Land Trust and partners go outside

Sat, 10/15/2022 - 1:45pm

Once a year there is an outdoor meeting at the Hodge Preserve on Corn Neck Road. Actually, there are two meetings – the first one is for the Hodge Committee, and the second one is for the Block Island Land Trust. This year, just as last year, it was a beautiful, warm October day and the attendees met in a mown clearing, (marred only by a patty of fresh dog poop smack in the middle) surrounded by a field full of tall grasses and wildflowers.
Hodge is owned by all three conservancy organizations on the island, and the Town of New Shoreham is the fourth owner, so a representative of each entity is on the committee, as well as a member from the general public, Barby Michel.
“Looks good,” said Harold “Turtle” Hatfield of the Land Trust.
“There’s a couple of spots where bayberry is coming in on the periphery,” said Scott Comings of The Nature Conservancy. He said he would have it pulled out so it wouldn’t crowd out the wildflowers.
Besides the possible removal of some invasive autumn olive trees in one corner, not much needs to be done at Hodge, but there were a few things that could be done. Comings said he was thinking about adding a wildlife blind for watching birds on the lower pond, but that would need approval from the Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management. “The building’s the easy part. The permit, not so much….” he said.
The path down to the pond also needs work. “It’s getting gullied out,” said Comings.
“As long as people know there’s no hunting,” said Barbara MacMullan, chair of the Land Trust.
“At some point we’re going to meet with abutters,” said Comings, about the possibility of moving one of the trails. “This is such a magical property, we want people to have a great experience.”
Hodge gets a lot of visitors and is protected from the northeast wind.

“Even yesterday, during nasty weather,” said Nigel Grindley, representing the Block Island Conservancy. (The last of Ian came through the day before the meeting.)
With the fields of goldenrod and the path down to Middle Pond, the property is “hitting on all avenues,” said Comings, with a lot of diversity in species, including honey bees, damsel and dragon flies.
There are also lots of orb hunters, and several passed by the meeting on their quest.
A new trail was suggested – perhaps a loop, to connect with a nearby conservation area, the Breed property.
“Having another way in and out,” would be good, said Comings. “[But] is it going to be loved to death?”
“I’ve seen more use of what looks like people walking to Breed,” said New Shoreham Second Warden Sven Risom, the representative from the town on the Hodge Committee.
“It’s happening all over,” said Comings. “People are continuing hiking as something they started doing and loved” during the Covid pandemic.
When it came to the regular monthly meeting of the Land Trust, the trustees went through the usual agenda. During the treasurer’s report, MacMullan noted that there was $220,768 collected in real estate transfer fees for September, an uptick from the previous months. In August there was only $93.75 collected in transfer fees.
June and July were more “normal,” with $168,796 and $144,664 collected, respectively.
Speaking of ticks, Land Trust Clerk Heidi Tarbox said she had received an inquiry from a tick prevention program at the University of Rhode Island. They wanted to know if the Land Trust was interested in signs with a QR code that links to a website if you or your pets encounter a tick.
Comings wanted to contact other researchers doing work on the island to make sure the signs, and the program, was “additive, not confusing.” He suggested maybe just adding the QR code to existing signage or notices at the kiosks at trail heads.
“Nice signs get stolen,” said Comings. “Warning – tick habitat. That’s a good dorm room sign.”
There is one new feature to the Land Trust’s meetings – a monthly update on the Sam P. Meadow Committee’s progress. Both MacMullan and Risom are on that committee which is charged with exploring plans for the
recently acquired property on the Great Salt Pond, that was for months, called the Overlook property.
The committee wishes to apply for federal infrastructure grants to build a harbors facility with some employee housing component, but they need a rough plan by November 1. As a starting point, a wetlands study and a
benthic study needed to be performed. Those have been completed, and include other properties, including Ball O’Brien Park just to the east, all the way over to the K and H property by the Boat Basin.
Ball O’Brien had originally been purchased with the idea that it could be used for a harbors facility, but as the years went on it got to put to other uses. “The problem with Ball O’Brien is it got pecked to death by ducks,” said MacMullan.
Comings suggested giving Town Planner Alison Ring the map information so she could “plug it into her GIS.”
“It’s nice to have these finally done,” said MacMullan.
“It leads to making an informed plan,” said Comings.