Town looks to purchase Pascoag waterfront property for use as open space, walking trails

A town-owned property known as Gonyea Park would connect with the open space on Union Pond.

BURRILLVILLE – The town has applied for a grant to help fund the purchase of a scenic three-acre lot by Union Pond in Pascoag for the purpose of protecting the land, and opening it to use by residents.

It is one of two parcels town officials are currently pursuing for open space, with a second project underway for potential acquisition of a separate 32-acre lot on Pascoag Main Street.

The waterfront lot, currently owned by Independent Management, LLC and appraised at $113,000, features 1,000 feet of shoreline just beside Gonyea Park. The forested land boasts a scenic view east and south of Union Pond and the top of the waterfall to the north, which begins the Pascoag River. It has historic features as well, with the foundations of structures once related to the Granite Mill.

The Town Council authorized Town Manager Michael Wood to apply for a Rhode Island Natural Heritage Preservation Commission Local Open Space Conservation and Acquisition Grant to help fund the three-acre purchase at their meeting on Wednesday, Nov. 10.

According to the application, 50 percent of funding for that purchase would come from the town’s major capital account, with the rest to come through a matching grant.

“The property is held with a purchase agreement between the property owners and the town,” notes the submission to the Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management. “We are under contract to purchase the property for its appraised value.”

Given current market trends, town officials say they anticipate the purchase price to be closer to $140,000, with $70,000 to be funded by the town. The vacant land at 0 High Street would be kept open in perpetuity according to the RIDEM application submitted last month, and hold walking trails and a small parking lot for the use of residents if the project goes through.

“The town seeks to protect the property from development and conserve it as open space accessible from both High Street and Gonyea Park,” the application notes. “It is important to maintain the open space and natural resources and preserve these green open spaces for our residents to access and enjoy for generations to come.”

Town officials say they envision the land as a forested extension to the existing park, and has proposed building a parking lot with 8-10 spaces on High Street, and a right-of-way through the CVS Property. A loop trail would provide access to the edge of Union Pond for, “fishing or just taking in the natural beauty,” as well as access historic cemetery #108.

“Of the right of way is not granted, we can still have a beautiful, scenic open space parcel in Pascoag with access from High Street,” notes the application.

The submission also points out that the land is in close proximity to town amenities such as retail stores, restaurants and three other parks. The area has been a focus of the Burrillville Redevelopment Agency over the past several years, resulting in the successful launch of businesses including Bravo Brewing Company and Cow’s Tail Deli, along with establishment of housing and scenic walking spaces in the once blighted village.

In addition to bouying efforts to expand and promote the statewide recreation network the application notes that the project will protect natural and cultural resources, including groundwater and wildlife.

“The 2015 Rhode Island Wildlife Action Plan suggest protection of these properties which will provide an opportunity to control invasive species and encourage growth of native species,” it notes. “This pond is determined to be Palustrine open water, and is identified as a Conservation Opportunity Area Corridor.”

“I think Ray did a really good job on that application,” Councilor Dennis Anderson said of Town Planner Ray Goff. “I think it was very complete. I hope the state sees it the same way.”

The property is one of two already approved for acquisition by the Town Council with the hope to secure recreation grant funding. Just a half mile away another 31.86 acre lot, owned by Kevin and Janice Plante according to town property records, is also under consideration. That property is in close proximity to the duck pond and the Harrisville Bike Path.

According to Wood, purchase of that lot will be discussed at the upcoming council meeting on Wednesday, Dec. 8.

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