Clarkson Collins, SKLT Land Management Director and past trustee, honored our founders at the 2018 Great Outdoors Celebration and Auction
During mid-1970’s rapid residential development and population growth, declines in water quality in South Kingstown’s fresh water and estuarine water bodies, and dramatic losses of farmland led the Town Council and Planning Board to adopt the 1976 Environmental Master Plan. This Plan introduced a more organized response to growing environmental concerns into town policies. Included was substantial reductions in zoning densities in environmentally sensitive areas.
During this period the Graduate School of Oceanography and other departments at URI began a multi-disciplinary study of the effects and threats of development to salt ponds and their surrounding watersheds. Analysis showed that groundwater flow containing nitrogen and other inputs from septic systems throughout the watersheds were causing eutrophication and bacterial contamination.
More alarmingly, it appeared even with tighter land use controls, groundwater pollution could rise to levels that would threaten the ponds’ ecosystems and endanger the quality and supply of public water systems and private wells. Economic analyses had also indicated that the municipal costs of servicing new residential development in suburban settings would exceed the real estate tax income.
In 1982, The Town Planning Board chairman Ivory Littlefield organized a public meeting to introduce a new concept in environmental resource protection: the “Land Trust.” Bob LeMire of the Lincoln Massachusetts Land Trust, came and presented introducing the idea of creating a private, non-profit charitable organization that supplements the town’s land use policies by acquiring and permanently protecting critical resource lands.
Soon afterwards, the legal documents creating the South Kingstown Land Trust were signed, by our Founding members:
Inspired the creation of SKLT, organized a public informational meeting introducing the concept of a non-profit charity to assist in the town and other public and private organizations in protecting S.K.’s vital natural resources.
Helena Hope Gammell
A firebrand for the protection of the unique hill country in Matunuck and Perryville, she was a strong disciplinarian to our group and a crafty strategist. Her stated goal was to “Take over the World starting with Perryville.” She gave us our first land donation of 3 acres, and continued for the next 16 years to increase Perryville holdings to 450 acres.
Ginny Kittredge acted as our group’s eyes and ears about potential acquisitions and promoting conservation in the unique Matunuck Hills area, and served as secretary. Much of this land has been preserved by The Nature Conservancy in cooperation with SKLT.
Edward M. Watson
Our trusted legal specialist, whose dependable, carefully weighed advice was invaluable in making our fledgling organization legally viable, filing its papers in timely fashion, and otherwise “keeping us all out of jail,” and “putting us on the map” relative to state conservation organizations and activities.
Roger Freeman took on the considerable duties of Treasurer with seriousness and dedication, and in those days before lap-tops and quick books ruled our finances out of long, black check books and ledgers. He also maintained our membership and donors lists. While he might have been sparing in disbursing funds for operational activities, he tirelessly promoted SKLT’s efforts to gain new members and their annual dues. From 1983 to the end of his tenure SKLT had grown from eight to two hundred members. I believe he would be very pleased by today’s much expanded membership and over 850 active financial supporters.
A Former Town Councilman, Tony helped expand the Land Trust’s appeal to broader groups and neighborhoods in town. As owner of Palisades Industries and owner of the historic Narragansett Pier Railroad right-of-way, he held a vision of creating the South County Bikeway. His tenacity was rewarded in 2000 when the State of Rhode Island Department of Transportation acquired the right of way to implement the Rails to Trails program. Today it is one of South Kingstown’s premiere outdoor recreation facilities.
35 years strong, we celebrate SKLT’s forward-looking founders and have followed their lead from Miss Gammell’s three-acre Susanna’s Woods donation to today’s 2,825-plus acre holdings, including fifteen-plus miles of publicly accessible trails, and hundreds of acres of active farms. We honor their accomplishments with the presentation of a commemorative plaque by our executive director Julia Landstreet.
Visit the Barn at 17 Matunuck Beach Road to see the commemorative plaque gracing the front doors.