2010-05-06 / News

Gorgeous day draws volunteers to Godena Farm clean-up

By Liza Yorks

Last Saturday’s 70-degree temperature and sunny skies couldn’t help but boost the morale of the approximately 50 volunteers who spent the morning improving the landscape of the Godena Farm on North Main Road.

Organized by the Conanicut Island Land Trust, this was the first group clean-up of the Godena Farm, the organization’s most recent acquisition. Volunteers worked from approximately 9 a.m. to noon.

Formerly owned by the Godena family, the 24-acre farm was a joint gift and purchase by the Land Trust, an acquisition made final in July, 2009.

Saturday’s clean-up effort was the first step in making the land a safer haven for residents to come and enjoy.

Louis Godena was more than pleased with the diverse crowd and first-time volunteers that came to the event. He said he hopes to see more and more people become involved with the farm – and stay involved.

“I saw a lot of people up here who are obviously concerned about open space and preserving rural Jamestown,” he said. “We’re hoping that they’ll want to be a part of this from here on out.”

Land Trust board member Nick DiGiando, who owns and runs Atlantic Lawn and Garden in Jamestown, brought along 10 members of his crew to help out. But according to DiGiando, there’s still a lot of work to be done on the property.

“There’s more brush to remove and more barbed wire to take down,” he said.

Removing excess brush that blocked views of the picturesque landscape was first and foremost on the list of tasks set out by the trustees, according to board member Carol Nelson-Lee.

“[One of the projects] was to cut down all the trash trees so that people driving along North Road can see the beautiful view,” she said.

At the end of the day, volunteers had ripped down a 50-yearold shed, removed dangerous barbed wire and helped eradicate troublesome poison ivy, as well as several invasive plant species, including bittersweet, grapevine and autumn olive.

Though it required much physical effort, removing hazardous plants from the property was crucial to making the grounds a safer haven for future visitors, Nelson-Lee said. To do this, volunteers made good use of chainsaws, brush cutters, weed whackers, wood chippers, bolt cutters and leaf blowers.

“It’s so hard to cut down and drag [brush] out of here, but if you don’t do it, it will start growing everywhere,” said Land Trust President Quentin Anthony.

Once the clearing is complete, the Land Trust plans to build walking trails around the perimeter of the property, Anthony said. That project will begin sometime this year, after several more clean-up days.

“As you can see, we’ve only gotten started,” he said. “We’ve got a lot of unfinished business with the clearing.”

Anthony’s daughter, Abigail, also participated in Saturday’s clean-up efforts, mostly in support of her father, she said. Her hard work was evident in the many scratches on her arms caused by hours of clearing brush and bramble – an injury that she casually shrugged off.

“I didn’t really dress appropriately,” she said. “But [the scratches] will heal quickly.”

The probability of minor cuts from barbed wire and brush, along with contact with poison ivy, led Kat O’Neill, an EMT from Jamestown Emergency Medical Services, to volunteer. O’Neill brought along her first aid kit and treated volunteers as needed.

All in all, the day was a suc- cess, said board member Anne Hynes.

“I feel like we’ve made a lot of progress,” she said. “It’s just great to get out here and enjoy the open space.”

According to Godena, his father purchased the land in 1936. He then donated the property under the condition that the land would be kept as an open space – one that the community could enjoy amidst growing developments of homes and businesses in the surrounding area.

So what lies ahead for the Godena Farm?

Ten years from now, Godena said, the land will still be open space. He also hopes it will become an educational resource for residents, allowing those who are interested to become more involved with the ecology and agricultural history of Jamestown.

“Hopefully, it will become an integral part of not only Jamestown, but of Rhode Island as a whole,” he said.

To become a member or make a donation to the Conanicut Island Land Trust, visit www.co nanicutlandtrust.org.

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