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Town Will Use Study for Future Conservation Efforts

A study released by the Aquidneck Island Planning Commission will be helpful to future development and conservation efforts, according to Middletown's Planning Director.

The following article is from a press release issued by the Aquidneck Island Planning Commission.

 The Aquidneck Island Planning Commission (AIPC) has released the first comprehensive census of the island’s open space, including farmland, recreation areas, schools, and vacant land.

In a report issued on Tuesday, AIPC maps and analyzes Aquidneck Island’s parks, beaches, farms, ponds and reservoirs, playing fields, and other areas with little or no development. The report is the final product of a year-long project to identify Aquidneck Island’s open space with the goal of providing information that will help the island’s communities and policymakers plan for future development, expand recreational opportunities, and protect key watersheds. To view the report, visit the AIPC website.

Tina Dolen, AIPC Executive Director, said ”The existence of these areas is critical to the well-being of Aquidneck Island’s communities; they are vital for recreation, food production, and safe drinking water, and they are a key contributor to the island’s distinctive character. By understanding what exists today, we can plan more effectively for the future.”

AIPC used geographic information system (GIS) technology and data from the island’s municipalities and the state of Rhode Island to create the maps and tables in the report. It categorized open space areas by land use, size, ownership type, zoning, and conservation status. Among the report’s findings are:

  • Aquidneck Island has approximately 13,623 acres of open space; almost half is located in Portsmouth.
  • Farmland comprises 31.7% of the island’s open space, more than any other land use.
  • There are 1,868 acres of land devoted to recreation on Aquidneck Island.
  • There are 3,855 acres of publically-owned open space on the island; the largest public land owner is the City of Newport.

An eight-member advisory committee helped guide the project by working with AIPC to develop goals and verify the accuracy of the data and maps produced through the project. It included representatives from the Aquidneck Land Trust, Preservation Society of Newport County, Newport County Chamber of Commerce, Rhode Island Agricultural Partnership, Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management, Town of Portsmouth, Town of Middletown, and the City of Newport.

Ron Wolanski, Director of Planning and Economic Development for the Town of Middletown, said, “The Town of Middletown will use the results of the project, including the open space inventory and the susceptibility to development analysis, to provide additional context to ongoing land-use planning efforts, as well as in consideration of future open space conservation efforts.”

The van Beuren Charitable Foundation provided financial support for the project.

For more information on the open space mapping project, please contact Chris Witt at 401-845-9299 or chris@aquidneckplanning.org.

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