Town Buys 40-Acre Tillinghast Property for Conservation

by | Mar 28, 2024

The owner and the town had been talking about the sale for decades

The Town of East Greenwich has purchased a 39.86-acre property at 1140 Tillinghast Road for $1.9 million to keep for open space, with $400,000 of the cost coming from the state Department of Environmental Management. The rest of the money for the purchase came from town impact fees ($1.05 million) and bond funds ($450,000).The sale comes two decades after initial discussions with owner William Pine. Pine died Jan. 1.

Referred to by the town as the Pine-Lister Farm, the property has been known historically as the Mawney-Hopkins Farm, once owned by Peter Mawney. A planning document from 2021 says this about Mawney: 

Peter Mawney (1689 – 1754) was the son of one of the original Huguenot settlers of Frenchtown. He married twice – both times to daughters of Pardon Tillinghast, the family for whom Tillinghast Road is named. The farmsteads remaining along Tillinghast Road are inextricably linked to the Town’s earliest days as an incorporated community.

The property, which contains more than 1,500 feet of frontage on the Hunt River, is located within a significant block of contiguous forest land and anchors the southern end of a National Register Historic District. Set aside as perpetual conservation land, the property is now protected for traditional forest uses, passive public recreation, water quality and wildlife habitat. 

“Rarely are we able to acquire lands in town that exemplify the East Greenwich landscape so well,” said Town Manager Andy Nota. “From large white pine stands to mixed hardwood forests, to prime farm soils and river frontage, the property is extraordinary.”

As it happens, in 2019 the town was given a 127-acre parcel on the other side of Tillinghast Road by Mary Clark, also with the intent that it be kept as open space. The Tanner-Clark Preserve is not yet accessible but there is an easement that will provide access from the New England Wireless and Steam Museum property. The Tanner-Clark property has nothing on it, so the town will have to start from scratch, whereas the Mawney-Hopkins land has a road in from Tillinghast and some paths (albeit overgrown), as well as two meadows that were used for haying. According to Town Planner Al Ranaldi, the town will mow those meadows twice a year. 

Regarding the Tanner-Clark Preserve, Nota shared this via email:

This project will take longer as we need to develop those plans, trail heads/access points, parking, etc. before we can begin. With the extent of projects presently underway in town, these projects have been slowed, although are being prepared to move forward in the next several years. We have previously applied for state trail grants although have not been successful, although our staff will continue to pursue funding to begin to provide for public access to these town-owned properties.  We will be seeking public participation, including on-site trail clearing in the future, Land Trust Involvement, educational signage and guidance, as well as other forms of support as these projects advance in the near future.

Taken together, the two properties boost the town’s overall open space to 546 acres (find a list of the town’s open spaces: Open Space Properties 2023.)

Ranaldi said the town would be working to prepare the Pine property for public over the summer with hopes to “open” it to the public by the fall. The site will include a small parking lot. Here’s the management plan for the property: Lister-Pine Farm Management Plan.

Find the 2021 planning document giving a lot of history of the Pine property here: 1140 Tillinghast Road. And read the section about the Mawney-Hopkins Farm in the NRHP: National Register of Historic Places, p9.

The Pine property at 1140 Tillinghast Road, known historically as the Mawney-Hopkins Farm, and now conserved as open space for the public.

The 127-acre Tanner-Clark Preserve, donated to the town in 2019 by Mary Clark.

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Donna Rice
Donna Rice
April 5, 2024 12:08 pm

Best idea in many many years.
Donna Wilson Rice

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