Letter: Mount Hope Farm is private land, not public park

EastBayRI.com ·

To the editor,

On behalf of the Board of Trustees of the Mount Hope Farm Trust, I am writing in response to the Speak-Out piece in last week’s Bristol Phoenix saying that the farm has no right to restrict public access.

The Speak-Out person went on to say, “Just put up signs, and provide doggie bags....” The gist of the Speak-Out comments was that the farm has no right to restrict access, and is running a big profitable business and has no right to ban people from the property.

The farm is privately owned by the Mount Hope Trust. We welcome the public, but walking at the farm is a privilege, not a right. We are asking people visiting the farm who do obey the rules to help us enforce those rules by monitoring the behavior of others.

The farm was purchased in 1999 with tremendous community support, including paying a portion of the purchase price through a bond issue. Mount Hope Farm is a private non-profit and provides an extraordinary opportunity to learn, understand, explore and enjoy five centuries of American history. We are not a public park, and unfortunately some in the community are abusing our beautiful local treasure. Walkers and dog walkers alike are leaving trash on our trails.

Town ordinances state, “It shall be a violation for any person to fail to remove and dispose of any feces left by his dog on any private property and to not have on their persons a means for removal”.” We do provide doggie bags and strategically placed disposal sites, although we are not required to do so; this is a courtesy provided by the farm. Strangely, some dog walkers pick up after their dogs, use the bags and then throw the bags into the shrubs.

The Speak-Out person also doesn’t seem to understand that dogs must be leashed. The town ordinance states, “All dogs must be kept under physical restraint at all times, i.e. leash or behind a fence.” Despite both town ordinances and our rules requiring all dogs to be on a leash and all pet leavings to be picked up and removed by dog walkers, many people ignore the rules and abuse the privilege of being able to walk at the farm.

Just last week, I stopped a person walking two dogs off the leash near Cove Cabin and reminded him that dogs have to be on leashes. He objected, saying no one else was around. He and many others don’t seem to understand that the farm permits them to walk there and they have to obey the farm rules. Mount Hope Farm is privately owned and is not a park or public property.

As a non-profit, the farm counts on donations and friends of the farm for support. Most people who walk at the farm do not provide any financial support, so it is especially unfortunate that they abuse the farm.

Despite the Speak-Out person claiming that the farm “has enough money,” we depend on donations and grants to repair our buildings and offer services. We welcome anyone to become a supporter of MHF by going to our website and donating or becoming a member: mounthopefarm.org.

Last year, volunteers and master gardeners at the farm grew more than 1,600 pounds of vegetables which were donated to the food bank at no cost. We have a number of free or low-cost programs that benefit the community.

We encourage those people who walk the farm’s fields and paths to help us enforce the rules. Please take a picture of anyone whose dogs are running loose or who flings plastic bags of dog waste into the farm’s trees and email to: Info@mounthopefarm.org. Thanks for supporting the farm!

Georgina Macdonald
Mount Hope Trust

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