With amazing alacrity, what was once the overgrown shambles of Rocky Point is being transformed into clean open spaces.
Last week, the Palladium-Windjammer and the Shore Dinner Hall were leveled. The buildings that so many have fond memories of were beyond the point of saving. Windows had been blown in, sections of roofing and flooring were collapsed and, especially in the case of the Shore Dinner Hall, the building was a hazard.
Meanwhile, crews from NH&K Construction of North Kingstown are making preparations for the demolition of about 50 cottages in Rocky Beach. The area has been opened up with the cutting of brush, and asbestos-laden tiles and roofing are being properly disposed of. With those precautions completed, Rocky Beach, a once thriving summer community, will be totally leveled and the grounds graded and seeded.
By contrast, the cleanup of the former amusement park grounds is to be completed by early this fall. The Rocky Beach cleanup could take a bit longer, but given the speed at which everything is happening, that, too, will be finished before the first snow.
For the past several weeks, the Beacon has published a weekly photo progress report on the park cleanup. Those reports have generated a lot of nostalgia about the park and some negative reaction that, rather than leveling the park, the state should be looking to rebuild and bring back the good old days.
Of course, that’s not going to happen. The state is in no position to recreate Rocky Point, and if an amusement park were such a viable option, one would have thought a developer would have seized that opportunity when the Small Business Administration put the property up for auction several years after it filed for bankruptcy. Instead, housing developers saw the potential of making a go of luxury high-priced housing with spectacular views of Narragansett Bay. But, as we know, that didn’t work either, and with the city stepping in to buy 41 acres of shoreline followed and with state acquisition of the remaining 82 acres, Rocky Point was preserved for public access.
Indeed, the park’s history as a place of fond and fun memories makes it unique. No other state park to our knowledge was such a big attraction to so many for so many years in a prior use as Rocky Point. It is remarkable in that respect.
Some of the former park is being saved. The arch will still stand, as will the stanchions for the Skyride and the tower for the swing ride. The observation tower, which is pictured in many of the old engravings of the park, will also remain.
What’s exciting as the cleanup progresses is the scope and size of Rocky Point. It is a beautiful piece of property, and surely going forward it will be a place of enjoyment and a place where memories are made. There’s so much potential, which will become all the more obvious when the fence comes down and Rhode Islanders can once again wander on the land…and do some dreaming.