On Protecting Canonchet #1
General Comments on the Proposed
Master Plan for Canonchet Farm
This letter is the first in a series from the Friends of Canonchet Farm (FOCF) Board of Trustees to share our thoughts and suggestions on specific subjects of concern or elements of the proposed master plan.
Since the Narragansett Town Council voted on very general, broad elements being considered for the Master Plan for Canonchet Farm on June 27, 2011, there has been considerable reaction from the community concerned about what appear on the surface to be significant deviations from the will of the majority of residents who voiced their opinions publicly. Our purpose here is to suggest the best ways to work within the decisions that have been made and to begin to consider the details that will more clearly define the direction improvements will take. We believe that the concerns of all parties can be addressed without unnecessarily prolonging the debate over motives by clearly defining various aspects of the plan.
We envision Canonchet Farm becoming a world-class natural park, complementing the town beach, the premier tourism draw to our community. We feel it is vitally important for all interest groups to understand the thought process, scientific approach and reasoning that go into our proposals for various elements of the plan. Only with such a clear understanding will we make the right decisions as to the appropriate improvements to be made.
The very first step in the creation of the new master plan should be the delineation of proposed uses of the park, so that will be the focus of our next letter. Fifteen decisions made by the Town Council involve improvements with little or no controversy. In some areas we have concerns about what the details will be, because it is the details that will determine the impact on Canonchet Farm:
- Habitat Clearing/Vista: Enhancement Habitat clearing is a misnomer. This should be about habitat restoration. Clearing should lead to the creation of meadows, a habitat that is rapidly disappearing from Rhode Island. Any meadow created under this plan should be specified as a conservation meadow and managed to enhance wildlife diversity. There are very sound practical and economic reasons for creating meadows, which we will detail in a future letter. Vista enhancement should have a definite and very focused purpose in areas yet to be defined.
- Bike Path: The Friends of Canonchet Farm will work with the town and the RI Department of Transportation to insure that the route selected crosses the least amount of wetlands and other sensitive environments and is constructed in the most aesthetic and environmentally sound manner. Cultural and natural resources must be protected as this project is planned.
- Parking: We realize that income from the beach parking lot on Anne Hoxsie Lane is currently a financial reality; however, we agree with the Planning Board's tatement that it should be phased out as alternative facilities are made available. We propose to work with the town to discover these alternatives so that more suitable and environmentally sound uses of the current parking area can be implemented.
Certain preliminary surveys must be completed before we can begin to make improvements. These include the delineation of wetlands, identification of significant wildlife habitats, determination of the nature of the ponds and identification and mapping of all natural, geological, historical and cultural assets within the farm that must be preserved as improvements are made. Some of this work is currently underway, and some still needs to be addressed.
We support a goal of increased use of the Canonchet Farm property by a greater number of our citizens and visitors enjoying its natural and cultural features. We cannot overemphasize the fact that without improvements leading to increased use, public pressure for alternative uses will continually threaten the Canonchet Farm property.
In future letters we will discuss the critical roles of park management and finance. We will then detail our recommendations for those elements outlined above that need further, more detailed definition. We are attempting to work within the broad guidelines laid down by the Council and seek to propose the best alternatives within the range of possibilities. We will explain the reasons why some approaches to the various elements are better than others.
On Protecting Canonchet #1
The Master Plan
On Protecting Canonchet #2
On Protecting Canonchet #3
Management of the Park
On Protecting Canonchet #4