Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Help Bring the Trail to Tiverton

Have you ever gone for a stroll on the Bristol Bike Path? Or maybe even tried to ride across a few different trails from East Providence all the way to the backyard of the Audubon Society's Environmental Learning Center in Bristol?

If you have, you know first hand what a wonderful backbone such a trail can be for a community. Families and individuals out there riding, skating, and walking their way to health and relaxation, and of course, getting from Point A to Point B in the process. And many times, new small businesses (e.g, bike shops and rentals, refreshment stands) crop up close by to support the burgeoning new gathering spot.

We have that same opportunity in Tiverton and a new group of volunteers called Tiverton Trailblazers is seeing that it becomes a reality. The new path, or greenway, aims to reclaim a long-abandoned stretch of train rails between the Sakonnet River Bridge and the North Tiverton/Fall River line. What makes this effort even sweeter is that the new bridge (ridiculous naming debate aside) will have a pedestrian lane, allowing you to go right over into Portsmouth.

Converting rails to trails is nothing new. Several national advocacy groups such as the Rails-to-Trails Conservancy have been working for years to create a new way for all of us to get around. Closer to home, the East Coast Greenway aims to connect all the major cities along the east coast with one continuous trail. Such inter-modal transportation alternatives are a win-win for any community, especially when they are connected to a wider array of paths, trails, and existing street systems. Carbon-free transportation, improved health and wellness, recreation alternatives, the list goes on.

But it takes a lot of hard work to make it a reality. If you've been looking for a way to give back to the town and do some volunteering, Tiverton Trailblazers might be a great way to do it. Visit their website for more information. There you can see pictures and maps of the proposed trail site, and find out how to lend a hand.

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Peking. Moscow. Tiverton?

Well, that’s the question one Tiverton resident is asking of us. In the May 10th edition of the Sakonnet Times, Mr. James E. Correia of Tiverton submitted a letter (can’t find it online, hence no link) where he scolded residents for trying to keep the town green and basically in “the 18th century” as he puts it. Heck, if Peking has a McDonalds and Moscow a Kentucky Fried Chicken, why shouldn’t Tiverton Mr. Correia ponders (read: complains). You can read my formal response in this week’s paper. Here’s another version:

Beside the obvious that you cannot compare the (supposed) amenities of metropolitan areas with that of small-town suburbia, Mr. Correia is lamenting over his need to drive into Fall River for many of the things that make (t)his modern life complete – fast food, laundromats, big-box retailers that squash mom & pop shops, and let us not forget, taxi services.

As far as I’m concerned – and many others feel the same way -- this is where all this should be kept. Does a McDonalds or Wal-mart need to be located every 10th mile on the mile? This doesn’t equate to convenience; rather it’s a reflection of America’s sad love affair with laziness, artificially low prices (and the blind eye that’s turned towards the sweat shops of Asia), and a lifestyle that is out of touch with the natural balance of the world.

I wonder if Mr. Correia is a life-long Tiverton resident. If so, that makes his diatribe even sadder, for he seems to have not experienced all the great small businesses we have in town that could meet most of his needs. Tiverton is the community it is because all of those urban-like-things are not here. As I alluded to in my response letter, a sustainable community is one that embraces smart growth and development — development that achieves economic prosperity while maintaining a character that is representative of its rural nature. So spend your money here, Mr. Correia, and keep our businesses running (and thus paying the town taxes you seem so concerned about).

The best line in his letter is this: “The people who are trying to keep Tiverton in the 18th century should do the moving. Move to some remote village in Alaska or Northern Maine and you can live like hermits with no conveniences.” Funny thing, the local people in these areas are probably very content with what they have and feel their lives very complete. I've been to Alaska and have witnessed that completeness first hand. Rural 18th century New England life meant no plumbing, electricity, refrigeration, and paved roads. Last time I looked, most of us here in Tiverton had those things.

If you are so drawn to Fall River, move there and shorten your commute. But be careful, the grass is always greener on the other side.

Saturday, May 12, 2007

Welcome Striper Moon Farmers Market

I was driving down East Main Road in Portsmouth this morning and what did I spy at the bottom of Quaker Hill? The familiar site of Manic Organic’s white pop-up tent and vegetable stand. It’s officially warm(er) out. Better yet, that’s a sure sign that we’re only weeks away from the 2007 farmers market season.

