The area that runs from Washington D.C. to Boston is often called the Northeast Corridor, and as a longtime resident of a state in the heart of that region, I rue how overpopulated and heavily developed it has become.
And don’t even get me started about the traffic, or how much effort it now takes in most these parts to enjoy the outdoors. Consequently, I take particular pleasure when I have the opportunity to venture to places that harken back to quieter and much more pastoral times – and remind me of the days when getting back to nature here was as easy as walking out the back door of my home with a .20 gauge and a pocketful of shells to prowl nearby woods for ruffed grouse and woodcock. Or working a local pond with rod and reel in an effort to induce largemouth bass to hit the lures I cast to the edges of the lily pads under which they lurk.
One such place is The Preserve at Boulder Hills, a luxury resort in southwestern Rhode Island, and during a recent visit I marveled first at its location, for it is just minutes from I-95, that busiest of Northeast Corridor highways, and only half an hour’s drive from Providence, one hour from either Hartford or Boston and roughly 170 miles from midtown Manhattan.
It is only a dozen miles or so from some of Rhode Island’s finest beaches. Next, I admired the classic New England setting, with stands of pines, birches, oaks and maples throughout the nearly 1,000-acre property which has 2,550 acres of national forest in the backdrop; rugged rock outcroppings and kettle ponds formed millennia ago by receding glaciers; and expansive meadows with calf-high native grasses.
Then, there are all the things a person can do here. From sporting clays and European-style tower shoots to good old-fashioned walk-up hunts for pheasants and chukkar partridges. Trout and bass fishing is available in each of The Preserve’s six pounds, and the 28 miles of trails that winds through the grounds can accommodate mountain bikers, snowshoers, cross country skiers and those who are happy just to take afternoon hikes.
Tennis may be played on grass or clay courts, and golfers will find lots to like about the executive, par-3 champion status course designed by Robert McNeil, with each of the 18-holes providing something fun and interesting for low handicap players as well as beginners.
It felt like a little bit of heaven to me, and as I played the golf course one morning and then enjoyed an afternoon round of sporting clays, I could not help but think of how nice it would be to have a place to hang my hunting vest in one of the six cabins that have already been constructed for members here and be able to head to the woods or the water whenever the spirit moved me. Just like I used to do.
The Preserve is the brainchild of Paul Mihailides, a one-time carpenter turned real estate developer who also possesses a passion for hunting, shooting and fishing. And the fifty-something native of the Ocean State is excited about what he is creating. “We consider the Preserve to be New England’s only four-season sporting retreat,” he says. “And we see it as a legacy property where families and their guests can enjoy a variety of outdoor experiences in an extraordinary setting,” Mihailides says.
A gray-haired man who sports a mustache and goatee and says he has developed 20 “golf assets” over the years, he goes on to describe some of the amenities that in his mind make The Preserve truly special.
There are the cabins, to be sure, as well appointed and comfortable as they are rustic. But he is also going to provide members with what might be best described as “experience housing,” with Mongolian yurts, “hobbit houses” that are partially underground and tree houses.
In addition, he will run herds of buffalo and elk in fenced portions of the property. “I want you to be able to hear an elk bugle from your back porch,” adds Mihailides, who is an owner of FAMARS USA, which makes and sells finely crafted firearms. And he has laid out by the clubhouse an extra golf hole on which players can practice and also settle matches that are all square after 18 holes.
His goal is to have approximately 150 member/home owners, and he likes the idea of the retreat being very much a place for families, with people being able to pass on their holdings to their heirs. The main lodge is a 25,000-square foot clubhouse, which features high ceilings, luscious wood beams and trim and crocodile, ostrich and shark skin on some of the walls, or in the operation in that same building of The Sporting Shoppe, a purveyor of fine outdoor clothing and accessories as well as ammunition, premium fishing reels and shotguns, including those made by FAMARS. He even has plans to construct a 150-room hotel that will be available for use by members.
Either way, The Preserve at Boulder Hills promises to provide a singular experience.