On signage, surveys and the Solviken

The Land Trust eyes a few projects
Thu, 10/24/2019 - 5:30pm

Although they hadn’t received the results yet, the Block Island Land Trust appeared pleased with the number of people who responded to the public priorities poll conducted over Columbus Day weekend. At the meeting on October 16, Land Trust Chair Barbara MacMullan noted there had been 134 responses.

“Apparently they were enjoying the survey,” said MacMullan, referring not to the respondents, but to those conducting it. She said that Land Trust member Harold “Turtle” Hatfield, who was not yet present, had received a survey call, but because he could not respond, then “quizzed” the survey taker. Full results of the poll were expected to take another week.

The Land Trust approved contributing $500 towards the building of an informational kiosk on the Hodge Property. The property is owned by four separate groups — the Land Trust, the Block Island Conservancy, The Nature Conservancy and the Town of New Shoreham — and is governed by a special board representing each of them.

Land Trust Vice Chair Denny Heinz, who represents the Land Trust on the Hodge Commission, said that they had had their annual meeting and briefly talked about the kiosk.

Scott Comings of The Nature Conservancy said the kiosk would cost “roughly” $2,000 to build and would last about 20 years.

Each of the four owners will need to approve the expenditure.

The exact location of the kiosk has not yet been determined. Hatfield, who had since joined the meeting, said there were concerns about it being too close to the road where it could be run into by vehicles, or otherwise be destroyed. To alleviate the potential problems, Hatfield said: “It will not be visible from the road.”

Hatfield also reported on some discussions he had with representatives from the Block Island Gardeners about their desire to do some plantings at the Solviken property. The idea of planting daffodils and installing a garden along the stone wall along the northern border of the property was proposed to the Land Trust at their meeting in September. The Land Trust seemed to feel that the proposed location, as well as the need, and cost, to water the area were problematic.

Hatfield said the Gardeners wanted to get started this fall, by turning over the soil and adding amendments such as peat moss. He also said he had suggested an alternative location for the garden on the hillside where rain water runoff could help with the watering.

Those present had a lengthy discussion about the risks of rototilling the soil, and whether it was needed. “I suggested putting a silk sock on it if” they’re doing it before winter, to prevent erosion. While tilling is not technically necessary to plant bulbs, Hatfield said: “They’re trying to make it easier.” He said that the area being proposed for the daffodils, which is at this point separate from the garden, was full of crabgrass.

“But it is something,” said Comings of the crabgrass. “It’s holding the soil.”

“My opinion is they shouldn’t prep the other area because we haven’t approved the location,” said MacMullan.

In conclusion, after more discussion MacMullan said: “So, yes to daffodils; no to rototilling.”

Meanwhile, poplars have been growing up on the Great Salt Pond side of the Solviken and are obscuring the view of the water. Hatfield said he wants to talk to the Coastal Resources Management Council about getting permission to “top” the vegetation and open up the view, and he was given the go ahead to do so.

Another area where the view is being obscured is at Mosquito Beach, and this time the culprit is non-native, invasive phragmites. Hatfield said he was approached by Highways Supervisor Mike Shea, who was himself approached about the matter by the group Scenic Block Island.

It’s an idea that’s been “talked about for years,” said Hatfield. He added that the Department of Environmental Management has a special mowing machine that is used for phragmite removal. Rather than mowing or removing all the phragmites, Hatfield suggested simply mowing the first 20 feet by the road and planting a “more native grass.” Since the land slopes down towards the Great Salt Pond, Hatfield said that by just doing the first 20 feet, one could then see the pond over the remaining phragmites.

Speaking of phragmite removal on the mainland, Comings said: “Normally you mow it — acres of it — after you’ve treated it with an herbicide.”

“We won’t be using herbicide out here,” said Chris Littlefield, also of The Nature Conservancy.

While acknowledging that it wasn’t something that needed to be done right away, those present agreed that winter would be a good time to perform the mowing.

Winter is not a good time to plant trees. “Generally, fall is the best time,” said Hatfield, although he conceded that “now we’re in a drought.” The location this time is at Ball O’Brien Park, where the vegetative buffer between the park and the condominiums next door was cut down three years ago without the knowledge or permission of the Land Trust, which has jurisdiction over the property.

The Land Trust had put off the replanting of trees in the area as there were then discussions of running a road through the area in order to accommodate a harbor’s facility for visiting boaters. Now that those plans have essentially been taken off the table, the Land Trust wants to proceed with its “tree plan.”

“Ironically,” said Hatfield, he had received a call asking for yet another tree to be removed. An overhanging black walnut tree is dropping its nuts on cars parked below at the Salt Pond Settlement, sometimes damaging them. “I said ‘they only drop for two weeks. Don’t park there.’” He also said he told the property manager that he could cut the limb overhanging the property line.

“So, let’s get back to the tree plan,” said MacMullan. “I deputize Turtle to come up with a plan.”

After some joking around about planting the deviant black walnuts, Hatfield quickly came up with a plan for planting four each of four types of trees, including sweet gum and tulip poplars. When asked the approximate cost of the project, Hatfield said: “Why do we have to cost it out?” (The replanting cost is to be paid by the town.)

“Because we want it to get done,” said MacMullan.

Hatfield estimated that with the cost of 16 trees in 20-gallon containers, peat moss, and fencing materials to protect the trees, the project would come to about $12,000.

The funds needed will need to be approved and provided by the town, which was responsible for the initial tree cutting. “Remind them that that should be a $350,000 job,” said Hatfield.