Lang is newest member of the Land Trust

Thu, 11/15/2018 - 6:15pm

It’s the first time in many years that the Block Island Land Trust has had a new member — except he isn’t really new. Keith Lang was “sworn into office” by Town Clerk Molly Fitzpatrick at the Land Trust’s meeting on Nov. 8. It’s an office he’s held before. Lang was one of the first members of the Land Trust, which was established in 1986. Serving with him at the time were Keith Lewis, Nancy Greenaway, Cindy Pappas, and the late Dorothy McCluskey.

Lang retired last June after serving for 18 years as executive director of The Champlin Foundation. Before that, he was the first director of The Nature Conservancy’s Rhode Island chapter, and readers may be familiar with his photography featured in the annual Block Island nature calendar, which he has been publishing since 2003.

The Land Trust has been responsible for conserving a lot of land since 1986, and it needs taking care of. To that end, the trustees prepared for their annual requests for proposals for field mowing and stone wall clearing. By now, the list of what needs doing and when is fairly set, but there’s always some tweaking to be done, and sometimes some experimentation. 

Stewardship Coordinator Harold “Turtle” Hatfield was not able to attend the meeting, so the remaining trustees approved the schedules for maintenance “subject to any changes” he might have. Notices of the RFPs will be advertised in The Block Island Times in this and in the Dec. 8 issue.

Not so simple is planning for a “public priorities poll.” It’s a survey that’s supposed to happen every five years and is overdue. Last time it was conducted, it was done by phone, to land lines only. Chair Barbara MacMullan said that skewed the results towards the responses of elderly residents. Complicating the matter is that there is no comprehensive directory of cell phone numbers. Surveying by internet could have its own challenges as far as controlling just who is responding, and how many times they do so.

Then there is the subtlety of formulating the questions themselves. MacMullan used the example of asking about the need for a community center. If the question was simply “do you want a community center” the answers may come back as overwhelmingly “yes,” whereas if the question was “are you willing to spend X amount of tax dollars on a new community center,” the response could be quite different. She said that the firm they had used the last time to conduct the survey was very helpful in formulating the questions, and they would be consulted again. 

MacMullan said she had gone to a Town Council meeting to get an idea of what types of questions they felt should be asked in the poll and came back with a list. Among the suggestions is whether Roundup should be banned. Another addresses the banning of certain types of plastic, such as straws. 

No final decisions were made as to what specific questions would be asked, and the discussion will be continued at future meetings.