The Grills Preserve Trail Widening, Grills Preserve & Wildlife Sanctuary

September 21, 2013

By HHA Member Tom Helmer

The “Tomaquag Trail” runs through the Grills Preserve & Wildlife Sanctuary. The original plans called for a linkage between this trail system, spearheaded by the Hopkinton Land Trust, and a similar trail system developed by the Westerly Land Trail. Two of the three bridges that will make these trails complete are now “in” and functioning. They are the big “Polly Coon Bridge”, a hiking bridge spanning the Pawcatuck River, and the “Wine Bottle Brook Bridge”, recently completed over the Wine Bottle Brook.

(A BIG Thank You! to David Benn & Family! A separate page is coming soon to chronicle the construction of this all natural materials stone work bridge. A 5 photo slide show is included on this page as a preview of the “Wine Bottle Brook” page.)

The hiking bridge over Tomaquag Brook, and the elevated Plank Walk over it’s flood plain is scheduled for construction in the Fall of 2013. However, to accommodate the truck bringing in the bridge trusses and the flood plain pilings, the “Tomaquag Trail” has to be widened to allow passage of the truck and trailer.

This 28 photo slide show records the work done on Saturday, 9/21/2013.

A Citizen’s Success Story

A Citizen’s Success Story!

A huge tree beautifully shaded the grave of Revolutionary War General George Thurston for centuries. This year a monster branch fell off the now rotted tree and demolished a stone wall. The remaining bulk of the tree threatens the historic cemetery and must be removed. In Rhode Island, the towns do not own the cemeteries, the people do. That means the cost to safely take down the tree falls on all concerned citizens, not the Town Hopkinton. The Town Council tasked the Hopkinton Historical Association with the responsibility of raising the $3,000+ expense.
The need was publicized in the Westerly Sun, The Chariho Times, in Town Hall, on a Rt. 3 Sign & the Hopkinton Historical Association’s Web Site. (Please see “Donations To Save Gen Thurston’s Grave”)

The response was wonderful!

The people of Hopkinton and the surrounding communities were Very Generous! Rocky’s Tree Service cut down their own bid!


George Thurston opened the first General Store in Hopkinton prior to the Revolutionary War. With the outbreak of hostilities, he joined the Continental Army with the rank of Captain. When he returned after the war, his merit had earned him the rank of General.

He went back to minding his store in the quiet little village in the woods for many years.
(Please see “Touring General Thurston’s Mansion”)

As a result, Hopkinton uniquely had an genuine General running the town’s General Store!
Who says History is dull & boring!

As the tree comes down, and later on, when the Cemetery wall gets rebuilt,
HHA will post additional pages covering the progress of this COMMUNITY SUCCESS STORY.

Tour Takers’ Photographs


These six slide shows are of the Joint Project produced by the united efforts of Hopkinton’s Conservation Commission, Friends of the Land Trust, Historical Association, Historic District Commission & Land Trust.

The 119 pictures were taken by HHA Members Billie Jo Buehring, Bob Miner, Tom Helmer & Donna Ramos.

Gigi the wild Canadian Goose, seen leading the first tour, completed the entire tour on her own stubby, flat footed legs and feet. In fact, this was the second time she walked the entire route with Bob Miner, whom she has adopted as her very own pet human.

Joint Projects

By HHA Member Tom Helmer (Who is solely accountable for his opinions on this page. Complain to him.)


The “Joint Projects” Heading of our Web Site represents the beginning of a new way of working together among the five different groups in Hopkinton which have separate mandates and unique individual goals, yet ultimately strive for the same Community Benefit. Here is the background information on them.

Two of these five are offshoots of the Town’s Governmental structure. They are the Hopkinton Conservation Commission, and the Hopkinton Historical District Commission. They both are legitimate Governmental Agencies.

A brief description of the mandate of the Conservation Commission is they have oversight of the environmental and physical well being of the land mass governed by the Town of Hopkinton.

