March 6, 2013 Westerly Conservationist Named Distinguished Fellow of Coastal Institute
Chaplin B. “Chap” Barnes of Westerly was given the first University of Rhode Island Coastal Institute Distinguished Senior Fellow award, its highest honor, at a reception this evening at the Ocean House in Watch Hill. The announcement coincided with an airing of a documentary featuring Barnes, “Watch Hill: Portrait of a New England Seaside Village,” on Rhode Island PBS, which is based on his 2005 book, “Watch Hill Through Time.”
“We are honored to recognize the work of a model and stalwart steward of the environment, especially for his tireless work protecting all the many things that make Watch Hill the beautiful community that it is and for his dedication to protecting the Napatree Point Conservation Area,” said Judith Swift, Director of the Coastal Institute. “The work that Chap has done to protect and preserve the natural and cultural resources of Watch Hill embodies the vision and values of the Coastal Institute.”
Chap Barnes is a conservationist and has been instrumental in the protection and stewardship of the Napatree Point Conservation Area. Napatree is one of Rhode Island’s most pristine beach ecosystems; it is a biodiversity hotpot for shorebirds and a destination for tens of thousands of visitors all year round. An attorney, Barnes was also a senior advisor for international affairs for the President’s Council on Environmental Quality from 1981-1982.
To understand the ecological complexities of the Napatree ecosystem, Barnes commissioned the Rhode Island Natural History Survey to develop a scientifically accurate baseline inventory of Napatree in 2005, and he engaged the Survey to reassess the Napatree ecosystem in 2010. This scientific “report card” for Napatree became a reality with the completion of the “2013 State of Napatree” report.
Another recent conservation achievement that Chaplin led was the development and adoption of conservation easement on the Watch Hill Fire District parcels that comprise much of the conservation area. The easement is officially recorded in the land records as the Chaplin B. Barnes Napatree Point Conservation Easement.
Barnes also founded the innovative Napatree Investigators youth education program that takes place every summer. Hundreds of children have spent their summers learning about the ecology of the Napatree ecosystem.
“Chap knows that the best long‐term insurance to protect the natural resources of the area is to educate the youngsters − tomorrow’s citizens and leaders − to the beauty and wonder of the Napatree environment,” said Swift.
Barnes was also praised for his work as an environmental advocate and his skills as a negotiator in often contentious conservation issues.
The mission of the Coastal Institute is to advance knowledge and develop solutions to environmental problems in coastal ecosystems. The Institute takes a broad view of coastal systems and embraces the concept that people, culture, and society are an integral part of the landscape.