Bob Waring has a perfect view of Narragansett Parkway near Salter Grove. In fact, he looks at it just about every morning while enjoying a cup of coffee.
“I’m seeing hundreds jog by the house every day,” he said, putting the emphasis on hundreds.
Waring was one of about 40 Gaspee Plateau residents to attend Thursday’s meeting of the Friends of Salter Grove at the Pilgrim Senior Center. The Friends have developed a plan for the park that includes improving the causeway to the jetty, moving the parking area to the south and beside the parkway and relocating and improving the playground.
The proposals raised many questions and a discussion over how the park could better serve the public.
Waring’s point is that during the time he’s lived near the park he’s seen its use change and that planners need to look at changes in people’s habits and activities. In addition to joggers, Waring said many people use the park as a launching place for kayaks.
Rick Moller, who also lives across from the park, likewise noted an increase in kayakers. He said on average about a third of the people driving into the park stay in their cars, look at the cove and then “cruise on” after 15 minutes. He said there’s a big group that walks their dogs in the park. The park also gets heavy use from fishermen who park in the lot and then using the causeway walk out to the jetty.
The causeway has been damaged by storms and a bridge that connected it to the jetty was washed out by Super Storm Sandy. Rep. Joseph McNamara has been working with the Department of Environmental Management to replace the bridge that is needed during high tides. At low and mid-tide, rocks are exposed and passage is navigable, although it can be hazardous. There is also a section of the causeway that becomes flooded during high tides.
McNamara said the DEM would move ahead with an aluminum bridge that would be chained and anchored in place. In the event another storm washes it out, McNamara said it would only be a matter for DEM to set it back in place.
But the bridge did not address the issue of water flow between the cove to the north and the inlet from Narragansett Bay to the south.
Area resident and Warwick assistant harbormaster William Plumb feels restoring the flow between the cove and the inlet would help alleviate the cove of debris while providing a flushing action. There were suggestions that the causeway be removed, thereby effectively eliminating fishing traffic and the garbage they leave jammed in the jetty rocks.
Friends member Peter Becker pointed out the cove and the inlet are different classes of water and that while increasing the flow between the two may seem like a positive plan, it would require environmental study. Also, he pointed out that when operational of the banks of the Pawtuxet River, the pharmaceutical company Ciba Geigy dumped chemicals into the river that are now embedded in cove sediment that could end up being washed into Narragansett Bay.
Of the proposed changes, relocation of the parking lot raised the most concern. Moller thought having a parking lot across from his house would devalue his property with a view of parked cars instead of the park. Chris DiPrete Koopman likewise didn’t favor the relocation of the lot. She voiced concern over the playground and its proximity to the parkway, suggesting a fence so as to stop kids from running out into the street.
The friends compiled suggestions.
In an email, friends member Matt Dickinson said the primary goal of the FoSG is “to increase awareness of the park’s significant natural resources and value as open space. We are dedicated to its restoration and conservation but feel that the full potential of the Grove is not being met.”
He said the meeting is the first of several the group plans on holding.
“Our immediate focus is to replace the outdated playground equipment in its current location. Providing safe access to the breakwater is another concern we are addressing. We are still in the planning stages and working on funding opportunities for the playground and intend to present our ideas to the city and DEM after we have processed survey results,” he said.
Ward 1 Councilman Richard Corley endorsed the suggestion of a fitness station at the park where joggers could break up their routine by using exercise equipment.
The friends meet with enthusiasm. Leslie Holcroft, a new homeowner, said she was delighted to discover the amenities of the area including the park.
“People don’t realize what an asset it is,” she said.