A brief description of the mandate of the Historical Commission is they have oversight of the historical legacy and property under the stewardship of the Town of Hopkinton.

When the Town Council wants to know something or get an opinion about either of these areas of concern, these are the two agencies they ask. Each of these agencies has a very limited number of staff people doing their Agency’s work. I believe both the Conservation Commission and the Historical District Commission have about 6 each, a total of maybe a dozen knowledgeable people.

Mirroring the two governmental agencies are three Non-Governmental Groups. The Hopkinton Land Trust, and The Friends Of The Hopkinton Land Trust are closely affiliated with the Conservation Commission. The Hopkinton Historical Association is closely affiliated with the Historical Commission. There are far more people involved with each of these three non-governmental groups. A rough tally would have well above 200+ people compared to maybe 12.

Relations between each of these five different groups are usually polite, at times quite cordial, but to illustrate, each has always operated as an independant Sovereign Island in a Confederated Archipelago.

I imagine that will still be true in the future, for each group does have a specific, distinct focus.

But what has changed on this new day of September 9th, 2013, is for the FIRST time, the three private groups of The Land Trust, the Friends Of The Land Trust and the The Historical Association combined with both the Conservation Commission and the Historical District Commission to co-equally produce the hugely successful “TOURING TOMAQUAG VALLEY” Project.

I know co-operation’s a “no-brainer”,
but if it was EASY, it would have happened a decade ago!

Why it never happened before is irrelevant, because now it has happened.

Jointly, we had what might be the largest turnout ever for a Community Event!

The response from the 60+ people who signed in, each walking for 2+ hours in the woods encountering “History in the Wild”, was uniformly and enthusiastically positive. Those people, and the people they talk to, will be “Word of Mouthing” the ultimate result that the 5 united groups achieved by working together.

As the success of this first experiment sinks in, it is my opinion that we should not go back exclusively to the “Every little king on THEIR little hill” model. Yes, each group has their own individual perspective and mandate. Yes, each group has the space and scope to pursue that mandate as they see fit. But there will be times when the common goal of enriching our community by show casing our inherited legacy will require that we unite together as we did in “TOURING TOMAQUAG VALLEY”.

In accord with my personal opinion, (I am an outsider newbie, having only lived in Hopkinton for 25 years.) but knowing that what I saw unfolding in the grassroot’s work to make this project happen was the right way to go, (See the Web Page “May Prep Work”) I have completely changed the entire structure of this Web Site by added “JOINT PROJECTS” as it’s own Navigational Heading and separate wing. You will find all the previous pages dealing with making this first project happen now residing under this JOINT PROJECTS section.

If “Touring Tomaquag Valley” is the first, last and only joint project we five groups ever do together, my decision to commit this site to the “Joint Projects” structure will gather dust and wither away as a reminder of what we finally had and then abandoned in Hopkinton. “My Bad”, as they say.

But I expect to add two more pages in the upcoming weeks. One will be a Text and Photo Tour that will take our site visitors individually on the Tour. The second will be Tour Guide photos, submitted photos from the Tour Participants, and submitted text comments from the Tour Participants in the four tour groups. Watch for that page to grow over time as people send in their photos, and add their thoughts to the “Send Us Your Comments” form to be located on that “Tour” page.

As it will take me some time to compile these two new pages, for now, I will only post two photo which will convey the beauty of the day, and the success the public gave to our joint efforts. It was impossible to get all the cars in the first shot, but for an afternoon, Bob Miner’s farm looked like Wall Mart’s parking lot the day after Thanksgiving! The “The Next Day” shot is the now empty lower pasture, which was filled with cars, as well as six cars overflowing in the upper lot.

And on a positive note, plans for our second Joint Project are already in the works, with this one adding a sixth independent group, The Tomaquag Memorial Indian Museum, in Exeter, joining in the collaboration to “Delightfully Inform” about our rich local historical legacy. Check back to the Events page to see progress as this event takes shape over the Winter.