What was a public gathering place for more than 130 years will be preserved at last this Thursday.
The state purchase of the remaining 83 acres of the former Rocky Point Amusement Park is scheduled to take place at Warwick City Hall. The $9.65 million sale by the Small Business Administration (SBA), the court-named receiver for the bankrupt amusement Park since 1995, is likely to occur Thursday morning, even as details remained unsettled yesterday.
“This is the moment Rhode Islanders have been waiting for since 1995,” said George Shuster of the Rocky Point Foundation, “the delivery of the whole Rocky Point Park back into the hands of the public where it belongs. In a time when government doesn't always seem to respond to the public's will, here's an example of politicians giving us what we've been clamoring for, access to over 120 acres of waterfront property that has been part of Rhode Island's history for over 150 years." The Rocky Point Foundation (RPF) was formed in 2009 with the goal of preserving all of the former amusement park for public use. The group lobbied for and got a bond referendum on the 2010 ballot and it passed.
The foundation has been working with the Department of Environmental Management (DEM) and the city on how the property should be developed. In an effort to gain public input and provide the state and city with feedback, the foundation has planned for a meeting at Rhodes on the Pawtuxet on May 7.
Mayor Scott Avedisian is also focused on immediate developments following the closing Thursday.
“I think that DEM Director [Janet] Coit and I will be meeting on a regular basis once we have closed to discuss the cleanup of the new section of property. That would be the first main goal and may require that we close our portion of the property for some time while the cleanup happens,” he said in an e-mail yesterday.
During a press conference for Environment Rhode Island on Friday, conversation turned from protecting the coastline to the finalization of the Rocky Point purchase. During the event, Avedisian mentioned it was likely the state would request a grant from the Water and Land Conservation Fund to help with the Rocky Point project.
The U.S. Senate allotted the requested $900 million every year to the fund in their proposed budget. Traditionally, states receive funds proportional to population; Rhode Island’s share would be roughly $3 million. Historically, the state has received anywhere between tens of thousands to a couple of million, according to Channing Jones of Environment Rhode Island.
As for how the park should be developed, consultants Verri/Waterman of Providence will facilitate the May 7 meeting where any and all ideas are welcome.
Verri/Waterman, who drafted proposals for the park several years ago, are providing services at no cost and will compile a report from this meeting, and as many as two more in other parts of the state. The foundation will make their report available to the public.
Conveyance of the land closes a long chapter in the park’s history that started when Moneta Capital filed for bankruptcy in 1995 and the last park ride came to a stop. Successive efforts to sell the park to developers failed as the housing market went into a downward spiral. Then in 2007, with the prospect that a $2.2 million federal grant to preserve the land would be lost, an agreement was reached to sell 41 acres of the park to the city for $4.4 million. It was an important step that preserved part of the park and fueled the hopes to save the rest of it.