DEM Acquires 90 Acres on Prudence Island

By ecoRI News staff

PRUDENCE ISLAND, R.I. — The Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management (DEM), in partnership with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), The Nature Conservancy and the Prudence Conservancy, recently acquired nearly 93 acres of land on the town of Portsmouth island.

The acquisition of Eugene Chase Farm — known for its ecological and historical value — is part of the state’s ongoing efforts to preserve land for public access, environmental education and research. Since 1965, more than 64,000 acres have been protected under DEM land conservation programs.

The Eugene Chase Farm, an expansive property used as farmland for more than a century until the mid 1900s and owned by the Little family, is undeveloped and will be incorporated into the Narragansett Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve. The reserve is a state-federal partnership established for the preservation of coastal lands for research, education and passive recreation. It currently manages more than 4,200 acres of land and estuarine habitat across Prudence, Patience, Hope and Dyer islands.

With the addition of Chase Farm, more than 80 percent of Prudence Island is now permanently protected, according to DEM director Janet Coit.

The $900,000 acquisition involved significant cooperation of many individuals and organizations. NOAA provided $412,500 through a National Estuarine Research Reserve grant, and the state of Rhode Island provided $147,500 through open-space bond money. In addition, the town of Portsmouth funded $115,000, the Prudence Conservancy provided $125,000, and $100,000 came from grant funds provided by The Nature Conservancy and The Champlin Foundations.

The Little Family worked closely with the Prudence Conservancy to preserve the property. The Prudence Conservancy will hold a conservation easement to provide an extra level of protection and oversight.
In addition to the newly acquired parcel, there is a modest in-holding of about 2 acres previously gifted to the Prudence Conservancy by Barbara Little that preserves the historic Thomas Allin home site and its associated cellar hole, well and animal holding pen. The Allin home was the only house left standing following a skirmish with the British in 1776. Another significant feature of the property is Pulpit Rock — a site believed to be where Roger Williams preached to Native Americans.