Nestled between Narragansett Town Beach, Boston Neck Road, and Narragansett’s elementary school and community center is Canonchet Farm. Its 165 acres of historical landscape and home to nonprofit organization Friends of Canonchet Farm (FOCF).
Formed in 2007, FOCF’s mission is to preserve and improve the farm in cooperation with Narragansett’s Parks & Recreation Department. From the very beginning, members wanted to introduce people to the trail that meandered through the sprawling property through weekly guided walks, in hopes that they’d eventually evolve into educational events for the public. Since, these walks have regularly drawn groups of over 30 people who venture through the landscape of scenic salt and freshwater marshes and ponds, swamps, vernal pools, a brook, and drier uplands. It’s a landscape FOCF President Kathie Kelleher describes as “incredibly diverse.”
By demonstrating and educating visitors about the historical and ecological value of the land, FOCF hopes to protect these natural areas from degradation by invasive plant species. Each year from May to September, volunteers keep these invasive plants from growing around the ponds by replacing them with those sprouted from native-sourced seeds from the Rhode Island Natural History Survey. The rest of the year, volunteers work to maintain the one-and-a-half-mile trail through the woods.
Kathie highlights the team of volunteers, artists, donors, and URI students that dedicate their time and finances to the work they do on the property. Organizations like the Boy and Girl Scouts and URI programs including Master Gardening, Continuing Education, and Invasive Plant Management Certification, have used the property. Kathie points out that the South County Museum is located on Canonchet Farm, and the pair work cooperatively to develop programs aligned with both of their missions.
Moving forward, FOCF hopes to develop school programs using materials that detail the significance of the property. For example, they recently developed a flyer that describes the geological change the trail has seen over the last 10,000 years. They’re also working on one that showcases its history, from early European activity and division into plantations to Governor Sprague’s home, that they hope to have this completed by next spring. Both trails will post signage to direct people to sites on both walks, to be created and installed by a local Boy Scout.
On behalf of FOCF, Kathie says they feel that “this small property is a microcosm of the natural and social history of the Northeast” and are hopeful their programs will teach the public about the importance of this history.