2013-07-18 / News

Conservation panel discusses making its trail guide electronic

By Margo Sullivan

Visitors to the Beavertail Lighthouse Museum are snapping up the Conservation Commission’s trail guides, according to Commissioner Ted Smayda.

Smayda delivers the guides to several stores in Jamestown, including Cumberland Farms, but this summer is the first time the guides have gone on sale at the museum. He was pleased with the response, he told the commissioners at their July 11 meeting. In just the first week, he provided the museum with 33 trail guides.

The Conservation Commission recently paid Meridian Press about $2,000 to reprint the trail guides, so the inventory did not run out, Smayda said. As a result of the expenditure, the balance in the guide account has dropped to about $629, but the money from new sales has already started flowing in. According to Smayda, so far this season he has deposited $82 in the account.

The trail guides cost a dollar, and people may purchase them partly to have a Jamestown map, he said.

“The trail guide is fulfilling a purpose other than a good guide to the trails,” Smayda said. “They don’t really have a map, so the trail guide is serving as a map as well.”

Beavertail is the “perfect place” to sell trail guides, said Chairwoman Maureen Coleman. “It’s a great idea.”

She commended Smayda for zeroing in on the guide’s target audience.

“I had one other map-related thought,” she added, which she is borrowing from a work experience creating an app. The process was no more complicated than using Google Maps, she said, and suggested the commissioners could “pretty easily” come up with an application showing points of conservation interest around the island.

“It wouldn’t look like the map we have,” she said, “but it might supplement it.”

For example, visitors could use the app to locate parking for the conservation properties, and the app could also include the Jamestown rights-of-way. At the very least, she said, the app would inform people where to begin exploring conservation land and trails in Jamestown.

In other business, Coleman alerted the commissioners about developments in the state General Assembly, which may change the rules about wetlands setbacks. The legislators may establish a uniformed statewide standard to simplify the permitting process for developers and foster economic growth. Currently, the state requires minimum 50-foot setbacks from wetlands, but the local communities can require longer setbacks. Jamestown’s setback, for example, is 150 feet.

However, the state could decide to make a 50-foot setback the maximum in every Rhode Island community, Coleman said. If that happens, Jamestown’s wetlands would be adversely affected.

Coleman also reported she has received numerous telephone complaints about people “trampling” the dunes at Mackerel Cove Town Beach.

Earlier, the commissioners decided not to plant grasses on the dunes this summer and wait instead until the fall. But now, the panel might also want to plant some signs by the dunes and alert people not to walk on them.

“We used to have signs,” Coleman said. “Ideally, we want fencing.”

The problem with fencing is that it would require approval from the Coastal Resources Management Council.

Also on the agenda, the town is still in the process of ordering signs to identify the Jamestown Shores tax lots, she reported.

“The town needs to place the order,” Coleman said.

The town also need to manage the logistics of posting the signs, but she anticipates the delay will not be too long.

Tax lots, which are largely wetlands and unbuildable, have been placed under an easement to the Conanicut Island Land Trust. The goal is to protect the water supply in the Shores. The town still owns the lots, however, and the Conservation Commission has assumed some oversight responsibilities. Recently, the commissioners sent a letter to abutters to explain why the tax lots were being protected.

“There are two properties that had encroachments,” Coleman said. In one case, someone was seen cutting illegally on the tax lot. No action has been taken yet, she said, but the town will have to resolve the problems.

Commissioner George Souza, who is the liaison to the Harbor Commission, advised the panel about conservation issues related to the proposed Conanicut Marine expansion.

“There is a small patch of eelgrass to the south,” he said, right next to the expansion area.

Souza said the harbor commissioners and marina owner Bill Munger discussed the situation at their June meeting and were aware of the environmental issues.

“It was really good how sensitive everyone was,” he said.

Finally, the commissioners brainstormed topics for a new monthly column they will write for the Jamestown Press. Coleman said the newspaper editor has suggested focusing on topics that are timely, interesting and relevant. The commissioners narrowed the topics for the August column down to a choice between the Round Marsh restoration and the status of the Mackerel Cove barrier beach dunes.

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