This year, we’ll have yet another option for fresh, local food and fare: The Striper Moon Farmers Market in Bristol. Kudos to Nick Kearney, owner of Striper Moon, for pulling it all together. As he said in an email to me, he hopes it becomes a new “nerve center” for Bristol residents on Saturday mornings. The market will feature local fruits and vegetables from a number of small producers, The Bristol Bakery, and seafood, flowers, cheeses, and other wares from local merchants. Tiverton’s own Coastal Roasters will be providing the coffee. Here are the details:

Striper Moon Farmers Market
47 Bradford Street, Bristol (Google Map)
Saturdays, 9:00am – 1:00pm
June 2 - October 31

Why are farmers markets important?
Fresh + Local = Better For You. Local means your food was picked in some cases hour ago, not days or weeks. It tastes better and doesn’t have to be laden with preservatives. If it’s grown organically, that’s even better for you and the environment. Did you know that the food you buy in the grocery store has traveled an average of 1,200 miles to get there?

Supporting Local Farmers and Merchants. We don’t have to look to far to see a new housing development on what was once a farm. Farming is our connection to the land and the people who work that land here in our communities need to be supported – not the huge agro-business industrial farms in the south and west (or outside the U.S. for that matter). Small-scale local merchants keep communities thriving and are a better alternative to chain stores.

Connect with Neighbors. Farmers markets bring people together. Folks interact, talk, laugh, and even meet new friends. When’s the last time you did that at Stop & Shop?

I’ll see you in Bristol on Saturday, June 2! In a couple weeks we’ll do another post to feature all our local farmers markets.

Tuesday, May 1, 2007

Tiverton Talks Turbine

One small step for sustainability, one giant leap for…

Time will tell. But kudos to the Tiverton Town Council for kicking off what will only be months, if not years, worth of discussions on how we can harness (profitable) wind power here in town. About 30 people showed up for the workshop held last night to hear Professior Lefteris Pavlides of Roger Williams University give an educational and inspiration presentation entitled, "Wind Power Tiverton".

The Bottom Line: Wind power can be profitable and on equal cost footing with electricity produced in more traditional and carbon-laden ways. What you need is a location with ample (at least 7 meters per second) wind speed and a turbine size of at least 1.5 megawatts. Put that up and your making a profit from the first spin of the 12-ton blades. Even better – your electricity production costs will remain constant for at least 20 years.

Professor Pavlides shared insight from the recent wind power conference at URI where amongst other things, the Governor’s Office released the long-awaited wind power siting study (Note: This is a large file). This is the first step in achieving the Governor’s goal of getting 15% of the state power needs from renewable sources by 2012.

Some interested factoids shared during the Council Workshop presentation:
• The wind power siting study identifies locations both onshore and in coastal waters. If all the coastal water locations were developed, wind power would generate 75% of RI’s energy needs. If just the locations in waters between Little Compton and Middletown were developed, we would hit the statewide goal of 15%.
• Rhode Island exceeds the U.S. EPA’s ozone cap levels. To that end the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers estimates that wind power would avert 2,028 asthma attacks in New England each year.
• A Harvard University study found that pollution from Brayton Point Power Plant costs the region $500M a year in unnecessary spending (medical, environmental, etc.)
• Installing and maintaining wind turbines across the state and region means hundreds of new, local jobs.

Of course, concern over initial funding came up. There is more than one way to skin this cat according to Professor Pavlides. Everything from grants to partnering with other RI communities to create economies of scale and "bulk" purchasing power.

Stay tuned, there’s more to come on this. Council President Durfee asked to reach out to other RI communities exploring wind power, as well as connecting with Portsmouth Abbey on lessons learned. For us here in town, the next step – above and beyond thinking about potential sites to conduct feasibility studies with – is to SHOW OUR SUPPORT. Take a moment to drop a note to Council President Louise Durfee or Town Administrator Glen Steckman III and tell them you support wind power in Tiverton.

I’m curious, what are your feelings on wind power in Tiverton or Little Compton? Leave a comment and let’s start a discussion.