Land Trust’s table is full with plans to transform Godena Farm
When the Conanicut Island Land Trust began its process to transform Godena Farm into a community asset two years ago, it knew it wasn’t taking on a small task. There were a countless number of invasive plants spread across the land, and an estimated 50 miles of rusty barbwire encased the farm – that’s basically the distance from Jamestown to Mohegan Sun.
Along with 75 volunteers, the Land Trust’s board of directors began its work in 2010 on the two parcels of land that make up Godena Farm: 23 acres of mostly pasture on the east side of North Road, and another couple of acres on the west side. The west side consists of a modest 19th century farming home, a number of woodsheds and a large barn.
They eradicated the invasive plants and stripped down the desolate barbwire. They spent four hours planting 10,000 daffodils on a cold November day. They built a grape arbor, put up kestrel boxes and erected homes for the bluebirds. And just last summer, with the help of the Boy Scouts, 30 apple trees were planted. Godena Farm, thanks to the Land Trust, was now home to an apple orchard.
While there has been much improvement, the Land Trust says there is still work to do. On May 19, the Trust is looking for volunteers for its planting day. The event will take place from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. and the group plans to plant about 1,000 shrubs. According to board member Carol Nelson-Lee, there will be no backbreaking work. The soil will be prepared and the holes will have already been dug. “If you can clean up a beach, you’re strong enough for this project,” she said. The Trust will provide a lunch of hot dogs, hamburgers, soda and potato chips for all volunteers.
Another project on the group’s agenda is to build a parking lot on the east side of North Road. Currently, there is no room for parking at the farm. And because it is located on either side of North Road, there is a safety concern that comes along with the dangers of parking on the narrow country road.
The parking lot wouldn’t be a colossal project. The proposed area would be about 100 feet by 100 feet. Workers would first have to tear down a section of the stone wall along North Road so cars could enter. Then 8 inches of topsoil would be replaced with processed gravel, which would make the parking lot useable during all weather conditions.
“It is our goal to create a place where everyone in the town can connect with nature and appreciate its complex relationships,” said Land Trust President Quentin Anthony.
But the parking lot and planting day aren’t the only projects on the Land Trust’s radar. The group would also like to see signage along the trails. The Trust believes that in order for the trails to be a “first-rate educational experience,” 10 to 20 informative signs should be erected along the paths. Each marker would explain in detail the roles that the various shrubs play in the lives of the animals that call Godena Farm home.
As with any outdoor signs that are subject to the occasionally harsh New England winters, the markers must be sturdy – and these types of signs can be expensive.
The trail system that the signs would be placed on is one of the bigger steps in the transformation of the farm into an educational and recreational center for the community. Recently, the Land Trust secured a $27,000 grant from the Natural Resources Conservation Service. According to Anthony, the grant will be paid out in stages as the Trust works on the projects spelled out in the grant. It will take about three years to complete the plan.
Anthony says that the federal grant focuses on three broad categories. First, the Land Trust will plant approximately three acres of warm season grasses and native wild flowers. The grant also requires the group to expand the size of an existing grove of trees in the middle of the property.
“Finally,” said Anthony, “the NRCS is making a strong financial contribution to the Land Trust trail project involving natives species such as viburnums, blueberries, elderberries and other fruit-producing shrubs.”
The Land Trust has been working for about one year on raising funds for the educational trail that will run through the center of the property. Along with the grant from the NRCS, about $10,000 was raised through community donations.
The Conanicut Island Land Trust purchased the Godena Farm in 2009 for $375,000. It is one of 81 properties that the Trust either owns outright or is subject to a conservation easement. The 81 properties add up to about 430 acres in Jamestown. There was more than one reason why the Trust was interested in purchasing the farm. One reason was because of its close proximity to the Jamestown Shores, which is home to about 3,000 residents. Also, the Trust believes that the farm is in a unique location. Because it is at a high point of the island, it provides views of the East Passage. Also, it consists mostly of open fields, and only a handful of homes surround the property.
The Land Trust, with no paid staff, hopes to turn the farm into a center for educational experience in Jamestown. It hopes that on May 19 – planting day – islanders can help turn that dream into realty.