Area trails will receive grant-funded upgrades

Area trails will receive grant-funded upgrades

The Woonasquatucket River Bridge at the Esmond Park Trail. Thanks to a grant from the Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management, all Smithfield trails will receive maintenance.

SMITHFIELD – Hikers will enjoy more educational kiosks and trail markings at several trails in Smithfield thanks to a $33,500 grant from the Rhode Island Department of Environmental Protection, says Land Trust Chairman Paul Harrison.

Similar grant-funded improvements are also planned in Scituate, Foster and Glocester.

Smithfield will pay for improvements to Latham Brook Preserve, the Wolf Hill Preserve, James Russell Preserve and Mowry Conservation Trails, including grading and resurfacing parking areas, kiosks and trail markings.

Harrison said Wolf Hill will receive new educational kiosks and several of the parking lots will be expanded to address parking issues, Latham Brook will receive new trails, and several other areas will be treated to trail maintenance and upkeep, he said.

“This is great. We’re really excited to get these projects started,” Harrison said.

The best part of the grant is that the 20 percent match can be paid for using volunteer hours, he said, adding that members of the Smithfield Land Trust will pay the majority of the matching 20 percent in those volunteer hours.

In Scituate, town volunteers and work done by the Department of Public Works will put in up to $20,000 in hours to match the $99,533 RIDEM grant for trailhead improvements at Lawton Farm, Westconnaug Meadows, Esek Hopkins Park and Doctors Lane.

While all four sites will have parking facilities available, the grant will pay for additional parking at the Doctors Lane site. Rob Bower, of the Scituate Land Trust, said the grant will pay for improvements on all Land Trust trails.

The Doctors Lane site will see the most improvement, with a new parking lot off Route 116 that will ease concerns among neighbors about the traffic on Doctors Lane caused by hikers.

Bower said municipalities have 18 months to complete projects once funds are released from the RIDEM, which he anticipates in the next month or so.

“We’re really pleased about that. We’re looking forward to it. We can’t wait to get started,” he said.

At Lawton Farm, the trail to the back side of the property that is no longer in use will be re-opened, additional signage will be added to the kiosk, and there will be educational signage describing wildlife situations and the bird sanctuary.

At Westconnaug Meadows in Clayville, an entry kiosk will be added, as well as educational signage and trail markers.

Improvements to Esek Hopkins include trail revitalization, an additional kiosk by the entry parking lot describing a timber salvage project to clear the area of trees killed by the gypsy moth infestation that will make room for new growth.

Glocester Land Trust member Steve St. Pierre said its share of grants, amounting to $57,000, will be used to erect two picnic pavilions, including one at Steere Hill off Route 44 and another at Hawkins Pond in West Glocester.

Each 16-foot by 20-foot pavilion will be laid on concrete slabs and purchased and assembled through an outside company. For that reason, St. Pierre said the town will not be able to take advantage of volunteer hours for its match.

The Town Council unanimously supported the grant at a special town council meeting in January and is backing the projects, St. Pierre said. He said each site has its reward. A seat at the pavilion at Hawkins Pond will grant a view of the water and is located right off the roadway, and the pavilion at Steere Hill is up a 1-mile hike, and will provide a resting area once hikers reach the top.

“It’s terrific news. We weren’t sure how we would do it; there’s not a lot of money available right now. We’re really grateful for the DEM for selecting us. It will be a great addition to our properties,” St. Pierre said.

Each site will receive three to four picnic tables, with construction donated by Land Trust Chairwoman Jeanine Pitocco’s employer.

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St. Pierre expects concrete slabs to be installed this fall, and the pavilions delivered and installed in the spring of 2022.

“We’re really excited, to say the least,” St. Pierre said.

Foster also received $81,000 for townwide trailhead improvements, including kiosks and signage at four trailheads, as well as providing access to more than 12 miles of trails owned and maintained by the Foster Land Trust.

The project is part of the RIDEM and Rhode Island Department of Transportation’s approximate $1.4 million in recreational trail grants awarded to 22 projects that support trail development and improvement projects across the state.