SOUTH KINGSTOWN – The South Kingstown Land Trust (SKLT) is stepping up its fundraising efforts as the deadline to raise $125,000 to purchase the land they have waited six years to purchase at the Bud Browning Farm at 1176 Post Road.
As of early January, the South Kingstown Land Trust, the 501(c)3 nonprofit designated for the conservation and protection of natural resources and open spaces in town has raised just over $45,000 for the purchase of the conservation easement on the farmland. Yet, the land trust needs an additional $80,000 from private funds by March 31 to secure the deal.
It is crunch time for the South Kingstown Land Trust. To make it happen, the Land Trust will need larger donations and faster pledges.
In August, the Land Trust signed a purchase and sales agreement for a conservation easement on the property in order to protect the 14 acres of farmland there. This has been the third bid with the most recent bid in 2008 that the Land Trust has made on the farmstead after former owner Edward C. “Bud” Browning passed away in April 2005 and the estate was split equally between his two sons John and Perry Browning and longtime companion Roberta Mulholland. After disputes between the three estate owners on the future of the land prevented the Land Trust from purchasing the property in the past, this is the closest the Land Trust has come.
The Land Trust has sought the farmstead for so long because of its rare qualities. Two-thirds of the property contains farm soils of statewide importance, including Enfield and Bridgehampton silt loam. The property can provide an open space corridor with the 55 acre Bayfield Farm to the north, adjacent to the 18 acre Rocky Meadows Farm, which are both protected by the Land Trust. Lastly, the pasture can once again become home to cows, goats and sheep as the Land Trust works with a prospective buyer who would return the pasture to productive use with animals.
In their fight to protect the land, the Land Trust hopes to prevent it from being taken over by development. If the land is developed, there will likely be seven new driveways along Jerry Brown Farm Road, impeding runners and dog walkers and increasing traffic along the quiet Matunuck countryside, Jerry Brown Farm Road neighbor Alison Burnep said.
“If the project doesn’t go through, we don’t know if it’ll happen in the future. Maybe there won’t be another shot,” Land Trust Director Joanne Riccitelli said. “The economy does look like its improving. There is activity of subdivision proposals. There are things starting to happen now.”
The price for the easement is $485,000. To complete the purchase, the Land Trust requested $380,000 from the town and federal government, including $100,000 from town bonds and $280,000 from the USDA Farmland Program. Riccitelli was confident in the federal bond, but has her doubts whether the South Kingstown bond will come through.
“I’m not sure if they want to support it. In previous years, with more money, it was a sure thing, but now the town wants to be the funding source of last resort. They don’t have much money left from bonds. They’ll be conserving what money they have,” Riccitelli said.
If the town does approve a bond, the Land Trust expects a public hearing to be held in February.
Keeping this in mind, Riccitelli said the Land Trust is depending on the Jerry Brown Farm Road neighborhood and Land Trust donors to raise the additional $125,000 in private funds.
“We people tend to care enough about the property to protect in their own backyards. It’s going to come down to the neighborhood from the people who drive by each day and appreciate the views,” Riccitelli said.
Those who do appreciate the farmstead views include Jerry Brown Farm Road neighbors and Land Trust members who showed up in solidarity on Sunday at Weeden Farm in Matunuck to find a way to double their efforts to save the land from development. To show their commitment, many members doubled their pledges after the meeting.
“We drive down Jerry Brown Farm Road every day. It’s a great entry way into the entire neighborhood. People come down the road and see two farms on either side,” Rick Rakauskas said.
“Matunuck is really special. It hasn’t changed a great deal because people here appreciate it,” Joan Youngken said. “If we start losing more land to development, we’ll lose something really precious. Many of the families here are rooted by family tradition because of the land, water and walls. We can’t start losing that piece by piece.”
“It’s part of Matunuck’s sense of place. Any farmland is worth saving,” Richard Youngken, Land Trust Board member and Historic District Commissioner said. “The benefit we’ve had from the Land Trust is enormous in saving the landscape and character of the town.”
On Sunday, the Jerry Brown Farm Road community decided to collaborate on large wooden cow cutouts that could say “Help Save the Farm” to attract the attention of drivers, an idea borrowed from Jamestown’s land trust organization. The cows would either be placed on the estate, if the estate holders allow it or on Kettle Pond Road after a neighbor volunteered her property.
To contact the Land Trust, call Riccitelli at 789-0962 or visit 313 Main Street, Suite C, Wakefield.