Nature Conservancy buys future development rights on E. Prov. golf club land

EAST PROVIDENCE – With the first large-scale project of its Providence Metro Program, The Nature Conservancy has purchased, for $2 million, the development rights for 82 acres owned by The Agawam Hunt, the more than century-old golf and country club.

The conservation easement will maintain the undeveloped nature of the land in East Providence, which was not a given because of the club’s precarious financial situation. The club emerged from Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection on March 19, more than a year since significant debts and shrunken membership rolls had contributed to a cash crunch. The $2 million from the conservancy, along with a recapitalization provided by a group of existing members, has allowed the club to exit Chapter 11 debt free and looking for new members.

The financing of the conservancy easement purchase of the land that contains 11 of the golf course’s 18 holes was provided by members of the club as well as other interested individuals. In addition, the conservancy has an option to purchase a conservation easement for 40 more acres that include the rest of the Agawam Hunt golf course, once it has secured additional private financing.

As part of the deal the club will grant access to the golf course to residents of East Providence for four days a year. At the same time, the conservancy will conduct up to five guided nature walks per year. And finally, a public walking trail will be built along the Ten Mile River on land that is not part of the golf course.

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The club also has agreed to restore wildlife habitat along the river, landscape with native plants while removing invasive, non-native plants and modify its horticultural practices to incorporate organic and natural materials.

The restoration of the Ten Mile River within the club’s boundary follows a $7.7 million investment of fish passage that was completed in 2015 that added 7.5 miles of stream habitat for river herring and American shad.

The Providence Metro Program was launched in 2016 to expand the conservancy’s activities to urban areas, with twin goals of dealing with environmental challenges and promoting social equity.

Mark S. Murphy is PBN’s editor.