2016 Recipient: Kelley Whitmore
It is with great pleasure and unanimous agreement that we are giving the Mary Wilson Award to Kelley Whitmore, who helped transform the operations of our land trust.
Starting in late 2007, Kelley Whitmore, an employee of the Trustees of Reservations, began working for us for about a day a week with a focus on land preservation. She had the expertise to allow us in Seekonk to qualify for three different pots of state funds for land preservation.
Firstly she immediately organized us to push for getting a Community Preservation Act passed in town that with a state match provides funds for open space and land preservation, historical preservation, recreation, and affordable housing. In the first town-wide election in 2008, it lost by 50 votes but in April of 2009, it passed and now provides between $300,000 and $400,000 to the town. 75% from a local tax on real estate and 25% from the state. This gave Seekonk citizens for the first time money to help in land preservation.
Secondly, Kelley then worked with Land Trust members, in particular, Willit Mason, to find land that could be preserved for various purposes. She knew about the Agricultural Preservation program in the state and was able to leverage CPA funds at a 2 to 1 match with state funds to preserve over 120 acres of farm land in south Seekonk.
Thirdly she knew about a state program that would provide tax credits to people who donated land or put conservation restrictions on their land, and helped two families gain funds from this program, which rewarded them for preserving land.
Through her work in town, she can be credited with helping us preserve over 320 acres via gifts of land of about 50 acres to the Land Trust, with almost 100 acres of land with conservation restrictions, and with 170 acres of land that the town now owns and manages through the Conservation Commission. This doubles what we had under preservation in 2009.
On top of bringing in all this state funding for the town, she also worked with the then head of the YMCA and with Bernadette DeBlander, the Conservation Agent in town, to plan out a trail behind the Y and Town Hall that would have a bridge over the Runnins River to allow the trails to connect with those around the Turner Reservoir. Firstly she helped us use CPA fund to purchase 4 acres of land to the north of the Runnins River to allow the trail to connect to Arcade Avenue. Then she got Peter Jensen involved to plan the trail and worked with us to gain $10,000 in foundation funds, $50,000 in state funds to go with $90,000 in CPA fund to build the trail that we will be dedicating on Saturday morning May 13. A wonderful project that enhances active and passive recreation in town.
So she is more than deserving of our annual award.