Land Trust preps for next year

Fri, 11/10/2017 - 8:15am

The members of the Block Island Land Trust tweaked the specifications for its many properties in preparation for the annual stewardship bidding process at their latest meeting. This year there were few changes to the specifications, but two properties are being held back for further planning. Those two properties are Fresh Pond and the Turnip Farm.

The bid specifications for mowing and wall clearing will be advertised in the Nov. 18 and Dec. 2 editions of The Block Island Times. Bids are due back by Dec. 14. 

Land Trust Stewardship Coordinator Harold “Turtle” Hatfield called for the Turnip Farm and Fresh Pond bids to be put out at a later date in order to develop a more detailed plan for mowing that would incorporate what he termed “checker boarding.” Instead of mowing the entire properties at once, different areas would be mowed at separate times. This allows for the management of both invasive and desired species, and provides habitats for wildlife at different times of the year. 

In order to more fully develop the plans, Hatfield will obtain satellite imagery that shows the property lines.

Land Trust Chair Barbara MacMullan said that “one other item came up” recently when an old map showed a trail going through a property in the Beacon Hill area, on which the owner currently allows hunting. As the Land Trust owns property nearby, she suggested exploring the area to see where a new trail could be accommodated to bypass the hunting area.

It was just a year ago that, to the Land Trust’s dismay, the buffer of trees at Ball O’Brien Park was cut down. The buffer shields the Salt Pond Settlement condominiums from the park and on Sept.  21, 2016 the owners association sent a letter to the town requesting that the trees be “either trimmed or removed before they cause serious damage,” as large limbs were touching the building.

The letter was written to the Town Council however, instead of the Land Trust, which has jurisdiction over the property, but the Town Council took swift action and directed the Highways Department to deal with the problem. Twenty-two trees were removed. At the time, Hatfield estimated that it was $53,000 worth of trees.

Salt Pond Settlement Property Manager Suzann Walsh, who wrote the initial letter, was on hand with a new problem — storm water runoff. After the past two storms, which dumped significant amounts of rain, “water was gushing ferociously through the stone wall,” she said, and was coming into the building.

While the Land Trust had called for the buffer to be replanted, as its removal constituted a zoning violation, they decided to hold off because the Harbors Committee was considering putting a harbors facility at the park and they would need an access road close to the area of the buffer. Hatfield said that utility lines for the harbors facility would need to be buried — another reason for holding off on the replanting. 

“All we asked for was branches touching the building to be trimmed,” said Walsh.

Hatfield said that the Land Trust didn’t know the trees were being removed and that “Salt Pond could have trimmed them themselves.”

“A tree hanging over your property is a trespass” that you can remove, said Land Trust Attorney Joe Priestley. 

“Seems to me there needs to be some drainage control,” said Walsh.

“The roots were the drainage,” said Hatfield. 

“The trees were the drainage control,” concurred MacMullan. “The Land Trust can approach the town about what to plant.”

Hatfield, who said he was an initial owner of a condominium at Salt Pond Settlement, said he had “made that buffer” when the tennis courts were added to the park.

“We will do what we can do to help you with this,” said MacMullan.

When Walsh asked about a timeframe, Hatfield said that when the buffer was cut “Harbors was active at the time,” but since no progress has been made, they might as well go ahead and replant.