Stewardship of the land a shared responsibility

Fri, 08/28/2020 - 3:45pm
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Block Island Land Trust meetings are often a sharing of experiences and matters that concern all of the conservancy organizations on Block Island. As Scott Comings of The Nature Conservancy said at the Land Trust’s meeting on Thursday, Aug. 13: “We’re all in this together.”

“We need to find the perfect spot and get this done,” said Comings.

Tall brush in the area has blocked access for walking and fishing in the pond, and Department of Environmental Management permits will be obtained before any clearing takes place.

Stewardship of the Ocean View Foundation’s property in Old Harbor is also a shared responsibility, and Kim Gaffett had two “updates” she wanted to share with the Land Trust. The first was concerning the walking path that starts near the entrance to the OVF property and goes down to the shore just south of Ballard’s Beach.

Gaffett said that approximately a week prior, she had found Fire Chief Kirk Littlefield coming up the path in the Fire Department’s ATV. He was exploring whether the path could be used for emergency access to the beach, but found the path too narrow, and the turns too sharp. There are also some small stumps in the path that Gaffett also found hazardous to walkers.

Land Trust Chair Barbara MacMullan said: “I thought emergency access should be through the alley by Ballard’s.”

“No one’s asked me about it. I would be happy to work with the Land Trust,” said Ballard’s owner Steve Filippi when contacted after the meeting.

Joe Preistley, attorney for the Land Trust, pointed out that the path, which was installed a few years ago when another path gave way to erosion, was approved by the Coastal Resources Management Council for walking purposes only.

Gaffett said that the walking path was “not that stable” given steep areas and a sandy foundation. She added that if the path was widened, it would be “a little too attractive to other vehicles.”

Gaffett’s second update was on the condition of a wooden fence that had been placed at the top of the abandoned path as a barrier to keep people off the bluff. The fence had “taken a beating” with the boards being ripped off the posts. As for the metal sign on the fence, Gaffett said it was still there, but bent. “You can still read it. Not that it does any good.”

She also reported that she had had to call the police once when she found a group on mopeds doing “wheelies on the hummocks” of the property.

“Just another summer headache,” said MacMullan with a sigh.

In other matters, Comings reported on the status of the National Fish and Wildlife Service’s plan for hunting on NFWS properties, including at the refuge near the North Light. Earlier this year, the agency asked for public comments on their plan. “They took none of our recommendations, except no weekend hunting, and registering as a hunter with the Police Department,” he said. Comings also said he plans to follow up with the refuge manager to emphasize that they need to provide enforcement.