Conservationists support Scout project to clean Hammond Pond
Islander James Lawless, who is working on his Eagle Scout badge, described his project to the commission. He asked for permission to use boats to clear the water of sticks and trash.
The pond is part of the protected land known as the tax lots, according to environmental scientist Justin Jobin, and the commissioners serve as stewards to the parcels located in the Jamestown Shores neighborhood. Jobin said he would study the area’s management plan to verify the project would not violate any of the stipulations.
Commissioner Kate Smith, who serves as liaison to the tax lots, said she would also check the plan. She doesn’t think the Eagle Scout project would pose a problem.
Lawless said his family, other Boy Scouts and local conservationist Chris Powell will provide the labor. Besides the cleanup, the job will also include demolishing and rebuilding the fence around the pond, installing a new gate and sign, trimming bushes and low-hanging branches to improve the view, and spreading additional gravel in the parking area in front of the fence.
Jobin asked the commissioners how much permission Lawless would need before he could start the project. The Conanicut Island Land Trust, for example, holds an easement on the tax lots.
“Who would have to sign off?” Jobin asked.
“The stakeholders,” Commissioner Michael Brown replied.
Commissioner Anne Kuhn- Hines, who was presiding over the meeting in the absence of Chairwoman Maureen Coleman, suggested notifying the abutters. She also wanted to know if the benches by the pond are in good shape.
“Yes,” Lawless replied, but added some repairs might be required.
Brown looked over the management plan while Lawless was discussing his ideas. “What he wants to do is in concert with the plan,” he said.
Asked about financing, Lawless said Home Depot and Lowe’s in the past have donated materials for Eagle Scout projects. Powell also suggested applying to the commission for financial assistance, but Lawless planned to explore other options first.
“Then the commission could vote at our next meeting to talk about kicking in,” she said.
Commissioner Ted Smayda suggested Lawless could speak to the members of the neighborhood association about assistance “since it’s in their backyard.”
“We like the project,” Brown said. “We think it’s OK.”
The commissioners also considered a bid to link the Eagle Scout project to the ongoing effort to protect the tax lots. They are planning to post signs to identify the property as conservation land.
Jobin reported the town has received 200 new signs that are ready to be posted when weather permits. He intends to do the physical labor installing the signs, and will also document their locations with photographs and GPS coordinates.
“Obviously, every lot is not going to have a sign,” he said.
Brown asked if Jobin planned to tack the signs to trees.
Jobin replied some signs would go on nearby trees, but the town will also purchase metal posts to use for about 55 signs. The metal stakes are 6 feet tall, and will be sunk 2 feet into the ground.
Previously, the Conservation Commission had discussed organizing volunteers to help post the signs, but Jobin said the plan would complicate his work. He would then have to find the signs and document their locations.
“The staff can do better inhouse,” he said.
“If you guys put them up, I’m tasked with finding them,” said Jobin, adding that some of the tax lots are located in remote spots.
Being a collaborative effort, Jobin continued, he could see value in publicizing a news story about posting the signs. Jamestown Shores resident Jim Tureen suggested a photo op, and that led to an idea about organizing a kickoff event at Hammond Pond in connection with Lawless’ project. The land trust and Jamestown Shores Association would be invited to attend, Jobin said.
Brown asked about past media coverage.
There has been some coverage, Jobin said, but not for the past year.
Smith asked if Jobin planned to install the signs first and then schedule an event for press coverage.
“Our time line’s flexible,” he said. “We haven’t ordered the posts yet.”
He estimated the signs would probably not be installed until April.
In other business, the commissioners voted to send a letter to the Coastal Resources Management Council stating concerns about an application from Charles Richardson of 466 East Shore Road. Richardson is seeking permission to build a “shoreline protection facility” with 205 feet of riprap.
“We could comment on this project,” Brown said.
He conceded the commissioners were not engineers, but they could still point out the plan has an “awful lot of hardscaping.”
It was troubling, he continued, because it was “coming on the heels” of other projects approved by the state while its less stringent assent procedure was in effect following Hurricane Sandy. According to Brown, this project, though not requested as an emergency, looked like more of the same.
Smith asked the commissioners about waiting for Coleman’s return to send the letter, but Kuhn- Hines said the members could write a draft saying they “have some concerns about the amount of hardscaping.”
Ultimately, the commissioners voted to write the letter and send it to the state’s coastal council without any delay, since the deadline for comments actually expired March 5.
The commissioners also voted to discuss at their next meeting issues about CRMC communications, since the commissioners typically receive notices passed the comment deadline.