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News Release

RI Department of Environmental Management
235 Promenade St., Providence, RI 02908
(401) 222-2771 TDD/(401) 222-4462



Wednesday, May 24




Providence Marriott
Orms Street, Providence


DEM's Annual Al Hawkes Award Luncheon

For Release:

May 23, 2000

Media Contact:

Gail Mastrati 222-4700 ext. 2402
Stephanie Powell 222-4700 ext. 4418


PROVIDENCE - Peter Merritt, a founding member of the Aquidneck Island Land Trust, will receive the Department of Environmental Management's Alfred L. Hawkes Environmental Award at a luncheon to be held in his honor Wednesday, May 24, beginning at noon, at the Providence Marriott on Orms Street.

The Alfred L. Hawkes Award for Conservation and Environmental Accomplishment acknowledges those who have "with uncommon effort, immeasurably advanced the preservation, protection, and enhancement of the natural resources of our state." Merritt is the eighth recipient of the annual award.

DEM Director Jan Reitsma in announcing the award, said, "Peter Merritt has worked tirelessly, as an unpaid volunteer, to build the Aquidneck Island Land Trust into a model land conservation organization that has established an unparalleled reputation for successful land preservation." The Land Trust was formed in 1990 in response to the rampant development taking place on Aquidneck Island and has been instrumental in land conservation efforts in that area over the last decade.

"The Aquidneck Island Land Trust has preserved nearly 500 acres and Peter Merritt has been instrumental in each and every project," Reitsma said. "This effort has been so successful because he has been able to professionalize land conservation. Through his reputation as a highly regarded real estate appraiser, Peter has been able to use his business and community relationships to negotiate very sophisticated land preservation transactions involving multiple partners and funding sources."

The work of Merritt and the Aquidneck Island Land Trust have created permanent greenway areas in all three Aquidneck Island communities. Examples include the recent preservation of the Peters Farm, a 50-acre parcel in Portsmouth, which was a joint effort between the Land Trust, state and federal governments; and the Perry Farm, an 80-acre vineyard in Middletown. These parcels provide recreational opportunities, habitat preservation, protection of public drinking water supplies and the preservation of some of the state's highest quality, and most scenic, farmland.

"None of these projects would have been possible without Peter's endless enthusiasm and commitment to doing whatever it took to get the projects done," Reitsma said.

At Wednesday's luncheon, which will be attended by DEM staff, members of the Aquidneck Island Land Trust, and several past award recipients, Reitsma will present Merritt with an engraved plaque. In addition, Kristie Gardiner of the Aquidneck Island Land Trust will present Merritt with proclamations from the Towns of Portsmouth and Middletown.

Merritt's name will also be added to another plaque featured prominently at DEM headquarters bearing the distinguished list of past recipients. They are: Al Hawkes, former Executive Director of the Audubon Society of Rhode Island; The Champlin Foundations; the late Senator John Chafee; Louise Durfee, former DEM Director; the late John Lawrence, former Chief of DEM's Division of Agriculture and Resource Marketing; Jane Sherman, Director of the Woonasquatucket River Greenway Project, and John T. Campanini, Jr., Providence city forester and chairman and founding director of the Rhode Island Tree Council.

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