Charlestown Open Space Land Provides Plenty of Value

The following letter appeared in local newspapers, and is shared with us here by the author Ruth Platner

On April 23, the Westerly Sun published a story, “Group seeks $1 million bond for Ninigret Park work,” in which Frank Glista, one of the authors of the construction bond for Ninigret, lamented the amount of money that has been spent on open space over the last 15 years. Glista is quoted as saying “If our open space doesn’t have any kind of recreation aspect, like there’s no paths or trails, then what are we going to do with it? It will just sit there.”

All of Charlestown’s open space has recreation opportunities. Your readers (and Mr. Glista) may want to take a look at the Charlestown Citizens Alliance’s recently published guide to open space in Charlestown, at Charlestown’s open space lands provide hiking, snow shoeing, cross country skiing, biking, swimming, fishing, boating, horseback riding and more. Hunting is allowed at the Carter Preserve, Burlingame, and all U.S. Fish and Wildlife lands.

In addition to providing public access and great opportunities for outdoor recreation, these lands provide critical wildlife habitat, protect our drinking water, give our town its beautiful natural character, and many of the parcels have already more than paid for themselves by stabilizing our tax rate.

Block Island, Little Compton, and Charlestown are among the towns with the lowest tax rates in Rhode Island. What these towns have in common are large amounts of protected open space. Not only do these protected lands reduce the tax rate, but they also stimulate the local economy by attracting a seasonal colony and inviting tourism.

The Charlestown Town Council has placed a $2 million open space bond question on the Financial Referendum. Land acquired with this money would provide the same public access, recreation, and environmental protection that our existing open space does. These hard working lands certainly will not “just sit there” and like most other open space, they will pay for themselves.

On Monday, June 1, Charlestown will hold a referendum on the town budget and three additional questions:

  1. Authorization to partner with a non-profit agency, at no cost to the taxpayers, to hold a conservation easement on the Charlestown Moraine Preserve (the former Whalerock property), to ensure this land remains open to the public for passive recreation and permanently protects its conservation value,
  2. Authorization to replenish the town’s depleted open space funds with the $2 million bond discussed above, and
  3. A citizens’ initiative to appropriate $1 million through a construction bond toward build-out of Ninigret Park.

Each of these is an important commitment of town resources, and I urge all Charlestown residents to examine these commitments, and vote.

Ruth Platner

Ruth is the current Chair of the Charlestown Planning Commission and has been involved in land use issues in Charlestown for over 20 years.