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Mercy Woods: A 30-Year Vision in the Making

July 12, 2018

Mercy Woods

(From left) Governor Gina Raimondo; Mayor William Murray; Sister Jacqueline Marie Kieslich, Northeast Community president; Sister Maureen Mitchell, Northeast Community president-elect. Credit: Catherine Walsh/Sisters of Mercy.

On June 21, 2018, the Sisters of Mercy — Northeast Community completed the sale of 229 acres of land in Cumberland, Rhode Island, which closed a 30-year endeavor to conserve this beautiful property.

The dedication of Mercy Woods took place a few days later, on June 25. In attendance were numerous officials, including Rhode Island Governor Gina Raimondo and Cumberland Mayor William Murray, as well as several dozen sisters and the Community Leadership Team.

During the 1980’s, sisters in Rhode Island began discussions with the town to put into conservation most of the land under their ownership in Cumberland. Negotiations ended, however, when the town lacked funding to close the transaction. In the early 2000’s, the Community again committed to the land conservation, and nearly signed a partial conservation with the Cumberland Land Trust and Pawtucket Water Supply in 2013. But the Community chose instead to expand the search for a full conservation agreement.

With the help of Scott Partington, a member of the Community’s Property Advisory Committee and the lawyer who oversaw negotiations, the Community brought together the previous groups and added new partners. The partnership included the Town of Cumberland, Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management, Pawtucket Water Supply Board, The Champlin Foundation/The Nature Conservancy, and the Cumberland Land Trust.

The Mercy Woods property consists of woodlands, open fields, wetlands, stone walls, and footpaths. Its conservation will protect the drinking water quality of nearby Diamond Hill Reservoir, preserve wildlife habitat and several species of rare plants, and provide public recreational and educational opportunities. In addition, this land contains and connects to existing trail systems, including the historic 30-mile Warner Trail, which stretches from Cumberland to Sharon, Massachusetts Protected in the sale are the Community’s buildings, including the Administrative Office, Mercycrest Convent, Mercymount Convent and Mercy Lodge, and the land around each building.

The Town's one special request was for permission to create a few practice/recreation fields on the property. The Community granted this request by isolating 17.5 acres, which the town will convert to active recreation fields with limited use through specific deed restrictions. Although not covered by the full conservation easement, no permanent structures can be added to this land either.

The sale's proceeds will be used to continue our mission of Mercy—working with those who are poor, advocating for justice, and caring for our senior sisters in their ministries of prayer and presence.  

Valley Breeze, Publisher Tom Ward, wrote in his column “The land could have been sold to developers for more ... a lot more. The sisters sacrificed those funds so that their “home” could be conservation land forever. In a sense, they have permanently blessed our community. We should remember that.”

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