Westport, Mass. — Richmond Pond in Westport is just a stone's throw away from the mouth of Buzzards Bay where it meets Rhode Island Sound, both leading to the Atlantic Ocean.
The beach area on the pond's south side was the spot where youngsters attending St. Vincent's Camp, a few miles to the north, would enjoy its pristine waters and sand.
With the closing of St. Vincent's Camp, the 24-acre beach site was not being used, except by local birds, fish and wildlife, specifically the threatened ploving piper.
In the spirit of Pope Francis' encyclical "Laudato Si'," Fall River Bishop Edgar da Cunha recently finalized the sale of the property to the Westport Land Conservation Trust, so that the organization can create the Richmond Pond Wildlife Sanctuary. The pond is one of only two coastal salt ponds in Westport.
"This land has such a unique environment," da Cunha told The Anchor, newspaper of the Fall River diocese. "We felt it would be a good use for the property. I see it as our contribution to conserving various species of nature for years to come."
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The diocese had been looking for a good way to use the land when approached by Westport Land Conservation Trust with its proposal to use the site strictly for conservation purposes. "It was a win-win situation," the bishop added, "a no-brainer. The neighbors, the town and the wildlife benefit from this."
Da Cunha, the Westport trust's president, Trip Milliken, and others met at attorney Dorothy Tongue's office in Westport to sign the papers transferring ownership.
"Richmond Pond Wildlife Sanctuary will be managed to protect this ecologically significant coastal wildlife habitat," said a joint statement released by Westport Land Conservation Trust and the Fall River diocese. "(It) is a haven for the globally-threatened and endangered piping plover. A variety of significant shorebirds are seasonal residents of the property including: common terns, semipalmated sandpipers, and American oystercatchers.
"The sanctuary will limit public access to walking, beachcombing, bird-watching, nature observation and leashed dog walking with an eye on protecting the fragile wildlife habitat," the statement continued. "The property can be entered on by foot but parking is unavailable."
Da Cunha told The Anchor, "It is a good feeling to know that generations from now will be able to enjoy the land, the wildlife, the birds and the sea life there and that the diocese had a part in that.
"It shows a sign of our own commitment to protecting God's creation, as Pope Francis has asked us all to do."
"Each community can take from the bounty of the earth whatever it needs for subsistence, but it also has the duty to protect the earth and to ensure its fruitfulness for coming generations.”
The release also stated that Westport Land Conservation Trust also has secured the right to purchase the camp. The property is 82 acres with wooded uplands and has just over 10 acres with buildings that constitute the camp core. "WLCT is excited to be working closely with the diocese, the town and the community to preserve an icon of Adamsville," the organization said.
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