December 20, 2014
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Rocky Point cleanup set for summer; pier planned
Tim Forsberg
The sun rises over the remains of the old Rocky Point pier. DEM is looking to build a new public fishing pier at this location.

If it seems like the cleanup of Rocky Point should have started by now, the reason is the work to be done originally has been expanded.

Initially, the Department of Environmental Management (DEM) planned to demolish the Palladium and what’s left of the Shore Dinner Hall, along with the remaining Rocky Beach cottages. That cleanup would have included removal of remaining debris piles left in the wake of the demolition of the park’s Midway rides and buildings.

Lisa Primiano, DEM deputy chief of planning and development, said Monday that the scope of the cleanup has been enlarged to include the remnants of the flume ride, which includes some concrete pools, concrete pads for other rides, above ground utilities and parking lots that are cracked, rutted and full of weeds and underbrush.

She said the engineering and consulting firm of Fuss & O’Neill is preparing specifications for the work and that advertising for bids would start in April. Contractors would be given time to visit the site before a deadline for bids follows. With a contract by late spring, Primiano hopes the cleanup is completed in the summer.

Not every vestige of the park that closed in 1995 will be cleared. The arch will stay; and the Rocky Point Foundation, which lobbied the state in 2010 to buy the 82-acre property, is pushing to save what’s left of an observation tower built in the late 1800s, the steel tower of an early circle swing and stanchions to the Skyliner ride on the site’s rocky outcropping. There have been suggestions to save other elements of the former amusement park, but a list hasn’t been finalized.

With the cleanup completed, DEM hopes to have the land open by the end of this year, although how the park will be developed is expected to be an ongoing discussion.

During the cleanup, the city’s 41 acres of Rocky Point shoreline property may be periodically closed to allow heavy equipment and trucks to remove debris. A total of $2.5 million is budgeted for the cleanup.

But while details of the park’s future remain a topic, DEM and Gov. Lincoln Chafee agree the park should have a pier.

In his $275 million bond package, Chafee proposes $75 million for clean water, open space and healthy communities. A DEM summary of proposed projects divides them into three categories, including $35 million for green cities and resilient communities; $15 million for the protection and enhancement of the state’s water supplies; and $25 million for farming, fishing, tourism and outdoor recreation.

Under this sub-category, $4.3 million is earmarked for marine infrastructure and pier development.

An overview of the proposal notes that saltwater recreational fishing has an annual economic impact of $160 million and supports 1,000 jobs, and that fishing is the state’s eighth largest tourist attraction.

Although it would be on city Rocky Point property, DEM is looking to build a fishing pier and boating ramp at a projected cost of $2 million. State funds could be matched 3:1 with federal funds.

Primiano said various sites had been considered for the pier but the decision is to keep it in the same location as the old one. Apart from a place to fish, the pier could be used in conjunction with a non-profit, such as Save the Bay, for educational programs or for a ferry to bay island parks. She said the plan would be for the pier to be 10 percent designed should it be included in a bond package on the ballot.

The Rocky Point Foundation, the non-profit citizens group that took up the cause to preserve the full park more than five years ago, conducted a public hearing to solicit ideas on development of the park last May. A formal planning process has not begun, but the suggestions they garnered will be considered.

Primiano said yesterday that, in terms of planning, DEM is looking at park developments in this country and elsewhere “that looks at public-private partnerships that might be different than any other in Rhode Island.” She called Rocky Point “a creative opportunity for new ideas.” She said DEM would seek to involve the city and others in the process.

She hopes to have specifications prepared by late spring.


Comments
3 comments on this item

It is great to see Rocky Point starting to move forward. In my many years of construction experience the first step to development is removal of old structures. No developer wants to clean up somebody's mess that is left behind and spend millions doing it. They want a clean ready to build lot. I am sad to see the rest of the point go but I am sure that the state and city envisions a new park operator to come in and build a new theme park. The mega park developers have deep pockets and can expand the foot print of the old park. The are not spending money just because. In CT Lake Componce was a small tired, old park that needed updating. It was bought by a mega park operator who poured millions into it and now they are very successful. A theme park would provide new jobs and create tourism that the State needs. I always thought after the state became involved that a new theme park was not out of the question.

Why would you put a theme park in when there was one that failed in the location?

It is too far off the highway, with not enough access roads for a theme park or any other major attraction to be successful.

The only way a theme park would work is if they went through with the old plans of extending route 37 west across the bay to barrington and had a direct exit for it off a highway.

The people of RI voted to make it open space to be preserved for generations to come, not to make it a cash cow for a developer.

A "public-private" partnership to include a modest condo development would be a good fit. It would leave the overwhelming majority of the acreage as open space while contributing to the tax base. I'm not a fan of the theme park idea. At the height of it's popularity, Rocky Point was accessible primarily by rail. The current highway access is not workable. Also, dredge in front of the new pier to allow larger vessels to disembark passengers there. This could really be a great thing for the city, but part of any plan needs to add to the tax base.

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