Franklin Farm’s management plan gets an update

Franklin Farm’s management plan gets an update

One of the approved uses of the historic Metcalf-Franklin Farm is

CUMBERLAND – A newly revised conservation and management plan for Franklin Farm looks ahead for the next five years to include information about the new barn that will contain equipment for the town’s new wells, the siting of a third driveway, and a more aggressive stand against the destruction of stone walls and trees.

Also outlined in the proposed 17-page governing document are a review of grants obtained during the past decade and an outline of progress on this Abbott Run Valley Road property by the volunteer citizens working since 2007 as a farm preservation association.

Designed to take the Historic Metcalf-Franklin Farm to year 2022, the plan was updated by the town’s Department of Planning and Community Development under the direction of Director Jonathan Stevens, with technical assistance from Cornelis de Boer, architect to the $300,000 grant-funded farmhouse restoration that is currently underway.

It’s been approved by the Rhode Island Historical Preservation and Heritage Commission, which, thanks to nearly $200,000 in grants it provided, holds an easement on the barns and farmhouse.

And it was due for review last week by members of the Historic Metcalf-Franklin Farm Preservation Association before it goes to the Town Council for final acceptance.

Cumberland’s 63-acre Franklin Farm, an out of the ordinary, intact farmstead, features the 1857 farmhouse, out buildings, a stream and pond, a collection of barns that includes one dating back to 1810, stone walls and walking paths. It is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

Both the east and west fields were purchased from the Franklin family in 1994, except for the final 2 acres acquired in 2005 that included the farmhouse and surrounding 2 acres where William Rhodey Franklin lived until his death.

The farm’s full name includes a reference to Liberty Metcalf, 1776-1853, who founded the farm.

In a press release, Mayor Bill Murray said, “The partnership between the town and the Franklin Farm Association is a model of cooperation. Working together, our community is restoring this historic farm and at the same time has produced over a quarter million pounds of food donated to Rhode Island food banks and soup kitchens.”

Said the preservation group’s president, Pamela Thurlow, “Once approved by the Town Council, we will have a plan that will guide the way for the farm’s continued improvement. It has been a pleasure to collaborate with the town to ensure the preservation of this local treasure.”

According to the plan, allowed uses are nonprofit gardening up to 3 acres by the preservation association, haying fields, farm animals, walking, hiking, jogging, snow shoeing, cross-country skiing, bird watching, picnicking and dogs on a leash.

The farmhouse may be used for meetings, museum exhibition, education, support of agricultural activities, and a historic curator apartment on the second floor.

Activities may include weddings, fundraisers, photo shoots and farm association events.

Prohibited are mountain bikes, dirt bikes and ATVs, snowmobiles, organized sports, unleashed pets and horseback riding, fertilizers within 400 feel of a wellhead, or any unlisted activities unless approved by the town.

Commercial gardening uses are prohibited, as are cell towers and a compositing facility.

Getting specific, plans call for renovation of the farmhouse as a museum of town and agricultural history on the first floor that also provides meeting space for boards with an interest in Franklin Farm.

On the second floor, an apartment for a curator is planned. Preserve Rhode Island, which runs an historic curator program, would be consulted in determining the optimal program for Franklin Farm, the plan suggests.

About the new water treatment barn, plans call for the Cumberland Water Department to install two new wells on the east side field of Abbott Run Valley Road.

The new treatment facility that accompanies the wells will be designed as an education exhibit in a 20- by 40-foot building on the west side of the roadway, about 20 feet north of the original barn. It will mimic the architectural style of the barn, but remain set back so that the historic barn is the dominating feature, Stevens said.

The new gravel driveway would be sited about 125 feet north of the original barn and is needed, Stevens said, because the current driveway near the barns has poor site lines for drivers.

Signs will be limited but include one listing allowed and prohibited uses.

Parking will be limited to a gravel area near the barns and no asphalt surface will be allowed.

Addressing complaints about vandalism to the stone walls and trees on farm land, the plan says, “The town will respond promptly to property violations such as dumping, removing stones from historic stone walls and cutting down trees on town property.”

A review of accomplishments during the past decade includes the creation of the preservation association in 2007, with its “strong volunteer base” that’s “produced thousands of pounds of produce annually donated to area food banks and soup kitchens.”

Through the years, the farm has hosted youth field trips and educational program averaging more than 300 students a year since 2010, including farm camp and pond camp in the summertime.

Also noted:

The 2008 reroofing of the farmhouse and 2010 reroofing of the original barn and dairy barn.

The 2015 siting of two town wells in the east field that are expected to come on line in 2018.

The 2015 adoption of a master plan for the farmhouse to focus on restoration and rehabilitation.

The 2016 State Preservation Grant award of $150,000 to be matched by the same amount by the town to complete the architectural specifications for the restoration and adaptive reuse of the farmhouse and restoration of the exterior.