2011-03-31 / News

Conanicut Grange Report

By Bob Sutton

Twenty-five years ago, Jerry McIntyre, who was the Jamestown Town Council president, sat down with the attorney for the owner of the Jamestown Country Club and successfully negotiated a purchase price of $2.1 million for the town’s acquisition of the 76-acre golf course.

The owner of the course had been seriously discussing the subdivision of the golf course land into house lots. The overwhelming sense of the community was that the golf course should be saved, but earlier town discussions with the owner had been unsuccessful in reaching any agreement.

McIntyre’s negotiations were successful and on Dec. 22, 1986, over 400 residents attended a special Financial Town Meeting at the school and unanimously approved the acquisition of the property. At the end of the meeting, residents wished each other Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays and all believed they had just given a great gift to each other and to the future residents of our community.

Well, not quite all. One, less cheerful resident unconvinced by the unanimity of the voice vote told the town administrator after the meeting that it was a mistake and if the vote had been by secret ballot, “It would have gone the other way.”

Author Wendell Berry writes in “Property, Patriotism and National Defense” that sense of community comes from a common understanding of its residents that their community “must be generally loved and competently cared for by its people, who individually, identify their own interest with the interest of their neighbors.”

Jamestown residents have always had a strong sense of community as it relates to both the protection of its land and natural environment and the overall quality of life on the island. For example: In the 1960s, individual residents successfully fought the construction of an oil refinery and oil tank storage area at the north end. The protection of the land and lighthouse at Beavertail and the creation of Beavertail State Park in mid-1970 began as an initiative by the community of Jamestown to save and protect this beautiful coastal land and historical infrastructure that had been abandoned by the military. The permanent protection from development of hundreds of acres of farmland was initiated by private citizens donating their farmland and residents voting to purchase agricultural development rights on other farms. This “sense of place” and perspective have kept Jamestown dynamic, unique and interesting over long periods of time.

Local churches, service organizations, medical center, attorneys, newspaper and responsive local government provide the structural support within which our human community confronts and solves its problems and catastrophes, both big and small. Additionally, islanders organize themselves around activities that are inclusive and that emphasize this sense of Jamestown as a place for human involvement: Community Theater, Community Chorus, Community Band, Community Farm, Community Art Association and a Community Piano. Jamestown has a local hardware store, drug store, gift shops, markets, flower shop, barber shops, hair salons, bank, coffee shops, pizza shops, marinas, restaurants, taverns and farms. About 10 years ago it was rumored that Dunkin Donuts might open a shop at East Ferry. Whether the rumor had any reality attached was never clear because the human outcry of opposition to even consider an idea so contrary to the nature and sense of community of Jamestown, extinguished all hope for success, immediately.

There is currently a popular mantra that advises us to “think globally, act locally.” Toward that end, James Howard Kunstler in his book “The Geography of Nowhere” cautions us all that a “community is not something you have like a pizza. Nor is it something you can buy, as visitors to Disneyland and Williamsburg discover. It is a living organism based on a web of interdependence – which is to say a local economy.”

For us in Jamestown it suggests that we participate not only as volunteers but also as consumers. When we buy from the local hardware store, order a local pizza or purchase fresh produce from the local farms, we build and strengthen our island community.

Outstanding in the Field

The Jamestown Chamber of Commerce has been an active participant in the quality of life in Jamestown over the years. Most recently they provided funding for the clearing of brush and trees along the historic stonewalls of the Watson Farm. The Conanicut Island Land Trust funded similar projects along the Neale, Hodgkiss and Godena Farms. Additionally, the past couple of weeks the town’s Public Works Department has cleared the brush and trees along the reservoir stonewalls and all along North Road. These clearing projects provide all of us new farm and open space vistas, a renewed appreciation for the beauty of Conanicut Island, and a clear view of life out standing in the field.

What’s available in Jamestown?

Dutra Farm: Hay, 42 Weeden Lane, 662-5686

Hodgkiss Farm: Closed for the season

Watson Farm: Grass-fed Red Devon Beef, lamb, Conanicut Island and Rhody warm wool blankets, 455 North Main Road, 423-0005, open Thursdays, 3 to 6 p.m.

Windmist Farm: Grass-fed beef and pork products, eggs. 71 Weeden Lane, open Fridays, 3 to 6 p.m., and Saturdays, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Coastal Growers Winter Farmers’ Market: North Kingstown, 650 Ten Rod Road, open Saturdays, 10 a.m. to 1 p.m.

Return to top