PUBLIC/PRIVATE PARTNERSHIP SAVES 22-ACRE SWANSEA PROPERTY AT THE 11TH HOUR

by Scott MacFaden, Director of Land Protection

Over the past several months, the Trust partnered with the Town of Swansea and a generous private donor to preserve the 22-acre Tierney property in southwest Swansea, near the Palmer River and the Rhode Island border. The Trust helped facilitate the project to its conclusion, and the Town came away with the ownership interest in the premises. 

In November, Swansea Conservation Agent Colleen Brown requested our assistance in exploring options to preserve the Tierney property, which was only days away from being sold to a private, non-conservation buyer.  Colleen advised that the owner might be willing to consider selling for conservation.  However, as a public entity that must typically obtain Town Meeting approval for large expenditures, and with the next Town Meeting many months distant, the Town was not in a position to purchase the property on short notice. 

 Fortunately, the Trust was favorably positioned to mobilize quickly and advance the project to a successful outcome.  One of the advantages nonprofit land conservation organizations possess is the ability to respond to opportunities with dispatch.  For this project, the Trust was able to obtain agreement with the landowner to sell the land for conservation within a few days, and raise the $10,000 needed to purchase the property thanks to the generosity of a nearby business concern.  A fundraising request to Todd Blount, the principal owner of Blount Fine Foods in Fall River, was almost immediately answered favorably.  The Trust raised the balance needed to cover closing costs. 

The Palmer River in Swansea

The Palmer River in Swansea

The Tierney property is the Trust’s first completed project in Swansea since we acquired the holdings of the former Swansea Land Trust in 2007.  Its 22 wooded acres support a mix of upland and wetland habitats, and includes at least one potential vernal pool.  The property is proximate to a 15-acre parcel recently acquired by the Town, as well as the Trust’s Barney-Bell Preserve.  Collectively, these properties are an important component of the Palmer River corridor, a long-established local and regional protection priority. The Palmer River is part of the Barrington-Palmer-Warren Rivers watershed, which comprises 67.8 square miles in Massachusetts and Rhode Island.  The Palmer eventually converges with the Barrington River to form the Warren River, which is a significant contributor to Upper Narragansett Bay. 

The Tierney project is yet another example of how successful land protection efforts are often contingent upon partnerships nurtured on many levels.  Although the Trust has a small staff, the geographic area we serve is extensive, and ranges from Boston’s shadow south to the Cape Cod Canal and west to the Rhode Island line.  In order to maximize our land protection efforts, we rely on a wide network of allies and supporters, and particularly municipal colleagues like Colleen, to keep us abreast of potential land conservation opportunities in their communities.  These local contacts also provide us with detailed knowledge of priority parcels, and important historical context for their protection. 

As Colleen noted, “the preservation of this land along with our recent acquisition of a nearby property were key pieces for land and river protection on the Palmer River, a class A river. More than 20 years ago. Jeanne Wadleigh, a member of the Swansea Conservation Commission and a member of the Swansea Land Trust worked very hard with members of the Barrington Land Trust formulating a plan to protect this corner of Swansea and Barrington RI. They recognized that this area is significant for animal and plant habitat, endangered and otherwise, as well as water quality of the Palmer River. It is also historically significant, as this area was the birthplace of the Town of Swansea, the site of the beginning of King Philip’s Wars and is very significant to colonial American history. Now with the acquisition of the Tierney land, more than 100 acres of land are protected in the Palmer River watershed. “

On behalf of all of us at the Trust, many thanks to Colleen for her tireless efforts on behalf of open space protection in Swansea.  And special thanks to the employees and owners of Blount Fine Foods, whose generous and timely donation made this 11th-hour acquisition possible.