Original Article By: Newport This Week | newportthisweek.com
LETTERS TO THE EDITOR
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.