WESTPORT – Residents off Beeden Road and Route 177 may be singing the famous song “Strawberry Fields” in the near future.
Selectmen on Monday approved two conservation restrictions, including 32.5 acres off Beeden Road dubbed Strawberry Fields.
Representatives from the Westport Land Conservation Trust on Monday met with selectmen, who approved the restriction, which will be on land adjacent to the prospective Noquochoke Village apartment complex property.
WLCT land specialist Steve Sloan and WLCT Executive Director Ross Moran said selectmen approval is one of the final steps toward the conservation restriction for the property. Sloan said the property will be developed with walking trails and possibly a foot bridge overlooking the east branch of the Westport River.
Sloan said town counsel still must approve the language, and he also mentioned the restriction has been in the works for five years, with Town Meeting in 2012 approving an appropriation of $130,000 toward the restriction.
“It is a beautiful place and we expect it to be a heavily used area,” Moran told the selectmen on Monday.
Selectmen also approved a conservation restriction on 59.7 acres on Adamsville Road, part of the former St. Vincent de Paul camp that the WLCT is expected to acquire in January from the Diocese of Fall River.
That restriction also must pass through state and other legal channels but garnered the necessary local approval on Monday.
Some of the land – approximately an acre – extends west into Little Compton, but Moran said that land is also surrounded by Rhode Island conservation restrictions.
Selectmen will be meeting on Dec. 11 with WLCT toward a vision for the other approximately 21.1 acres known as the “camp core” portion of the property.
CPC Chairwoman Betty Slade talked about the importance of having a vision of the property before January, the expected next Town Meeting and the month that WLCT is expected to close on the property.
Selectmen and WLCT must also work out legal obstacles such as who will own the “Camp core” property – the WLCT or selectmen. Either way, it is expected the buildings on the property will be reused and active recreation in the form of youth sports is one of the expected reuses.
Planning Board member David Cole told selectmen that preserving a large portion of the land as open space is a pivotal first step.
“Preserving them as open space rather than letting them be used in other ways is tremendous for the town,” Cole said of this restriction, as well as the Strawberry Fields property. “Preserving the river and health of the river is critically linked to all that we have been talking about tonight.”