November 20, 2014
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Fall targeted for Rocky Point opening...but that’s just the beginning
Warwick Beacon photo by Tim Forsberg
A recent sunrise over what remains of the Rocky Point dock. The state's plan is to reopen all of Rocky Point to the public this fall.

The state’s plan is to re-open all of Rocky Point this fall. It will be a different place than the amusement park that closed in 1995, or the overgrown site of collapsing buildings, debris piles and crumbling parking lots of today.

Other than select elements of the former park, including the arch and the stanchions of the Sky Liner ride, the deteriorating structures will be gone. The former midway will be cleaned up, graded and seeded at a cost of more than $3 million.

As Larry Mouradjian, associate director of Natural Resources at the Department of Environmental Management (DEM) told an audience of planners, educators and citizens on Monday night, the opening will be an opportunity for the public to see what they “invested in” when they approved a bond issue to buy the land in 2010.

What they will find is an empty canvas.

How that canvas is to be filled, what the Rocky Point of the future will incorporate was the theme to Monday’s meeting held at Save the Bay offices at Field’s Point; and hosted by the Rocky Point Foundation and the Rhode Island School of Design (RISD). Borrowing elements from other parks, three recent RISD graduates showed what might be done at Rocky Point; Mayor Scott Avedisian and Governor Lincoln Chafee highlighted their visions; and Elizabeth Mossop, principal with the New Orleans landscape architecture firm, Spackman Mossop Michaels, talked about how park design has changed.

At the initiative of Rocky Point Foundation member George Shuster and RISD professor Scheri Fultineer, RISD has held a series of three lectures, bringing in renowned park planners and architects to speak at public forums.

“It’s been exciting to bring people in and look at new ways to connect people with the landscape and the coastline,” said Fultineer.

Fultineer said RISD plans to use Rocky Point as a “design studio” and teaching tool for the next couple of years.

Development at the park is not projected to come quickly, nor without community input and discussion.

“We know how important they [parks] are to healthy lifestyles and to community building. We also know that they can be a significant part of economic development, of attracting both investment and new populations,” Mossop said in opening remarks.

Mossop touched on the challenge of the maintenance and infrastructure, saying there are a range of strategies to ensure sustainability and she cited the Providence River Hurricane Barrier as being “ahead of its time” and WaterFire Providence as being successful precedents.

Identifying a portion of the park property as a revenue generator, as was done at Brooklyn Bridge Park in New York, to sustain park operations resonated with the audience. In the case of Brooklyn Bridge Park, 9 percent of the land is allocated for a restaurant and housing.

Mossop said Rocky Point “has so many of the ingredients to become another really innovative and successful part of Rhode Island’s landscape.” She called the park a substantial site with wonderful coastline and access to swimming, accessible by public transportation offering a “diversity of topography and ecological experiences.”

Chafee urged support of the $75 million clean water, open space and healthy communities bond issue he has proposed for the November ballot that will include $2.5 million to rebuild the park pier. Ferry service between Colt Park and other locations on the bay is envisioned.

“We can connect some of our jewels,” said Chafee.

Mouradjian called the proposed pier “substantial” and the first major development at the park. He said the park is “derelict” of all utilities and that DEM is looking at using composting toilets that have proven successful at other parks.

“It does take money, and to reinvest in utilities is huge,” he said.

The plan is to leave the park’s former entrance as access for pedestrians, with vehicular access from the park’s former exit on Palmer Avenue. Parking would be in the area of where the Palladium is today.

Avedisian sees Rocky Point as a rare opportunity. He said, when the city bought the 41 acres from the Small Business Administration, a mile of shoreline was saved. Now the state land there adds 122 acres on the water.

“We want to get this right,” he said. “We now have all the pieces and it’s putting them together.”

Using examples from other parks, RISD graduates Michelle Jordan, Frederick Meatyard and Andrew Jacobs accentuated elements of Rocky Point and what they might look like if similarly developed.

Lisa Primiano, deputy chief of the DEM, said she had expected a more glitzy presentation and then found herself realizing “what a great piece of property that has all these qualities.”

“I thought the students clearly brought Rocky Point's already existing opportunities to light [wetlands, shoreline, forested lands, cultural resources] and it made me realize that we are fortunate to already have these features that many park designers have to "build" into new parks,” she said in an email.

Primiano, who shepherded state acquisition of the park and is now looking at its future, found RISD and the Rocky Point Foundation’s involvement helpful.

“It was quite impressive how Scheri was able to bring so many talented and experienced LA's [landscape architects] to Rhode Island to share experiences. Reflecting on the presentation last night gave me good reason to believe that DEM and the city's cautious efforts for site remediation and re-development are right on track. I greatly appreciated Elizabeth's [Mossop] real world perspective on how to design and build parks,” she said.


