011 ALT and St. Mary’s entered into a contractual agreement to conserve the 72 acres of land in Portsmouth in perpetuity. Even with delays along the way, St. Mary’s exhibited great patience, and by January 2015, we finally arranged all the funding and details to permanently protect the property!
ALT raised over $3 million in grant awards and cash from the State of RI Agricultural Land Preservation Commission, USDA-NRCS, the Town of Portsmouth, six foundations, and 40 individuals. The property includes approximately 50 acres of prime soil farmland and 22 acres of riparian forest along the border of St. Mary’s Pond, one of the drinking supplies on Aquidneck Island.
The project provides prime farmland for farmers; protects our source water quality in the St. Mary’s Pond watershed; serves an excellent habitat for a variety of bird, small mammal, and amphibian species; offers a scenic viewscape from East Main Road; and preserves open space along the busy East Main Road transportation corridor. It is also connected to other conservation lands, creating a larger habitat and view corridor as part of the Center Island Greenway.
ALT owns 24.7 acres of the farmland which it currently leases as hayfields to Aquidneck Farms. The remaining 48.4-acre parcel remains under ownership of the Gibbs Trust, but is subject to a conservation easement held by the Aquidneck Land Trust. While the property can be viewed from East Main Road or St. Mary’s Church, it is currently leased for farming and is not publicly accessible. ⌃