If you’ve hiked the public access trail and taken in the pastoral views of mist settling over Weeden Farm or the carefully maintained wildlife habitats, you’ve experienced firsthand the rigorous, though often unpublicized, efforts the South Kingstown Land Trust puts into the grounds. “During the pandemic, many people have rediscovered the essential role open space plays in the life of the community,” says the land trust’s executive director Julia Landstreet, noting the uptick in trail use these past months have seen. “SKLT kept all trails open last spring and many found them a treasured respite from a long gray winter and no social interaction.”
But maintenance and stewardship of the 97-acre parcel of land doesn’t come without costly projects managed by a nimble, mostly part-time staff, which is where SKLT’s Capital Campaign – Build Now, Protect Forever – comes into play. Among other long-term stewardship functions spanning SKLT's 170 properties, the main goal is to build a new facility on Weeden Farm, which will complement the area’s historic sense of place in design, to house maintenance equipment and serve as a staff hub of collaborative output. “From this facility and with increased proximity to the barn, SKLT will be able to offer additional educational programs, field trips, consultation for farmers, and land stewards,” says Landstreet.
Beyond offering a naturally socially distanced space for folks to escape to this past year, Weeden Farm’s uses are numerous. “There are tenants who farm corn, hay, and row crops. One who pastures livestock. There are wildlife research projects, pollinator patches, managed habitat, carefully restored historic stone walls, and a public access trail,” says Landstreet. She explains that SKLT also plays a critical role in local food access: “Rhode Island has the most expensive farmland in the country and we work to help farmers secure funding that helps protect the land for future generations and provides valuable capital support for their operations.”
To facilitate their wide-ranging functions, having staff on-hand in an accessible, centrally located campus will help ensure a legacy of land stewardship for future generations to enjoy and foster awareness of the natural world. Through December, a generous donor is matching all gifts, up to $100,000, raised for the Capital Campaign to help SKLT meet their $1 million goal. And if the outdoors are calling to you, volunteers are always appreciated, too. “This winter, we hope to enlist volunteers to help us clean the invasive exotic plants from the building site and other properties in our care,” says Landstreet. “Winter may be cold, but it is a great time to get outside and enjoy the beauty of South Kingstown.” To donate, visit SKLT.org/SupportSKLT/Capital-Campaign