Richmond Heritage Trail – A Recreational Opportunity for All Persons
~ By Jim Turek ~
Richmond is a vibrant community providing a high quality-of-life environment to its residents. The Richmond Heritage Trail is situated on a 47-acre open space parcel, secured as part of the approval process for the nearby Richmond Commons land development. This trail system has been planned and developed by dedicated volunteers and supported by town government, to provide an invaluable experience for our residents and visitors to enjoy passive recreation, exercise and an important learning opportunity on the historic, cultural and ecological legacy of our town.
The Town has long-targeted these lands for a recreational trail paralleling Meadow Brook and the broad, bounding the Meadowbrook wetland east of the property. In 2003, the Town proposed this open space area to provide much needed public lands for its residents. The Town formally secured the property in 2013 with the final Town approval of the Richmond Commons development.
The Richmond Conservation Commission began the conceptual trail design and layout in September 2013. The Commission carefully considered the trail layout so that loss of trees and other environmental impacts would be avoided or minimized. Additional in-kind services provided by the Commission included the mapping and delineation of property wetlands and the wetland impact assessment for state permitting of the project.
In 2014, the Town was awarded an open-space grant from the Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management (RIDEM) providing essential funding for project construction. Additional vital funds were secured in 2016 through a Rhode Island Foundation (RIF) community grant award and town funds approved by the Town Council and its residents.
The project design was completed in August 2015 by local engineering firm, C.J. Doyle. Site survey services were provided by Dowdell Engineering and Alfred DiOrio RLS, Inc. Once adequate construction funds were secured, the Town put the construction bid out for solicitation, with SumCo Eco-Contracting, Inc. being awarded the contract. Construction work began in March and was expeditiously completed by the end of June 2017. Richmond’s Department of Public Works has also contributed important tasks in the project construction.-
The project includes a 1.51 miles of trails extending the length of the property, and multiple trail types including a compacted stone-dust all-persons loop trail; a wooden boardwalk and footbridge with railings and access ramps over wetlands; a foot trail on through pine and oak forest; and a gravel road closed to motorized vehicles to complete a set of aesthetic loop walks.
A highlight of the project is the six interpretive trail signs located along the all-persons loop trail to inform visitors on the interaction between people and their environment over time, how local economic and land use changes have affected the landscape in Richmond, and how the environment influences our lives. The plaques with graphics and narratives present a chronological account of the ecological and cultural changes characterizing Richmond and surrounding South County for an audience of all ages. These educational plaques were completed by the Conservation Commission, but with much grateful assistance from the Richmond Historical Society and other local historians, plus local talented journalists and expert photographers.
An elevated platform with picnic table links to the all-persons accessible boardwalk is in a forest setting available to users as a serene lunch and rest stop. Along the forest foot trail, directional signage completed as part of an Eagle Scout project provide hikers with map information on location and direction at trail junctions.
The Town also plans to restore a native plant community in targeted areas of the property where previous sand and gravel operations disturbed the site, and at locations where habitat restoration will enhance passive recreational trail uses. The Conservation Commission is working with faculty and students from the University of Rhode Island’s Department of Natural Resources Sciences to develop plans for, manage, and monitor the plant community on the property.
Richmond Scout Troop 1 has contributed significant community-service hours for the project including two Eagle Scouts who completed important work on the foot trail including vegetation clearing and trimming, relocation of boulders and logs, and marking the trail with blue blazes along the trail. Other scouts helped with the installation of the educational plaques, and the troop is committed to assisting the Town in the future with trail maintenance and amenities.
While the trail system ends at the northwestern end of the property, the Town’s long-term goal is to secure a permanent access easement through adjoining lands, so that a future trail connection will extend to northeast of the Meadowbrook wetland and link with the existing state’s North-South Trail in RIDEM’s Arcadia Wildlife Management Area to the north.
The Town hopes that you will visit the property, located off Country Acres Road, to enjoy the scenery, exercise and learning experience which the Richmond Heritage Trail has to offer! Please contact Jim Turek (firstname.lastname@example.org, 301-346-8424), Richmond Conservation Chairperson, for more information on the Richmond Heritage Trail.