BURRILLVILLE – The Burrillville Land Trust has won a state grant that will allow them to purchase 65 acres of open land in the town, according to a press release from March 16. The land, which has been cultivated as a working farm, will be purchased by the trust once a final price is determined, with the grant covering 50 percent of the cost.

Three or four years ago, the owners of the farm approached the organization looking for some way to preserve the farming nature of the property, Paul Roselli, president of the Burrillville Land Trust, told The Breeze. They didn’t want it to be developed.

“We are pleased and excited that the O’Learys have preservation in mind. It’s not usually the case,” Roselli said.

The first year of the process involved discussing the details of the deal and the Land Trust’s due diligence on the state of the property, making sure it was farmable.

“It’s prime agricultural soil, which is rare for Rhode Island,” Roselli said.

For the past year and a half, they have been waiting for and preparing grant applications. The open space grant deadline was last fall, and they heard on March 15 that they were successful.

“It feels good, it really does,” Roselli said. The Burrillville Land Trust has won only three or four open space bonds in the past, and it has been around for more than 20 years. “The competition is really steep.”

There are 44 land trusts in the state. Burrillville Land Trust is one of 22 private land trusts and is not connected to the municipality, but acts as a nonprofit with 501(c)(3) status. In addition to acquiring properties for conservation, BLT also communicates with farmers in the area, and helped bring a farmer’s market back to town in 2007 after 80 years without one. Their mission states: “The Burrillville Land Trust is dedicated to maintaining the town’s rural character by preserving open space, protecting the beauty and viability of our farms, and preserving the woodlands, meadows, ponds and rivers around us.”

For Roselli, conservation of nature, farms, and open spaces is personal. He grew up on the north end of Providence, where there were many backyard farms at the time.

“There was always the threat of developing that area, but no one thought it would happen,” he said. But when he came back after being away at college for four years, every square inch was developed.

“I said that next time I’d do all I could to protect the next community I lived in,” Roselli said. He’s lived in Burrillville since 1983, and he has been involved in the community’s conservation since.

Roselli added that the Burrillville Land Trust wants to name the property for Ernie O’Leary, who first reached out to the group with hopes to sell the property, but died last year at 92 before the process was complete. The trust is hoping to purchase the property by this summer. More information about the organization may be found at burrillvillelandtrust.org.

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