2005-09-01 / News

Land trust establishes environmental service award, continues quest with ‘No Small Plan’

By Michaela Kennedy

Land trust establishes environmental service award, continues quest with ‘No Small Plan’

At its Aug. 25 annual meeting, the Conanicut Island Land Trust announced the establishment of the Russell S. Clarke Environmental Service Award to be awarded annually by the land trust to a member of the community in recognition of his or her outstanding contributions to the natural environment of Jamestown.

Also at the meeting, Land Trust Director Quentin Anthony gave a presentation on the current status of the trust’s latest land acquisition efforts, dubbed “No Small Plans.”

Land Trust President Mary Hutchinson opened the 20th annual meeting with special thanks to “a long list of volunteers and organizations” that have worked with the land trust over the last 20 years. She said around 450 members contribute annually to the land trust’s efforts to preserve open space and agriculture.

Hutchinson noted that 20 years and one month ago, on July 25, 1984, Gerald McDonough, Russell Clarke, Sally Walsh, Lawrence Walsh, and Gail Cory Beaumont signed the articles of incorporation for the Conanicut Island Land Trust. She thanked the original incorporators for their diligence and hard work to make the land trust a reality.

Hutchinson shared some personal thoughts, saying, “We are all stewards of this very special island.” She also extended thanks to the board of directors, members, volunteers, and all who donated to the land trust’s efforts.

In a brief recap of the year, Land Trust Director David Dolce highlighted the organization’s accomplishments and events. He noted the purchase of a seed planter with a $25,000 grant from the Champlin Foundations, which will be shared among all the working farms on the island. He also noted the publication of the Jamestown Farms 2004 Viability Report, a 40-page, full-color report funded by the state Department of Environmental Management’s Division of Agriculture.

Director-at-Large Russell Clarke then took center stage to receive the organization’s first annual environmental service award given to him for his lifetime dedication to preserving open space. Two of Clarke’s children, Lori (Clarke) Patton and David Clarke, were present to join in honoring their father.

Hutchinson presented the award, a framed proclamation that saluted Clarke’s history and accomplishments. “It (the award) carries with it the recognition and realization that had Russell not been so diligent in his own efforts and in allying himself with many others of like opinion and effort, Jamestown would look very different than it does today,” Hutchinson read from the proclamation.

The proclamation extended appreciation “for his lifetime of work, his uncountable hours of devotion to our island home, the hundreds of hours of research, meetings near and far, discussions and conversations; and his unwavering stewardship to ensure that much of our land will remain open and accessible to be enjoyed by many generations of Jamestowners yet to come.”

In the final line of the proclamation, Clarke was called “a visionary and a true blue Jamestowner.” A plaque will also hang in the Grange hall in recognition of the award.

In a presentation of organization’s land acquisition efforts, Anthony spoke of the plan started three years ago to preserve the Ceppi, Dutra and Neale farms in one joint effort. Anthony called the project by its dubbed name, “No Small Plans,” saying that it was “really a big plan.” He noted that the land trust was working with a number of organizations, including the DEM and the Nature Conservancy, to make the vision a reality.

Anthony pointed out that two events happened in 2005 which helped to remind residents how preservation is “central to the energy of the island.” The first was the “remarkable discovery of the original document” of the agreement dated 1657 of 100 men in Newport to buy Conanicut Island for pasturing. He referred to the document, which was on display at the meeting, as “a direct link to our agrarian past.”

The second event Anthony spoke of was a sighting in Arkansas of the ivory-billed woodpecker, which had had no documented sighting since 1940. “If these can be protected, then we’ve provided the future with a great green belt of land.” Anthony said.

Anthony displayed aerial photographs looking north along the central corridor of the island. He pointed out various parcels of space currently protected, as well as the three farms earmarked in the acquisition effort. “Unless we act, our land will run out. We have to act now, because we won’t get a second chance with land,” Anthony said emphatically.

The land trust recognized Robert Sutton, Elizabeth Allen, and Mary Hutchinson, all retiring directors, for their hard work and dedication to the land trust during their years of involvement. Hutchinson also recognized Mary Webster, treasurer, for transferring the organization’s finances from paper to computer.

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