Land Trust celebrates new trail map and honors volunteers

Land Trust celebrates new trail map and honors volunteers

The Smithfield Land Trust celebrated the opening of new trails at the Wolf Hill Forest Preserve last Saturday. Barbara Rich, chairman of the Smithfield Land Trust, left, holds the bag that contained two framed mementos presented to Ann-Marie Ignasher, founder of the Smithfield Land Trust. (Valley Breeze & Observer photo by David Wuerth)

SMITHFIELD - The Smithfield Land Trust celebrated the completion of a streamlined map and new trails at the Wolf Hill Forest Preserve this past Saturday morning. At the Conservation Center on Waterview Drive, several individuals were honored for their help with the project, and afterward, guests were invited to hike the trails.

Barbara Rich, current chairwoman of the Land Trust, said that the project of mapping the eight trails, which range from 0.25 to 1.8-miles, was a "terrifying technical" process, one that neither she nor the Land Trust could do alone.

Thankfully, Roy Najecki, a trustee of the Glocester Land Trust, volunteered his time to help with the mapping. Rich said that Najecki tracked GPS points at "every border and corner." Using computer software, he constructed the new, streamlined map, which is color-coded by trail and features clear text and trail markings.

According to Rich, who has been with the Land Trust for the past eight years, the mapping process has "taken a long time." An old version of the map depicted geological markings that were confusing to read. Those have been eliminated in the new version.

The mapping process - both physically tracking and electronically creating - can cost a lot of money, and Rich said that she is thankful for the help of volunteers, especially Najecki, without whom the maps would not have been created.

"He has boundless energy," Rich said. "He would be up there (mapping the trails) for six hours at a time."

Rich added that it took many months and drafts to create the new map, which is now featured in the kiosk at the Conservation Center. It's also available to view and print on the Land Trust's website, which is accessed through the town of Smithfield's website.

Having an electronic version of the map also allows Land Trust members access to update it whenever necessary, if, for example, they acquire new outlets of land or create new markings or trails.

Several new trails and additions were completed in time to be included on the map.

The William Steere Trail (labeled purple), which connects the Ken Weber (red) and Mary Mowry (green) trails, is now officially recognized as a trail. The Harris Farm Loop (orange), located near the Conservation Center and connected to the Mary Mowry Trail, is brand new as well.

Rich added that the Mary Mowry Trail has been extended.

Saturday's event also honored Ann Marie Ignasher, a founding member of the Smithfield Land Trust, who Rich said has been "instrumental" in the process.

Ignasher served as founding chairwoman of the Land Trust and was involved full-time for 12 years. She has also served as the chairwoman of the Rhode Island Land Trust Council.

Rich said that she wants to thank the entire Town Council for its support, as well as the Smithfield community. "This is for them," Rich said, adding, "It's nice to share with the community. We always want to be a good neighbor."

The Smithfield Land Trust, which currently has 941 acres of land, was established in 1999. That year, the original founders identified properties in Smithfield that they wanted to protect, such as open spaces and agricultural land. Rich said that the Land Trust was "kindly funded" by the Charter Review Commission, and later received a $5 million bond from the town in 2006, which the Land Trust used to buy and expand the number of properties under their ownership.

Wolf Hill, with roughly 300 acres, was purchased in 2002 and is the biggest property that the Land Trust owns. The existing property was created through several acquisitions of land from residents, including Mary Mowry, William Steere, the Lillian Harris Trust, Gordon Rowley, and the Gallagher family.

The main trailhead is located at the Conservation Center on Waterview Drive.

The eight trails at Wolf Hill include the Mary Mowry Trail, Leo Bouchard Trail, Harris Farm Trail, WWII Memorial Trail, Ken Weber Memorial Trail, William Steere Trail, Wolf Hill Trail, and Mercer Trail. Each route is color-coded with markings to guide visitors.

Not all the trails are easy, according to Rich, who said that the Mary Mowry Trail, in particular, is "steep."

Every year, the Land Trust, which has a board of nine members, has to clear and clean the trails. Rich said that the board can't do all the work alone, and is always looking for more volunteers to help maintain and preserve the properties.

"The work to preserve the land is ongoing," Ignasher said. "Nearly 1,000 acres is a lot of work."

"Pretty soon, there won't be any more land to buy," Rich added. At that point, the main objective of the Land Trust will be "stewardship" and preserving the existing properties.

For more information about the Smithfield Land Trust or to volunteer, call 401-233-1000, ext. 122, or email LandTrust@smithfieldri.com.

Barbara Rich, chairwoman of the Smithfield Land Trust, leads 25 hikers on one of the new trails at the Wolf Hill Forest Preserve. The Smithfield Land Trust celebrated the opening of new trails at the preserve on Saturday. (Breeze photo by David Wuerth)
The Smithfield Land Trust celebrated the creation of their new trail map for the Wolf Hill Forest Preserve this past Saturday. The map (pictured here) was made with the help of Roy Najecki, a trustee of the Glocester Land Trust. The map has been streamlined and color-coded, which makes it easier to read than older versions. The map also contains updated and new trails.

Comments

Just want to point out that Ann Marie Ignasher was one of the original members and former Chair of the Land Trust, but was not the founder. I did the leg work for three years before I finally convinced Town Officials to help set up the Land Trust. I am not angry and am not looking for any publicity, I just want to clarify that I am the founder of the Land Trust.
Gerard E. Hamel, Jr.