How Charlestown works together to preserve Open Space

The following letter appeared in local newspapers and is reprinted here with permission of the author Tom Gentz. Mr. Gentz is President of the Charlestown Town Council and is running for re-election.

Tom Gentz

On August 22, 2013, the Charlestown Town Council approved the purchase of approximately 78 acres of pristine open space for the enjoyment of all residents.

This open space on the north side of Route One between Kings Factory Road and Prosser Trail was the proposed site for two large-scale developments, first a densely populated housing project, and later, two industrial-sized wind turbines, and sometimes both. Alternative energy is critical to our future, but not every location is appropriate for large scale turbines. The turbines here would have been sited too close to the National Wildlife Refuge and the Atlantic Flyway, which is critically important to migrating birds. The turbines, as tall as the Newport Bridge, were also inconsistent with Route One’s designation as a scenic highway.

Here are some of the assets Charlestown preserved with the purchase of this glacial moraine. According to the January 2014 Management Plan submitted by the Charlestown Conservation Commission, “the geological features…including the ridge rising abruptly above Route One, the rock structures, the flat top mounts, the multiple depressions, and the views of outwash plain leading to the ocean make this preserve an outstanding example of the Ice Age in Rhode Island.” There is a flowing stream that drains ultimately into Ninigret Pond, and there are several vernal pools on the property that will be protected by this purchase.

The same management plan documents the fact that wildlife flourishes here. Migratory and nesting songbirds, mammals, and amphibians – all find a home on the moraine. As Town residents and guests hike the trail, they may see blue winged warblers, great horned owls, grey and red fox, wood frogs, salamanders, and migratory and resident bats on a given day.

And, perhaps equally important, the glacial moraine protects the aquifer between it and the Atlantic Ocean. Many local associations and residents have been concerned about the quality and quantity of water south of Route One. This open-space purchase will provide added protection of water sources for those to the South.

The Town named the open space, The Charlestown Moraine Preserve. The Conservation Commission, with the help of the DPW Director, designed a parking lot off King’s Factory Road. The Nature Conservancy added about eighth tenths of a mile of hiking trails to the proposed open-space purchase.

I am proud to have participated with the Charlestown Conservation Commission, Town Administrator, and DPW Director to complete the plans for this open-space purchase. The Town’s plan for The Charlestown Moraine Preserve is a testament to what volunteers and Town staff can accomplish by working together for the greater good.

Tom Gentz
President, Charlestown Town Council

Attachment: Charlestown Moraine Preserve Trail Map