Comments
8 comments on this item

So now you know why the GA leadership wants to pay off the Studio 38 bonds....So that they can float more bonds come this fall. Bonds and tax breaks for the old Industrial Trust building, a rumored $100M project, $200M to refurbish the old Narragansett Electric power station, the former would be museum, then the building nobody wanted, but dump it on URI/RIC for a combined nursing building and dorm? Have you been to the Life Span or Care New England websites lately and seen the number of postings for RN jobs? Chafee and his $75M catch all bond...That's about $375M, give or take plus the Governor approving 6% raises for State employees, 2% retroactively, and here in Warwick granting $1,000 stipends to all city employees. I guess Almonte, Block, Sasse, Rosemary Booth Gallogly, Lardaro are all wrong ABOUT THE FINANCIAL CONDITION HERE IN RI AND WARWICK .I GUESS WE ARE AWASH IN MONEY...Beam me up Scottie....

I live near there and walk the path all the time. I'm a frequent critic of municipal government but they certainly got this one right. For now. Going forward, not one shovel should hit the dirt until there is a plan for revenue producing entities to offset the cost, dollar for dollar. This could be a national model, or an absolute albatross. Take it slow.

$2,500,000 for a pier? Seems like a lot. I opposed taxpayer money for the project in the first place as this could have been a valuable piece of tax revenue for a long time. If it was going to go off the tax rolls it should have at least been bought by private backers who then turned it over to the state. Instead of using their own money the RPF convinced the taxpayers it was a great idea. Good for them, their wealthy and paying higher taxes doesn't affect them the way it does so many. But, if you thought the $10,000,000 was the end your naive. It will be at least another $10,000,000 to fix the park. If the state does indeed feel the $75,000,000 open space bond is a worthy project then put it in the budget. Rhode Island must stop borrowing.

If you look back over the last 6-8 years there are 2 things that come from the mayors mouth around every election season. Rocky Point and the Apponaoug thru way project. How long have we been talking about these things? "We want to get this right" well then why did you build a walking path through the park before anything else has been decided there? How is tying the hands of potential businesses that seek the land getting it right? As with most things in this city we do anything we can to appease constituents. This city could use some revenue sources and this park ought to be filled with them. Whether it be a state park where people can bring their campers, to an outdoor music venue where people from all over the state (maybe other states too) come in to town and spend money. My feeling is that the city will botch this, and it will never generate the revenue it should have. People need to think big with this park...not just fishing piers, or a restaurant, or dog park. We need to reverse trend and make Warwick a place people want to visit and actually live. A place with low taxes, good schools, and plenty of things to do for kids and adults. I feel like many other cities across the country would get this right...why do I feel we are not one of them.

Scall If you look back over the last 6-8 years and actually read, and understood what you read, you would have knowledge that there are certain restrictions on the City parcel that prevent commercial development. Furthermore you would also comprehend that this is no longer a City project, it is a state project, and the development is on them, not the City.

As to your ideas - campers?? How original, that will really turn things around and lower the tax revenue, because there is such a lack of campgrounds in New England.

I walk the path everyday and I think its the best project the City has completed in a long-time. Money well spent for once, what a great asset for City residents.

"What a great asset for city residents"

More like a great asset for the wealthy neckers. haha

It's funny you make a joke about the revenue campers would bring...yet you cite the walking path as "the best project the city has completed in a long time" isn't that making my point? Maybe it's time we have some bigger projects. What revenue does the walking path bring in every year? That would be zero. Sure it's nice to have access to the park again, but let's not pretend it was some great idea. The problem with people like you "chowdalady" (more like chowdahead) is that your narrow-mindedness will never allow this city to grow. Rather than use your head for just a few minutes and debate what the parks use should be, you just settle for what your local officials tell you.

Went back tom to visit RI in August 2014 and went to the Rocky Point Chowder house on Post Road in the Ann & Hope Parking lot..they have lots of pictures of the park..We found ourselves driving to the park to see what was going on..We arrived just in time to see a huge machine finishing off the demolition of the shore dinner hall..(it felt like my heart was being ripped in two)..soo many childhood memories of the family eating clamcakes and chowder looking out at the ocean after a full summer day riding the rides in the park..

We also recognized some other Chowder house patrons who were also curious and nostalgic about the park..walking along the new walkway they have built along the shoreline...if your close your eyes you can hear the echoes of laughter from years gone buy..it is now hallowed ground..

It saddens me that Rhode Islanders let this happen...the price that we have paid is soo much more than the back taxes that were owed by the park!..Our kids will never know the magic of this summer destination (by steamboats, by open air trollies, and by bike and by car..) that was enjoyed by many generations for over 150 years..in fact if you look at pictures before the 1938 hurricane..this place was even more spectacular than what it looked like in the 1980's..it seems like the future for Rocky Point will look like the distant past..the site will be going back to it's natural state ..when it was first discovered in the 1840's..

.hopefully there will be space to possibly bring in traveling fair rides ..and also a concert venue..we need to hear the music and the laughter again!

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