The following is from a press release.
The Aquidneck Land Trust (ALT) has successfully completed the fundraising for its more than $3 million Campaign to Save the St. Mary’s Church Land when it was awarded $110,000 for the project from The Nature Conservancy through a grant from The Champlin Foundations.
ALT will now work on closing this important conservation project.
On May 25, 2011, ALT, St. Mary’s Church Portsmouth and the Trustees of the Sarah Gibbs Trust signed an Option Agreement that gave ALT until May 24, 2013 to raise over $3 million to conserve about 70 critical open space acres of the St. Mary’s Church land between East Main Road and the St. Mary’s Pond Reservoir in Portsmouth.
With the generous grant from The Nature Conservancy and The Champlin Foundations, ALT has now raised enough in grant awards and cash from three governmental entities, six foundations and 40 individuals to cover the entire project budget of $3,073,894.
A number of parties made significant leadership contributions, including the United States Department of Agriculture/Natural Resources Conservation Service, the State of Rhode Island/Department of Environmental Management, the Town of Portsmouth, the van Beuren Charitable Foundation, the Prince Charitable Trusts, the Alletta Morris McBean Charitable Trust, and The Nature Conservancy through a grant from The Champlin Foundations.
“We are extremely grateful to all who contributed to our Campaign to Save the St. Mary’s Church Land. All participants leveraged one another’s limited open space funds so as to permanently protect this land which is priceless to our island community because of the land’s water resource, agricultural, scenic and wildlife habitat values. We have a lot to celebrate at our July 28th summer gala, Fiesta Verde, which will be held on the beautiful and magical St. Mary’s meadows,” said Ted Clement, ALT executive director.
The proposed approximate 70-acre St. Mary’s Church conservation area is strategic from a conservation perspective.
Pursuant to the Town of Portsmouth’s 2002 Local Recreation, Conservation and Open Space Plan, the subject land is located within a Town of Portsmouth designated Open Space and Active Agriculture Area, Resource Protection Overlay District Area and Greenways Plan Area. The St. Mary’s Church land is located next to a number of previously conserved parcels within ALT’s Center Island Greenway thereby building upon and enhancing this past conservation work.
The land also falls within the St. Mary’s Pond Watershed, directly abutting the St. Mary’s Pond Reservoir area with over 1,000 ft. of frontage on the reservoir property.
The St. Mary’s Church land therefore acts as a natural buffer protecting this important island water reservoir from harmful runoff. The 2000 study Critical Parcel Identification for Watershed Protection in Newport County, Rhode Island, done by the Aquidneck Island Partnership, recognized the subject St. Mary’s land as critical to protect from a watershed protection perspective. ALT’s recently completed year-long mapping and prioritization study of all the remaining and threatened open space parcels within Aquidneck Island’s seven primary watersheds also identified the St. Mary’s Church land as a high priority for protection.
The woods, fields and wetlands of the land provide diverse wildlife habitats that support various listed species such as the Glossy Ibis. This land, which has almost 1,000 ft. of frontage on East Main Road, is also an iconic property that provides joy to numerous passersby everyday with its spectacular scenic vistas. Furthermore, the fields of the proposed conservation area consist of mostly Prime Farmland Soils as recognized by the United States Department of Agriculture making the property an important agricultural resource.
ALT’s time-sensitive mission is to conserve Aquidneck Island's open spaces and natural character for the lasting benefit of our community. The organization has conserved 2,386.50 acres on 66 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.AquidneckLandTrust.org.