Property Name – Edward D. Vock Conservation Area
Conservation Management Organization – Burrillville Land Trust
Fee Owner Name – Burrillville Land Trust
Purpose – Habitat protection; wetlands, groundwater and aquifer protection; forest management
Public Access – Guided access during events and hikes.
Tax Assessor’s Plat & Lot ID – 188/003, 188/007, 188/010
Acreage – 86
Date of Acquisition – 10/24/2008
This 86 acre property is owned by the Burrillville Land Trust. The land trust acquired the property on October 24, 2008 from the daughters of Edward D. Vock. Vock was a New York City native who made frequent trips as a child and adult to visit friends in the ‘wilds of Burrillville.’ He was an individual who, like Henry David Thoreau – author of Walden – wanted to live off the land, where nature and the natural world were to be his backyard. As you walk along the edges of the property, you can easily see the foundations of an old sawmill and the remains of a barn and home where the Vock family worked and lived. From 1914 till Vock’s passing in 1971, this area was the home of the Vock family.
Today, stone walls, a lake and pond made by Edward Vock showcase a family that lived among nature. Tall pines, oaks and a healthy, dense understory now stand where open meadows and fields once stood. Edward Vock was a tree farmer and one of the original 5 tree farmers in the state of Rhode Island. Tree farms usually receive a designation when they become official tree farms. Vock’s woods, as they were called back then, received one of the first numbers in Rhode Island. His was number 5 as one of the first five state designated tree farms in the state. The designation became official on September 16, 1949 in a ceremony hosted by then Governor of Rhode Island John O. Pastore.
The Burrillville Land Trust manages the property in accordance with the wishes of the previous owners. Irene Vock Gillis and Louise Vock Schofield, daughters of Edward Vock, wanted a memorial to their late father in celebration of his work as a tree farmer and as a naturalist. Their desire, also, was to make certain that their father’s land would never be developed. The purchase of their property by the land trust meant that their wishes would come true. The land trust maintains an active forest management plan in accordance with the wishes of the previous owners, the natural flow of the land and what is best for the future of the property. Tree thinning, invasive species management, road pollution runoff, erosion control, and trash pickup are just a few of the activities of the management system in place for the conservation area.
These 86 acres are rich in the history of the Town of Burrillville and abundant in local lore and legend. This is the place where the Burrillville High School men’s hockey team practiced long before anyone else in the state. The pond known as Vock’s Pond was one of the first in the state to freeze solid giving the high school hockey team an advantage over all the others. Perhaps this was one of the reasons the hockey team was so successful as state and regional champions for so many years. Much of Edward Vock’s life is warmly remembered through the eyes and memories of his granddaughters. I hope you read the letter from Irene Gillis’ daughter, Laurie Gillis Espinosa, who describes her grandfather in a very heartfelt manner. And read Fran Schofield’s very personal account of her grandfather that was read during the dedication ceremonies of the Vock property on June 12, 2010. Fran is the daughter of Louise Vock Schofield. Both granddaughters provide a glimpse and insight into the man and how he lived.
All of us at the Burrillville Land Trust are so proud to become part of the rich history of this place. The Edward D. Vock Conservation Area is our shining example of a cooperative effort to make the land a working memorial and a place for all to love and learn.
Here is a complete listing of all our partners who helped make this purchase a reality:
- The State of Rhode Island Natural Heritage Preservation Commission – Open Space Conservation & Acquisition Grant
- The Champlin Foundation
- The June Rockwell Levy Foundation
- The Rhode Island Foundation
- The Rhode Island Chapter of The Nature Conservancy
- Ocean State Power/Burrillville Community Foundation
- The Gillis Family
- The Schofield Family
- Members of the Burrillville Land Trust