2017-03-23 / Opinion


Conservation Effort Gets Extension

To the Editor:

The citizens of Aquidneck Island are coming together to help save another key parcel of land to maintain our island’s character, ecology, quality of life and economy. Roughly a year ago, the Aquidneck Land Trust began working with the Deveau family to preserve Spruce Acres Farm, a centrally-located property on the Middletown/ Portsmouth line. The brilliant and rich 23-acre parcel abuts other conserved properties and is part of the Sisson Pond watershed, an important water source for the island. If conserved, it would enlarge the Center Island Greenway, a protected corridor of habitat and farmland, and provide two miles of nature trails and other open space assets to our community.

ALT has received a one-time extension to the original date of March 31, 2017 to purchase Spruce Acres and now has until June 30 to achieve this goal. Over $1.6 million has been raised toward the $2.1 million needed to permanently conserve the property. Individual donors have given over $700,000, and the Rhode Island Agricultural Preservation Commission and the towns of Middletown and Portsmouth have each given $300,000. Thanks to three local donors, the EJMP Fund for Philanthropy, BankNewport and Bafflin Foundations, ALT has created a $100,000 challenge grant to encourage all community members to contribute. Support for this challenge is strong; over $17,000 was raised in the first 48 hours.

We need your help saving the island we love. The time is now and the need is urgent; we must raise the remaining money – nearly $500,000 – in less than four months. Once a farm is developed it will never again be a farm; once a watershed is compromised, the community pays the price forever. In a time when distractions grow by the hour, publicly accessible land of this quality is a true community asset. All island residents and visitors will all have this natural habitat to enjoy. I ask my island friends and neighbors to consider making a donation to save Spruce Acres Farm. Every gift matters and will move us closer to this worthy goal. Thank you.

Taylor Rock
Chair, Board of Trustees
Aquidneck Land Trust

True Preservation Appears Lost

To the Editor:

For the past many months, I have followed the arguments, letters and legal proceedings for and against building the proposed Breakers welcome center on the immediate grounds of the property. I now understand that the project and its ensuing demolition are close to starting. With the objectivity that distance allows, I can only conclude that by moving forward in this way, the Preservation Society for Newport County has very much strayed from its primary mission to preserve and protect this incredible property.

Dollars are incredibly important to the sustainability of any nonprofit organization. But they should never come at the expense of the organization’s primary mission. In this case, isn’t that to preserve and protect the integrity of the Breakers and its once pristine grounds? To borrow a well-worn phrase, they don’t make them like that anymore. In this case, literally.

The leadership of the Preservation Society is clearly more vested in defending their entrenched position and prevailing over the opinions of the Vanderbilt family, the Ochre Point neighborhood and the many friends of the Breakers, than in doing what is right for the true preservation of the Breakers. I had hoped throughout this process that intelligent leadership that was truly respectful of their assigned mission and trusted responsibilities would prevail. That they would act in good faith to take pause, to listen closely to the voices of objection, and to seek ways to collaborate on all possible options to meet the same important objectives, but by less objectionable means.

Sadly though, it’s very apparent that the leadership of the Preservation Society has stubbornly lost their way. They are soon to broadcast to the world their lack of commitment to real preservation in the most permanent and horrifying manner possible.

I would call on everyone to stop financial support for such an organization.

D.A. Zeghibe

Island Needs a Big Cleanup

To the Editor:

Thank you for revisiting the "spectacle" that is embarrassingly St. Patrick's Day in Newport in your March 16 editorial. When will green beer for breakfast, and college kids barfing on sidewalks and yelling obscenities lose its appeal?

The self-fulfilling prophecy and stereotype associated with my fellow Irish is not what this holiday was intended to be.

I'm thankful for the clear vision and community activism shown by the Brick Alley Pub team in organizing the annual post-parade cleanup, of which I was a participant. Matt Plumb, David Huggins and the BAP team continue to show leadership in this issue. We owe them more than thanks. We owe them participation.

To that end, I chatted briefly with Newport City Councilor John Florez about the pitiful condition of Newport’s streets (graffiti, peeling paint on curbs, trash, few sitting areas and such improvements), suggesting perhaps a public-private arrangement might be formed to attend to these quality of life issues.

His lack of interest was deafening. He asked if I knew how city governments work. He promised that he’d “Get back to me.”

Twenty years ago, Harry Harvey of Middletown and I spent several weeks voluntarily cleaning Aquidneck Island of graffiti. The graffiti has returned, along with a callous attitude of our out-of-touch councilmen.

Thank you, Brick Alley Pub. We need more like you.

Paul Marshall

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