Land Trust discusses next steps for “Overlook”

Fri, 06/17/2022 - 4:30pm
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A few weeks ago when the subject of the “Overlook Property” came up in a Town Council meeting, Councilor Martha Ball remarked that the newly acquired property should be called something else because the town, and the Block Island Land Trust had not bought the part of the property with the building named the Overlook.
What the town and Land Trust purchased was a field. And evidently, the field has a name: Sam P. Meadow.
One person on the Land Trust thought that the name came from the neighboring Samuel Peckham Inn, built by Lew Gaffett,and turned into condominiums in 2006. (It is now called Salt Pond Settlement.)
But Lew’s daughter Kim Gaffett said no, it was the other way around and that all the old deeds called the property Sam P. Meadow. “Lew Gaffett made up Sam Peckham from that,” she said.
The Peckham family was a prominent one in Rhode Island and Massachusetts with the earliest known member, John Peckham, appearing as an “inhabitant” of Aquidneck Island in 1638. The family owned large tracts of land in Rhode Island but it doesn’t seem that there was any Block Island connection, and no Peckhams are listed on Settlers Rock, which depicts the names of the original colonial settlers that arrived in 1661 from Massachusetts. There was a Samuel Peckham who was born in Newport in 1677 and died in 1757 in Middletown. Again, there doesn’t appear to be any connection to Bock Island.
Whatever the name, a subcommittee has been appointed to determine the future course of the field, or at least to come up with ideas. The Town Council appointed Second Warden Sven Risom and Councilor Mark Emmanuelle, while the Land Trust appointed Chair Barbara MacMullan and Wendy Crawford.
At the Land Trust’s meeting on June 9 MacMullan said the subcommittee had met and the “town had decided it would be appropriate to post the meetings,” with the next
scheduled for June 15.
“The first thing is to define a development area,” said MacMullan. Wetlands also need to be defined.
When the possible purchase of the property on the Great Salt Pond was presented to residents, it was with the idea of eventually building a facility for boaters that would include some room for employee housing for the Harbors Department. At the time, in May 2021, $2.5 million was tossed around as a future cost for development, but no money was set aside for any projects, or even studies.
MacMullan suggested that the Land Trust pay for studies to be done on the property since the town has no money budgeted for that, and also on the abutting property, Ball
O’Brien Park, which was also acquired with the intent of using it as a boaters’ facility.
First, she suggested, would be a water survey to determine depths. Benthic and wetlands surveys would also need to be done and “Sven and Mark are figuring out if we need to do an archeological survey.”
Land Trust Attorney Joe Priestley asked if those surveys should be extended to include the “K & H” Property on the other side of Ball O’Brien, near the Boat Basin, and noted that an archeological survey may have been done when Ball O’Brien was purchased.
MacMullan said the general approach to the property would be “from the water out,” and one of the first people the subcommittee would be meeting with was Harbormaster Kate McConville.
“I think we’re trying to approach it in a step-wise way,” said MacMullan.