By ecoRI News staff
RUMFORD, R.I. — More than 80 acres of open space at Agawam Hunt, a private country club with a historic 18-hole golf course, have been permanently protected through the purchase of a conservation easement by The Nature Conservancy.
The 82-acre conservation easement prevents the development of 68 homes, improves wildlife habitat along Ten Mile River and secures public access to nature, according to The Nature Conservancy.
The recently signed agreement also secures public access via a new walking trail and a commitment to reduce the golf course’s impact on the Ten Mile River. This partnership is the first large-scale project for conservancy’s Providence Metro Program, launched in 2016 “to develop and implement nature-based solutions to address urban environmental challenges and promote social equity.”
The conservancy purchased the easement for $2 million, with money contributed by members and friends of Agawam Hunt. No public money was used to conserve the property. As part of the agreement, the conservancy also has the option to buy a second conservation easement on an additional 40 acres of the club’s golf course, contingent on additional private fundraising.
With more than a half-mile of frontage on the Ten Mile River, the protection of the property helps safeguard a $7.7 million investment in fish passage by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management, Save The Bay, the city of East Providence and the Ten Mile River Watershed Council. In 2015, the aforementioned partners completed a decade-long effort to build fish ladders at three dams on the river, at Omega Pond, Hunts Mill and Turner Reservoir, opening 7.5 miles of stream habitat to river herring and American shad.
In the event that operation of the Agawam Hunt golf course ceases, the conservancy will have the option to buy the properties and establish a public park.
As part of the transaction, club and the conservancy have agreed to partner on a management plan that follows Audubon International Green Golf Course standards, with an eye toward minimizing impacts on the Ten Mile River, which travels along and through the property. Over time, changes in the management of the course include: restoring wildlife habitat by creating a 50-foot to 100-foot buffer along the river; replacing traditional pesticides and chemicals with organic and natural fertilizers; landscaping with native plants; reducing the club’s water consumption from Ten Mile River.
From January 2017 through March 19 of this year, Agawam Hunt was in Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection. During that time, the club’s new management team was able to stabilize operations, attract new members and hire senior staff.