LINCOLN, R.I. — Contemplate gratitude on a post-Thanksgiving walk in Rhode Island’s newest nature preserve, just a few miles from Greater Providence.
The Nature Conservancy opened the Moshassuck River Preserve this fall with 3 miles of blazed trails that loop through hardwood forests, around glacial boulders, and crisscross small streams feeding into the river.
One trail leads along the burbling Moshassuck River, at the start of its 10-mile journey down to Providence, where it powered industry hundreds of years ago. Another trail winds by a monument to Prudy Hayden, “for her dedicated service to Cub Scout Pack 1,” a reminder that the old Camp Conklin Boy Scout camp used to be here. And deep in the forest, there’s a historic cemetery where fieldstones mark the forgotten graves.
Since the 1990s, this 210-acre parcel owned by the Nature Conservancy had been left wild and open, accessible only to those who hiked in using trails from the MacColl YMCA at one border, or cut through from the Fairlawn Golf Course on Sherman Avenue to find the old cart trails. It was a place that only the locals knew about.
But when the pandemic hit, and people sought refuge in nature, the conservancy realized the need for more walkable space, said Tim Mooney, spokesman for The Nature Conservancy in Rhode Island. With the nearby Aust Family Preserve at Lime Rock overwhelmed with visitors, the conservancy decided to open up the Moshassuck River Preserve, he said.
They found that abutting landowners were willing to help, Mooney said. The Fairlawn Golf Course voluntarily built a 15-car parking area for the preserve, with a shared entrance off Sherman Avenue, and installed new signs. The MacColl YMCA also accommodated existing trails that leave the preserve and cross onto YMCA property.
“The Fairlawn Golf Course and the YMCA have both been amazing partners to work with,” preserves manager Cheryl Wiitala said in a statement. “We couldn’t have done it without them, and we’re looking forward to doing more together.”
The result is a preserve that feels like a hidden gem, with an old dam and a cemetery giving a sense of its place in Rhode Island’s history. Visitors will have to skip over rocks to cross some of the streams, until the conservancy adds more foot bridges, but essentially this offers gentle trails.
“There’s something to be said for being surrounded by these big healthy trees,” Mooney said. “It’s a really nice preserve for families and beginner hikers who aren’t looking for a whole day or half day hike. It’s 210 acres tucked into suburbia, and I think a lot of visitors will take comfort in being in the neighborhood.”
The trailhead parking is at 3 Sherman Ave., Lincoln, next to the Fairlawn Golf Course. Leashed dogs are welcome.