Sprague wins bid to create beach access next to Ballard's
After three years of working on the Ballard’s Beach access project, the Block Island Land Trust is finally seeing the light at the end of the path.
The group owns a parcel of land that runs along the south side of Ballard’s, where the ground is either steeply sloped or, where it’s flat, right next to where the restaurant keeps dumpsters. To reach the beach, people walk up and over through the Ocean View Pavilion and then down the embankment. This poses a problem because it causes erosion and is not a safe way to access the beach. In addition, Ballard’s doesn’t allow people to walk through the restaurant with a cooler, so it’s difficult for anyone to set up camp on that beach for the day.
The Land Trust project is designed to improve and redefine a clear pathway to provide public access to the beach. To facilitate it, the group received an estimate from Joe Sprague to remove part of the existing wall that runs along the path. It also includes dismantling a set of stone stairs that once led to land where the Ocean View Pavilion sits. Sprague’s task will be to move half the wall and build an additional 100 feet of 10-foot-high wall. The estimate, for $24,000, will be partially used for coastal permits, while Sprague will receive the rest for materials and labor. The group voted to accept the bid and cap it at $25,000.
Chris Littlefield, representing The Nature Conservancy, which often works in conjunction with the Land Trust, suggested that there might be some grant money available for improvements that involve coastal access. Vice-Chair Dennie Heinz, who is heading the project, also suggested that any excess dirt from the site could be transferred to fill in some spots on the Solviken property.
The group fine-tuned a draft letter that is headed to the editorial pages of the Block Island Times. In it members express their support for two bonds appearing on the Rhode Island November 6 ballot. The Clean Water and Environmental bonds have similar issues that follow the group’s legislation. Legal liaison Claire Costello suggested that the letter highlight some of the more standout properties that the Land Trust has acquired in the past, such as Black Rock, Mosquito Beach and Fresh Pond. All were in agreement that this information would prove beneficial to the letter.
The group reviewed an additional draft cover letter regarding a farm conservation brochure produced by the R.I. Land Trust Council. The letter will be sent to the Town Council, Planning Board, and Conservation Commission. In it the group expresses their support and thier hope that the committees will take the time to read, share the information and join them in acknowledging the importance of preserving working local farms. Chair Barbara MacMullan suggested that some wording include that the Trust has participated in supporting farmland for working Block Island farms through easements and through allowing people to use their land for grazing, haying or other activity.
In what Costello described as a perfect benchmark for a family partnership exemption, the group decided to grant one to the Albertson property on Mohegan trail. An exemption from the 3-percent Trust tax on real estate sales is awarded to partnerships that can prove that no more than 50 percent of the property is being sold. Costello added that there are very strict regulations to qualify for the exemption and the Albertson family had clear documentation of it. “This is one of the strongest cases we’ve seen,” said Costello. The group agreed they have no problem granting it. She added, “This is a perfect example of how to proceed with this matter.”
Farewell to Claire Costello
This was the final meeting for member Claire Costello, who has served on the Trust for the past 12 years. During her three full terms she has been their lead on the Champlin’s expansion case as well as the lead on some significant acquisitions. Working with partners like The Nature Conservancy, the group acquired more than 200 acres, including the Hodge Property, a major purchase that was in the works for many years. “We’re going to miss you greatly,” MacMullan said. “It has been my honor truly and my pleasure,” Costello replied.
She agreed to be available for any consultation needed by the group in the future and plans to stay connected to participate with the Champlin’s expansion case as it heads back to the Coastal Resources Management Council this fall.
Real estate sales are up
Treasurer Barbie Michel reported that, unlike some previous years, it’s been a good year for the Trust’s tax collections. The Trust took in $196,365 from the 3 percent one-time property purchase tax for September and already has $208,000 for October. “We’ve had months where there wasn’t any money coming in,” remarked Michel in a follow up interview. “This is a sign that times are changing and the economy is picking up.”
The group reviewed an ad they are putting in the paper for bids to clear the recently acquired Gorham property that abuts Heinz field. The two lots totaling 3.6 acres don’t have a designated purpose yet.