June 16, 2024

Adventure Awaits Journeyers

Discovering the World Anew

Glocester Land Trust launches ‘eco-tourism’ initiative with youth art, mountain bike trails and more

4 min read

GLOCESTER – The Glocester Land Trust is busy – not just making the public lands more accessible – but making them more inviting and interesting, as well.

That includes helping to make youngsters more aware of what nature has to offer by partnering with Listen to Your Art to provide a series of programs designed to get kids involved in the great outdoors. Students at Listen to Your Art, an independent art studio located on Tourtellote Hill Road, Chepachet, designed and built birdhouses, which kids then painted with faces and different designs. Many of the creations have already been mounted in various places at the Hawkins’ Pond Land Trust property on Putnam Pike, near the Connecticut line. The plan is to also send kids on a hunt to locate the decorative birdhouses.

Birdhouses built and painted by students with Listen to Your Art are being mounted in various places around the Hawkins Pond property for kids and adults alike to discover. NRI NOW photo by Dick Martin

“We’ll put these up, take a picture and let the kids try to find them,” explained John Pitocco, vice chairman of the Land Trust. “It’s a way to get the kids to explore and introduce them to nature.”

Pitocco and his family were camping in South County where they discovered a number of sculptures on the properties there, along with other intriguing ideas, leading to some ideas of their own.

 “The other thing we have are these gnome doors,” he said. “At the South Kingstown place, they had an area like a fairy garden; so, we’re kind of recreating that so kids can go in there, walk between the trees and enjoy that experience. There will be little archways and signs for kids to enjoy and explore.”

But that’s not all. Listen to Your Art director Crystal Lee-Trudeau, a certified elementary school teacher, and her students will also create and paint a variety of squirrels to be placed throughout the area for kids to find.

“It is a great way to engage the public and to kind of bring art and nature together,” Pitocco explained.

The Hawkins’ property seemed the ideal location for the project, given its openness and easy trails, he said, as well as a park-like area for the public.

“We view this as the most family friendly area,” said Pitocco. “The trails are short. You can come here and go fishing. There are picnic tables, a fireplace, the pavilion. We’re really proud of it. We’ve done a lot of work here.”

According to the Land Trust website, Hawkins’ Pond, nearly 10 acres in extent, and its system of streams are the most prominent features of this 75-acre site. There are also areas of mature pine forest, with some tree exceeding 75 feet in height. At the upper northeast end of the pond, there are extensive wetlands, which support an impressive variety of plant species. Below the spillway are numerous natural seeps, which have been enhanced by the impounding of the pond to a depth exceeding 22 feet. These seeps cause local variation in the habitat for both plants and animals within a relatively small area, and they support a diversity of ferns and flowering plants which bloom in succession from early spring well into the summer.

The 10 acre pond and walking trails, as well as other amenities at Hawkins Land Trust on Putnam Pike in West Glocester offers a variety of possibilities for visitors. NRI NOW photo by Dick Martin

The pond features an abundance of fish and waterfowl, and its environs are frequented by deer, fox, coyotes, porcupines, raccoons, otters, muskrats, woodchucks, and opossum. Pheasant and partridge are present, and wild turkey thrive at the pond.

Another plan to encourage people to make use of the more than 2,500 acres of Land Trust property in the town is the construction of mountain bike trails on the Sprague Farm property, also in West Glocester, which includes more than 247 acres in addition to adjoining properties: the Coleman, Huckins, Kilmartin, and Desnoyers Woodlands, which together encompass more than 985 acres.

“You can bike on trails in Sprague now, but the new trails will be dedicated mountain bike trails with different features on them, which mountain bike people find exciting,” Pitocco explained.

Some of the work will, hopefully, be financed by grants from the New England Mountain Bike Association. The Land Trust is partnering with the Rhode Island Chapter of the Association in applying for the grant.

Part of the plan includes encouraging people to not only make use of the properties, but to invite them to make use of local businesses and bring more customers into the town.

“They’ll go riding, then maybe they’ll go into the village, do some shopping, and maybe get something to eat,” said Pitocco. “This is all part of a larger plan to helped promote the town as an eco-tourist destination, where people come to the town to enjoy our amazing natural beauty and activities, and then hopefully discover other parts of the town, such as the village, restaurants, etc.”

Pitocco added that the Land Trust is open to partnering with other groups to provide family events or other similar activities on the organization’s land.

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