History of Potowomut Neck - Land of Fires

In 1998, an existing nature trail on the Rocky Hill School (RHS) campus was mapped, marked, and christened the Land of Fires Trail. This 1.5 mile-long trail extends along the southern shoreline of the Potowomut Neck peninsula along the Potowomut-Hunt River (also known as Green River). The trail passes several intriguing historical sites and natural land features, including rocky beach, a man-made swimming area, fresh and saltwater ponds, and an extensive salt marsh.               

Historically, the property has belonged to Rocky Hill School since the School moved its campus to the Hopelands homestead on Ives Road in 1948.  An unofficial walking path was established by students and educators exploring the river shoreline and salt marsh.

In the mid-1990s, Prentice Stout, the then marine education coordinator for RHS, authored a map and guidebook to document the existing walking trail and explore the natural history of Potowomut Neck. Metal trail markers were set at sites of significance to note both historical land usage and interesting natural features.

In 2014, Rocky Hill School received a generous gift from the Eldredge Family to restore the Land of Fires trail. The gift was donated in honor of Lu Eldredge, a Rocky Hill Alum who graduated in 1954. A true nature lover, Lu devoted his scientific career to investigating invasive species in Hawaii. In the fall of 2014, a terrific team of students, teachers, and parent volunteers came to campus and cleared the walking path and placed new QR-coded trail markers at each site. 

Rocky Hill's commitment to preserving our campus' natural features has also allowed the school to establish several on-going projects. The local Rhode Island nonprofit organization Save The Bay has been working as a partner with RHS to restore the salt marsh as sea level rises. In December 2014 Save the Bay restoration scientists dredged a drainage ditch in the marsh to allow for proper flushing of the salt marsh with the tides. Today, Save the Bay continues to monitor how salt marsh plants are responding to the changes. Additionally, in a partnership with researchers from the University of Rhode Island, several grants from the National Science Foundation have contributed to the monitoring of the progression of the invasive Common Reed (Phragmites australis) along the trail, as well as the monitoring and protection of a population of locally-endangered reptiles, the diamondback terrapin (Malaclemys terrapin).

In the future, the Land of Fires trail will primarily be utilized for educational purposes through monitoring the coastal habitat. Students at RHS have the opportunity to explore organisms and ecosystem interaction in both bay shoreline and salt marsh habitats including the common invasive flora and fauna found in the area. In short, the trail helps to enrich student education in an outdoor classroom environment.

Read original Land of Fires text here.