TNC opening new nature preserve in Lincoln

LINCOLN — A new nature preserve has opened in Lincoln, providing access to land that was previously difficult to access and enjoy.

The Nature Conservancy has opened its 25th nature preserve in Rhode Island, located next to the Fairlawn Golf Course and behind the MacColl YMCA.

The new Moshassuck River Preserve offers 3 miles of freshly blazed trails through the former Camp Conklin on more than 200 acres of forest.

The Nature Conservancy, whose mission is to “protect the lands and waters on which all life depends,” said in a statement that increased public interest in outdoor recreation was one of the main factors behind the decision to open the preserve.

Part of the preserve was once owned by Conklin Lime, which hosted a Boy Scout camp for Troop 64, Pack 1, Saylesville. The former Scout camp has been owned by TNC and protected from development since the 1990s, and was most recently managed as a wildlife habitat.

There was no formal parking area or trailhead offering public access to the area until last month.

The trailhead to the Moshassuck River Preserve can be found near the Fairlawn Golf Course’s first tee.

The so-called Blue Trail follows the Moshassuck River before rising up and over an incline through a boulder field. The Yellow Trail crosses several tributary streams to the Moshassuck and passes a historic cemetery, with graves marked by plain fieldstones.

“We’re so excited to open the Moshassuck River Preserve to the public,” said Scott Comings, associate state director for TNC’s Rhode Island chapter. “TNC maintains about 90 miles of trails in Rhode Island, and the number of visitors is way up on all of our preserves. We are thrilled to be able to offer the community a new place to enjoy nature.”

Abutters were credited with helping to resolve potential roadblocks to opening the preserve. The Fairlawn Golf Course volunteered to construct the new, 15-car parking area for the preserve, with a shared entrance located off Sherman Avenue. The course also provided machinery and staff to install signage.

In addition, the MacColl YMCA accommodated existing trails that leave the preserve and cross onto the YMCA property, agreeing to add signage instead of relocating the trails. Parts of the Yellow Trail are on YMCA property.

“The Fairlawn Golf Course and the YMCA have both been amazing partners to work with,” said Cheryl Wiitala, TNC’s preserves manager. “We couldn’t have done it without them, and we’re looking forward to doing more together.”

The Nature Conservancy has protected more than 35,000 acres of wildlife habitat in R.I. since 1964, including the Aust Family Preserve at Lime Rock. The Moshassuck River Preserve was established with support from the Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management’s open space program, the Champlin Foundation, the Bafflin Foundation, the AMICA Companies Foundation and individual TNC donors.

Highlights of the preserve

The preserve will be open year-round, during the daylight hours. Dogs are permitted on the preserve but must be leashed at all times.

The parking lot is on Sherman Avenue, near the Great Road intersection. There’s an orange and white sign next to the driveway (beside the Fairlawn Golf Course clubhouse, Bogey’s). If that lot is full, parking is allowed in the Fairlawn lot.

There’s a kiosk at the trailhead introducing the new 3-mile trail system. To enter, hikers should head down the lane between the first tee and the woods, crossing the Moshassuck. There is a stone dam and small mill ruin to the right.

The preserve has two trails, with one looping around to the north and another to the south.

The preserve is brand new, so some sections of trail and stream crossings are “still being evaluated” for future bog bridges and footbridges. For now, it’s advised that visitors dress for potentially muddy conditions.

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