Land Trust unveils Booth Pond hiking trails
NORTH SMITHFIELD – It’s been almost two decades, but the North Smithfield Land Trust is finally ready to welcome visitors to the new dedicated hiking trails at Booth Pond.
The Booth Pond Conservation Area is a 132 acre protected area located behind the village of Dowling on the North Smithfield / Woonsocket line. The North Smithfield Land Trust and the Town of North Smithfield jointly own 42 acres, while the Town of Woonsocket has another 90 acres.
Last Thursday, May 27, members of the Land Trust gathered to officially unveil the new signage leading to the area from the village of Dowling. Access to the trail is located near the entrance to The Club at Dowling Village apartments, approximately between Lowe’s and Aldi.
As Carol Ayala, Treasurer of Land Trust, explains, the project has been a long road for those who have been involved from the start.
“It has been a saga, as everyone knows,” she said.
Part of the area was initially targeted for development as part of the village of Dowling when the complex was first proposed in the early 2000s. At the time, a group of residents and advocates for the environment formed the Valley Alliance for Smart Growth to oppose the project.
The group convinced the previous owner to set aside 42 acres near Booth Pond for conservation. According to Caroly Shumway, former president of the Valley Alliance for Smart Growth, the effort was not only aimed at protecting the water from Booth Pond, which flows to the Woonsocket reservoirs which provide drinking water to several communities. The pond is also home to 52 species of dragonflies and damselflies, some of which are considered endangered.
“The reason this land deserves to be preserved is because it is home to a globally endangered dragonfly and it’s a bog in the middle of the city,” she said.
The Land Trust eventually got a $ 400,000 grant from the Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management to purchase the property, but it needed more to realize its dream of a preserved hiking area. In 2014, they convinced city council to provide the remainder of the funds, and the city purchased the property for approximately $ 940,000.
Although the area is now under the control of the Land Trust, it took several more years to secure public parking and access to the trails. Ayala credited town planner Tom Kravitz with working with the developer to trace an easement in the property as construction continued on the village of Dowling.
“The tenacity of the members of this land trust is to be commended. They worked so hard for so many years, ”added Shumway.
Over the years, several other people have also contributed to the effort. They included the late Mary McDonald, a former Land Trust president who was dedicated to securing the Booth Pond trails, and Steven Desrosiers, a Woonsocket resident who founded the Booth Pond community action group to work on the issue on the side. by Woonsocket. It was Desrosiers who mapped out the existing trails and hired a friend to design the official trail map.
“He’s just an eternal advocate,” Ayala said.
Land Trust members also thanked the North Smithfield Public Works Department for installing the trail signage and Michael Debroisse, a North Smithfield resident who works as the engineering superintendent at Woonsocket, for working to reduce the use of ATVs and adopt the same regulations on the trails on the Woonsocket side. . ATVs continued to be a problem for trail users, tearing up trails and sometimes removing signs, according to members of the Land Trust.
“National Grid is trying to help us reduce access,” Ayala said. “They come in through the power lines, then they zoom into the open space.”
The trails are also accessible from Jillson Avenue in Woonsocket, but Land Trust members said parking is limited. Trail maps will be available at the entrance to the village of Dowling. They will also be available online at www.nslandtrustri.org, although the website is currently under construction.