Editorial: B.I. Conservancy education center a gem

Mon, 08/12/2013 - 2:00pm

The opening of the Block Island Conservancy’s Education Center is a significant event in the island’s ongoing efforts to preserve its open space. The center is located in a small, elegant little building — the Old Schoolhouse — on Weldon’s Way and is the result of considerable effort by a number of people.

The education center is a home run in terms of design and location. Inside, the beautifully rendered panels inform the visitor about the individuals that have pioneered the open space movement on the island. There are well-written, concise essays on the plots of land that have been set aside for everyone to enjoy. Visitors will see how the efforts of many groups and individuals, including three major land preservation groups, as well as the town, the state and the federal government, work together to achieve success.

There is a map of the island on one of the panels that contains information on almost every piece of preserved land. This is perhaps the most comprehensive inventory that exists all in one place, and it’s impressive.

The interior, though small, doesn’t seem cramped. The colors and the presentation are pleasing. Kudos to, among others, the Block Island Conservancy Board of Directors, as well as Vice President Bill Comings (who penned an article about the center in last week’s edition), and Leonard Perfido, Rosemary Tobin and Sue Gibbons who lent their time and expertise in many ways. Malcolm Grear Designers out of Providence and photographers Keith Lang and Tracy Finn all did an excellent job.

There is no question that Block Island has been a leader in land preservation. It’s inspiring to think that there were people thinking of preserving land at a time when open space didn’t quite seem so precious. It may have seemed quixotic when, in 1857, civic leaders in New York City decided to set aside 778 acres of undeveloped land at a time when there was nothing but open space surrounding what is now Central Park, but think of how different New York City would seem without it. What would Block Island look like without its impressive stretches of undeveloped space?

The single best tribute you can pay to the Block Island Conservancy Education Center is to pay it a visit to learn more about how the preservation of land on Block Island is one of the most important factors that makes this place so unique. The center is specifically reaching out to newer islanders, those in their 30s, 40s and 50s, who may be new homeowners and are not familiar with the island’s preservation efforts.

An open house is scheduled for Wednesday, Aug. 14 from 4 to 6 p.m. at the Atlantic Inn. The entire island is invited and transportation will be provided to the center.