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They Came, They Saw, They Walked

A hardy group of residents joined members of Middletown's Open Space & Fields Committee and the Aquidneck Land Trust to hike through the undeveloped section of the Sakonnet Greenway Trail.

It was an official meeting of the Open Space & Fields Committee but it felt more like a walk in the country on Saturday, when a group of 20 people toured the area where a new 4.5-mile section of the Sakonnet Greenway Trail will be built this winter. The group included committee members, town officials, and interested residents, who walked while listening to representatives from the Aquidneck Land Trust (ALT), the nonprofit land conservation group that is creating the trail.

The walking tour started at the Wyatt Road soccer fields and meandered along the Wyatt Road perimeter of the soccer complex then turned off-road heading across land owned by and .

Ted Clement, ALT executive director, explained that the as-yet-unbuilt 4.5-mile section of the trail would intersect Mitchell’s Lane near the entrance to the already-open 5-mile Sakonnet Greenway Trail, creating a walkable path extending from the Wyatt Road soccer fields all the way to The Glen in Portsmouth. “A 10-mile trail on this island is remarkable,” said Clement. The Sakonnet Greenway Trail is a pedestrian and equestrian trail that also allows leashed dogs.

Sophia DeMaio, ALT development director, pointed out markers where the trail will be located, noting that in some areas there will be a need for gravel beds, boardwalks, or bridges to navigate around wetlands. “Much of the trail is already established from old farm roads,” she explained.

Discussions along the way included Open Space & Fields Committee chair G. Mason Hawes suggesting that there be benches or an observation platform at some point along the trail, and Town Council vice-chair Bruce Long remarking on the vision and community spirit that ALT brings to its work. “It’s so important that a private land trust work well with the community, and ALT is a great example,” said Long.

ALT expects to receive wetlands permits from the state this month and will then put the trial out to bid; all easements have already been secured from land owners. The new section could be open in Summer 2012, according to Clement.

As for the Saturday walk/committee meeting, chairman Hawes noted: “Every time you get people out here and see this land, eyes widen to the possibilities.”

For more information about the Sakonnet Greenway Trail, visit Aquidneck Land Trust.

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