The Block Island Conservancy is the oldest of the island’s environmental protection groups, founded in 1972 by island residents who were alarmed by a developer’s plan to build several houses in and around Rodman’s Hollow. Land trusts were a little-known idea in the early 1970s, but the efforts of this determined group, led by Captain John R. Lewis, generated such strong community support that The Nature Conservancy, an international conservation organization, committed its talent and expertise to the project.
It took four years to complete the first acquisition of 37 acres at Rodman’s Hollow. This was the seed of the project that ultimately protected hundreds of contiguous acres of open space stretching from Rodman’s Hollow to the shore at Black Rock and westward across Lewis-Dickens Farm to Southwest Point.
Meanwhile, a major recreational opportunity presented itself on the other end of the island. Mansion Beach, the jewel at the northern end of Crescent Beach, was once privately owned and public access was threatened. The Block Island Conservancy assisted the Town of New Shoreham in the purchase of Mansion Beach, by financing a funding shortfall, helping to secure the land for the public domain.
Since then, the Block Island Conservancy has worked with partners, including The Nature Conservancy, the Block Island Land Trust, the Audubon Society of Rhode Island, the Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management, and the Town of New Shoreham, to protect almost half of the island’s land.
Today, the Block Island Conservancy continues to acquire new properties, both through outright purchase and conservation easements. The organization also works to maintain its trail systems and to increase public recreation opportunities on conserved land.
None of this work would be possible without the support of the Block Island Conservancy’s members, whose contributions, large and small, are what allow the Block Island Conservancy to continue to protect the island’s nature.