The Aquidneck Land Trust was founded in 1990, and since then, has become one of the largest and most active land trust organizations in Rhode Island. Throughout summer, they host trolley tours to showcase their gorgeous preserved properties and also discuss their varied conservation strategies. Our first stop was to a Newport Vineyards property, located off of East Main Rd. in Middletown. In addition to having a vineyard on site, the land is also part of the Sakonnet Greenway Trail, a public nature trail that winds its way through recreational areas, forests, active farms, and wetlands.
We then visited St. Mary’s, a property they hope to acquire one day. The Land Trust’s future plans for this site include farming part of it, and opening a community learning center for agriculture and sustainability.
Our last stop was to Sweet Berry Farm in Middletown where we were given an inspiring talk by the owners, Jan and Michelle Eckhart. They told us that without the Aquidneck Land Trust’s assistance, they would not have enough farmland to grow all the crops that have allowed them to diversify and run a sustainable business. The Aquidneck Island Land trusts conserves these properties through conservation easements – legal agreements that limit future development, but allow the owner to maintain the title to the land. There are several types of conservation easements that place differing levels of restriction on land use. These landowners can receive significant tax deductions through conservation easements, and is sometimes the only way they can afford to keep it.
In addition to the gorgeous views of these open spaces, I was also incredibly inspired by the creative ways the Aquidneck Land Trust protects and promotes these properties, conserving them indefinitely for farming, recreation, water quality protection, and wildlife habitat – all to the benefit of locals and tourists alike.