Explore RI’s Special Green Places on Land Trusts’ Trails

photo courtesy of Claudia Swain, S. Kingstown Land Trust

Since the early 1970s, Rhode Islanders concerned about the future of our communities — the loss of our working farms, scenic landscapes, special green spaces and important wildlife habitats — formed “land trusts” — non-profit organizations with a mission of protecting land. Land trusts’ focus and activities vary widely from town to town. Yet they all strive to protect the special green places in their part of the state … the landscape features that define the distinctive character of Rhode Island and have been treasured for generations. Land trusts protect these places for everyone forever...so these special places will always be there to be enjoyed by our children and grandchildren.

Today, there are over 45 land trusts in Rhode Island. Some were formed to protect a single small property that is important to their community. Other land trusts are now protecting greenways in their communities and 100s of acres.

Land trusts with larger properties are establishing trails where people can walk or take a hike. It just got easier to find these trails and to explore land trust properties that are the state’s hidden gems. In March 2013, Rhode Island Land Trust Council, the statewide coalition of land trusts, gathered information about land trusts’ trails across the state and put it all together in one convenient place for you…ExploreRI.org. This website, created by the RI Blueways Alliance, now has information about land trusts’ walking trails — how to find them, characteristics of the trails and trail maps that you can download. Check out the trailheads close to you, and take advantage of the nearby opportunities to hike. Make this summer your season to discover a scenic area that’s closer than you think and to one explore further away that intrigues you!

Even people already familiar with land trust trails will find much more to see this year. The Aquidneck Land trust opened five new miles of trail last fall doubling the length of the Sakonnet Greenway Trail. In the western part of the state, the Westerly and Hopkinton Land trusts collaborated to construct a bridge across the Pawcatuck River this spring. The “Polly Coon Bridge” is a 75-foot pedestrian bridge connecting the Westerly Grills Preserve and the Hopkinton Grills Sanctuary, which lie on opposite sides of the river dividing these towns. The result: miles of trails on each side of the Pawcatuck are now connected.

Land trusts are playing an essential role protecting green spaces and lands that are a fundamental part of Rhode Island’s identity and quality of life, but we need your help to get this secret out. Pick out a trail at ExploreRI.org, take your friends or family for a walk and discover Rhode Island’s best green spaces with them this summer!

If you prefer to try out new trails with a guided group walk, Land Trust Days give you the perfect opportunity. Bring a friend, and join us between August 1st and September 30th for one of more than 60 guided walks and events through the scenic views, green spaces and working farms that are protected by Rhode Island’s land trusts. There is something for every age and ability. Check out all the events at RILandTrustDays.org.

This article was originally published in the Spring/Summer 2013 edition of Trail Mix, the Newsletter of The Greenways Alliance of Rhode Island. RI Blueways thanks the Greenways Alliance for giving us permission to republish this articles

Rhode Island Blueways Alliance • c/o WPWA • 203 Arcadia Road • Hope Valley, RI 02832