2011-01-06 / Front Page

New conservation chair takes the helm

By Geoff Campbell

Carol Trocki Carol Trocki Carol Trocki served on the Jamestown Conservation Commission for the last six years, and her motivation to continue is fueled by her appreciation of the island’s beauty and its rural nature. It was for those reasons that Trocki was unanimously voted as the new chair during the commission’s Dec. 14 meeting, and her tenure began on Jan. 1 when the previous chair’s term expired.

“I could not have asked for a person with more qualifications or leadership skills,” said Chris Powell, who stepped down after chairing the commission for 26 years. “She will be tough and great for the position.”

After earning two bachelor degrees simultaneously as an undergraduate at the University of

Rhode Island – one in environmental science and management and the other in secondary science education – Trocki returned to school and earned her master’s degree in environmental science, wildlife and conservation biology.

Trocki’s master’s thesis – “Patterns of salt marsh and farmland use by wading birds in south- ern Rhode Island” – is further evidence that the Conservation Commission has placed a highly credentialed member of the commission in the chair’s seat.

Matching the appropriate use of land to a specific area is part of the commission’s advisory role, she said, adding that her position as chair is to “keep things moving forward.”

“The commission is a diverse group bringing some specialized skills,” she said. “It decides the direction with community input.”

The commission’s job is to promote and develop the natural resources, protect the watershed resources, and preserve the natural aesthetic areas of Jamestown.

In 2010, the Conservation Commission urged the Planning Commission to consider moving from cluster zoning to conservation development.

Trocki’s definition of conservation development was succinct: “Do all of the thoughtful planning up front.”

She believes that before conversations between owners and developers begin, the town should research and study the lands. For instance, she believes the town should study the terrain to find the steep slopes, find the parcel’s connection to the island’s watershed or wetlands, determine the location of unique arbor resources, and restructure the framework so that certain items are pulled off the table before project designs begin.

According to Trocki, by tackling the conservation element first, it can prevent the re-design of a project. If there is an element of a project that negatively affects the island’s land resources, the plan must be revisited. This would save significant money and time that is currently being wasted on initial designs.

She added that many Rhode Island communities are currently using conservation development and there is evidence that the method can prove efficient and cost effective.

Carol says that it was her sister Kristine, a Jamestown attorney, who first encouraged her to get involved in Jamestown committee work after Carol and her husband moved to the island in 2001. She joined the Conservation Commission in 2004.

Trocki grew up in Middletown and has had lifelong family ties to Rhode Island. She said that Jamestown is an “attractive, beautiful place to be” in part because it offers some isolation. She has taught a wildlife management course at URI for the past six years and her part-time teaching position allows her to consult with assorted land conservation organizations, including the Aquidneck Island Land Trust.

Her role as contract-research associate leads to long- and shortterm assignments on projects sponsored by universities and U.S. government agencies, such as the National Park Service.

In the Island Alliance Monitoring Project, Trocki helped to “develop coastal breeding bird monitoring protocol for Boston Harbor Islands National Park.” One of the challenges associated with the project is that the park, which has multiple islands, also has multiple owners. Therefore, the need for both collaborative and cooperative attitudes is essential to achieve the project’s goals.

She said the Boston Harbor Islands are underused and it is a common misconception to think of conserved lands or isolated parks as off limits. In fact, one role of a conservation biologist is to study the resources and inherent sensitivities of an area in order to determine the land’s most appropriate use, she says.

Trocki offered some examples: certain areas may be appropriate for recreational vehicles, walking dogs, or planting crops, and some as wildlife habitat with low accessibility.

In the case of the Boston Harbor Islands, individual islands are managed differently – some are historic and support school trips, while others are more remote and are accessible only to wildlife.

Trocki pointed out that people value open space for different reasons. Some people value the privacy that open space offers, while others think it should be available for public access.

When not otherwise engaged, Carol is also involved in the Conanicut Island Grower’s Group (CIGG), a farm viability spin-off from the Conanicut Grange. The work of the Grange and the CIGG is “closely tied” to the work of the Conservation Commission.

The CIGG meets monthly and holds public meetings in September thru May. Trocki said that the group was established after a 2004 farm viability study overseen by Bob Sutton. Sutton, a former Jamestown town manager and Town Council member, is the farm manager of the Jamestown Community Farm.

Trocki noted that opportunities lay ahead for the Conservation Commission that will include protecting and building on the conservation efforts that have been made so far.

In her first year as chair, some of the tasks facing her and the commission include creating and managing public access to appropriate open spaces, overseeing the maintenance of town-owned open-space lands, and exploring land acquisition of additional parcels. The commission will also advise the town regarding directional stewardship of its natural resources.

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