Bristol to acquire 120 acres of open space

By Christy Nadalin
Posted 5/16/24

The Town intends to preserve the land as open space.

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Bristol to acquire 120 acres of open space


Bristol will soon be purchasing 120 acres of wooded land from Brown University. Located on Tower Hill Road, the land, zoned residential, is part of the 375-acre tract that was given to Brown by the Haffenreffer Family. The Town intends to preserve the land as open space.

About $1.4 million of the $1.7 million purchase price will be covered by grants, the first of which was announced last week by the Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management (DEM). Bristol will be receiving a $400,000 Local Open Space Grant Program. The funding is made possible by the 2022 Green Bond, which was passed by almost 70 percent Rhode Island voters, and invests in preserving open space, improving recreational facilities, and cleaning up lands and waters.

Municipalities, land trusts, and nonprofit land conservation organizations pursuing land protection projects were eligible to apply to the fiscal year 2024 Local Open Space Grant Program in October 2023. Applications were reviewed and ranked by the Governor’s Natural Heritage Preservation Advisory Committee, with final awards made by the State Natural Heritage Preservation Commission earlier this month.

Grants were awarded to projects which preserve lands offering significant natural, ecological or agricultural value and those projects that connect or expand existing protected lands. Certainly the Mt. Hope Community Forest checks those boxes.

According to Brown University spokesman Brian E. Clark, Brown worked with the Public Archaeology Laboratory to conduct a cultural resources survey of their Bristol land holdings as part of an agreement with Pokanoket tribe members who encamped that property in 2017. The goal was to identify sites with cultural and historical importance, which the University had committed to transferring to a preservation trust to ensure the conservation of the land and sustainable access by Native tribes in the region.

“In 2023, following the completion of the assessment by the Public Archaeology Laboratory, Brown informed Pokanoket leaders that it was prepared to undertake the transfer of approximately 255 acres of the Bristol land, home to areas of great cultural and historical importance, into a preservation trust,” Clark said in a written statement. “The Pokanoket tribe communicated with the University regarding a proposed governance and organizational structure, and we remain engaged with them on that now. Ultimately, we remain ready and fully committed to transferring the land to a preservation trust, and we look forward to doing so.”

The land that is being sold to to the Town is not part of the land that Brown has agreed to put into a trust, but it will provide an additional buffer of undeveloped land adjacent to the Pokanoket trust land.

The deal was made after Town Administrator Steven Contente reached out to Brown in January of 2023.

“We are always looking for opportunities to preserve open space,” Contente said. “We’re pleased to support future efforts to preserve that land and ensure it will not be developed — and now many generations will enjoy it and wildlife will continue to thrive there.”

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