2017-05-18 / Opinion


Don't Let Spruce Acres Fall to Developers

To the Editor:

It’s a short drive from Newport to Middletown, but for a child growing up in the 1960s it felt like a journey to another world whenever we left town to visit my grandparents, Gabriel and Mary Rego, out in “the country.”

Our drive took various routes, all with scenic vistas. We drove by Aquidneck Avenue and the corner of Green End Avenue, where my mother told us about the horses that used to be in the field when she was a child. It was a sleepy country corner, with no stoplight and only one building at the intersection. Today, it’s the Polo Center development, office buildings, a bank, restaurant, gas station and large parking lot. The busy traffic-congested intersection that it has become now was unimaginable to us back then. Little did we know how closely Joni Mitchell’s iconic hit song foreshadowed what was soon to occur all over our island: “Don't it always seem to go that you don't know what you've got ‘til it's gone. They paved paradise and put up a parking lot”… and shopping malls, industrial parks, office buildings, restaurants, houses, developments and more pavement.

All along the route to my grandparents were farms, fields and open space, not many buildings at all. Once on Mitchell’s Lane, we went by my grandparents’ old farmhouse, the former hub of their 100-acre potato farm, and pulled into the driveway of their new little ranch house. Always the farmer, he kept a retirement sized potato farm of seven acres and a large kitchen garden.

When my grandfather sold his original farm, he wanted the land to remain farmland. For many years it did, but then development pressures increased and the land was close to becoming subdivided for another housing development. Fortunately, the Aquidneck Land Trust stepped in and helped preserve his former farm as open space by negotiating a conservation easement on the property. The land, although no longer a working farm, is now part of the Newport National Golf course and will remain open space in perpetuity.

Just up the road from my grandfather’s former farm is another farm being threatened by development pressures, Spruce Acres. This time the Aquidneck Land Trust has the chance to buy the property and keep it as a working farm, education center and headquarters for their conservation organization. But they need our help to raise the funds to purchase the property. With the purchase of Spruce Acres our island community has a great opportunity to bring access to farmland, open space and environmental education to current and future generations, plus provide additional protection to the Sisson Pond watershed and extend the Center Island Greenway. Time is running out. The remaining funds need to be raised by June 30 or this prime farmland will be lost to development. Please join in protecting the island we all love by making a donation today to the Aquidneck Island Land Trust to help save Spruce Acres.

Katherine Carbone

A Great Opportunity

To the Editor:

In response to the letter published May 11 from Jack Milburn:

Jack, thank you for writing about your concerns regarding the Opera House fundraiser held on May 5. It gives us an opportunity to clarify some misinformation. On the surface, it looks like Russell Morin Catering & Events is an outsider stealing business from locals. This is far from the truth. Our company works in many different marketplaces. Even though we are headquartered in Attleboro, Mass., approximately 300 of our 400 employees live in Rhode Island. Many of these employees enjoy some of the most generous benefits in the hospitality industry and work events for us in Rhode Island, Massachusetts and Connecticut. In addition, we pay Rhode Island income and payroll tax in amounts that probably total more than the next three caterers combined. One of the four corporate owners lives in Bristol and two of our businesses, CRU Café and Hospitality Solutions, are both headquartered in Newport and are incorporated in Rhode Island.

Our Newport office, VUE, which you call a “closet,” is actually a 3,000-square-foot space in which we invested approximately $250,000 and pay significant rent to R.I. owners. The space acts as a venue, sales office and tasting kitchen, and employs four full-time Newport residents. Next door at our café, CRU, we employee 16, all R.I. residents. We have always believed in supporting all the communities we work and live in. The list of organizations we contribute to in Newport and all of R.I. is too lengthy to even list here.

We are deeply engrained in the Newport community by employing its talented residents, supporting its non-profit organizations and by using our local expertise to effectively support hundreds of Newport events per year.

Regarding the Opera House event specifically, it was bid on by four caterers and three lighting design firms. We were selected as the lowest bidder with the highest value. The Opera House budget was even lower than our bid and we found a way to accommodate it. In addition, we donated three living statues from Ten31 productions to improve the ambiance of the event and further support the Arts.

Jack, thank you for submitting your letter. It was a great opportunity to clarify our company’s role within our community.

Russell Morin
Russell Morin Catering & Events

What Happened to the Lawn?

To the Editor:

I just wanted to thank those “Islanders” who over the years planted pink flowering ornamental trees in their yards. This is the time of the year when those masses of pink flowers add so much to our beautiful city streets and vistas. With a cool spring, perhaps we might get a few more days of the joy they create. Again, thank you!

On a more somber note, I am disappointed in the appearance of Queen Anne Square this spring. The grass appears very distressed, with areas growing more dandelions and other weeds than lawn itself. I know it must be difficult to nurture the lawn areas when those areas are so well used by locals and visitors, but if the weeds were not allowed to grow, then perhaps the existing grass would have a better chance to thrive. I thought that there was a special committee that was to oversee the square? I would not expect the lawn in the square to look like an ad for Scott’s lawn products, but it certainly should look better that it does now.

Federico Santi

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