The Town of Tiverton, RI Comprehensive Plan of 1996 included guidelines for policies concerning the preservation and conservation of the natural and cultural characteristics of the town.
Four citizens began to meet informally to design an organization that would produce the necessary plans, goals, and objectives. In May, 1997 Mary Wehle, Joseph Bossom, Martin VanHof and Stephen Barker established a nonprofit organization and named it the Tiverton Land Trust.
At this time one of the few remaining large farms in Tiverton was about to be sold to a developer who planned to build 80-100 single family homes on the site. Recognizing the imminent loss of a beautiful and historic farm, the newly formed Land Trust sought to save and preserve it as open space. Allen Smith joined the group which applied for Open Space funding through the R.I. Department of Environmental Management (DEM). The DEM awarded $400,000 for the project, and additional grants were obtained from U.S. Fish and Wildlife, The Norcross Foundation, The Nature Conservancy, and Newport Water. The first fundraiser of the TLT was a concert by Pete Seeger held at the Four Corners Arts Center. More than 100 supporters attended. Membership in the TLT began in earnest and contributions flowed into the fundraising effort to save the farm.
The task of saving the farm was contested with wins and losses over the next three years. Several times it seemed that the farm would be lost. Finally, the 237 acres of farm and woodland was purchased for $1,200,000 on March 31 2000. The land was renamed the Pardon Gray Preserve in honor of the original colonial landowner. Abutting the town's preserved Weetamoo Woods, the preserve shapes the start of a coastal greenway distinguished by the unusual growth of an oak holly forest. It is one of the few such forests remaining on the East Coast.
Since our initial success several other properties have been preserved through the actions of the TLT – both independently and in cooperation with other conservation groups. The Land Trust continues to work closely with land owners and involved community members to monitor development trends in Tiverton and to encourage thoughtful, conscientious, and environmentally sensitive use of the land.