Wildlife & Nature

In Search of Ancient Trees Hidden in Rhode Island’s Canopy


Nathan Cornell is on a mission to find and map the few old-growth forests left in Rhode Island. (Frank Carini/ecoRI News photos)
Listen to the audio story

WARWICK, R.I. — Last winter Nathan Cornell accidentally found himself “walking into a different world,” one that isn’t protected from human intervention. For the past two years, the University of Rhode Island graduate has been searching for old-growth forests in Rhode Island.

He found one not far from his Warwick home.

His hunt for old-growth forests led him and Rachel Briggs to found the Rhode Island Old Growth Tree Society, a nonprofit determined to locate, document, map, and advocate for the preservation of all remaining old-growth and emerging old-growth trees and forests in the state. This means trees and groups of trees that are 100 years old and older.

Cornell, with the help of licensed arborist Matthew Largess, owner of Largess Forestry in North Kingstown, has so far identified more than a dozen potential old-growth pockets, including on the University of Rhode Island campus in South Kingstown and in Cranston, North Kingstown, Portsmouth, Warwick, and West Greenwich.

In mid-July, the 24-year-old took this ecoRI News reporter on a walking tour of the hidden-in-plain-sight “5- to 10-acre” Warwick property owned by the Community College of Rhode Island and Kent Hospital. To listen to the audio story, click the bar at the top.

Anyone interested in joining the Rhode Island Old Growth Tree Society, can contact Cornell at [email protected]. To read an opinion piece written by Cornell and recently published on ecoRI News, click here.

A mature beech tree stands tall.


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  1. Camp Shepard, Smithfield, located off Coldwell Rd. Trees on must of the lot range from 100 to possible 200 years old.

  2. Great first try Frank.
    I would suggest you stop reading the narrative and just talk to the listener. And slow down. You are reading the story instead of telling the story. Pretend you have someone in the room and you are telling them the story – word for word. paragraph by paragraph. Vary your tone of voice and smile when you speak. May not seem to make a difference when you smile, but those who listen can tell the difference. As an example of the tone, speed and cadence, listen to Terry Gross. Also, listen to the Nathan and how he is speaking What are you using to record the audio? Keep going. The audio stories can be a lot of fun to do.

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