At Mayor Scott Avedisian’s invitation, tomorrow morning at 10:30 the state’s congressional delegation, along with city elected officials, will gather at the Rocky Point Park arch to commemorate another development on the property.
There have been other such gatherings since the press conference announcing the city reached an agreement with the Small Business Administration and the court to acquire 41 shoreline acres with a combination of city, state and federal funds. At that time it would have been difficult to imagine the open field with its vistas of the bay that make for one of the park’s main attractions today.
Rather, the backdrop was a tangle of overgrowth that failed to hide the crumpled remnants of the Midway that, at the city’s insistence, had been bulldozed into piles of debris; deteriorating cottages that once was the Rocky Beach community and the signature structures of the park’s past as a gathering place for thousands: the Shore Dinner Hall and the Palladium. Both structures were sad reminders of what they had once been. Windows of the Shore Dinner Hall were broken and missing. The roofs of both buildings were falling in, causing interior floors to buckle and, in the case of the Dinner Hall, collapse into the ground level that was used as a maintenance garage.
Yet for those who remember Rocky Point from its heyday as an amusement park, such venues, as derelict as they were, evoked memories of family outings or, as the case for so many, summer jobs where they bused tables and washed dishes. The attachment to the past is strong at Rocky Point. It is an element that defines the park and the reason the arch, along with the stanchions to the Skyliner and the swing tower, were saved after the state acquired the 82-acre property.
Tomorrow’s ceremony focuses on the 10 informational signs that city crews have installed at various locations throughout the park in the last three weeks. The concept, and the creation of the signs located at the sites of former park rides, is the work of the Leadership Rhode Island Class of 2016. With their pictures, the signs bring back memories of the days when the Midway was packed, water splashed on the walkway as children shrieked and those riding the Flume logs came to the end of a wet ride; the smell of popcorn and clamcakes and the music of the Apollo ride. The signs feature more than names and photographs. They also offer a history of Rocky Point.
The signs represent a substantial investment, one that was made possible by Leadership Rhode Island that raised the funds through corporate sponsors and donations. Public funds were not used.
We applaud the leadership and the partnership. Indeed, Rocky Point is a public park. The voters approved its purchase when they approved the bond funds to buy it from the SBA that was acting as the court-appointed receiver. It is the Rhode Island taxpayers who will pay off that debt.
But as we have seen since reopening, Rhode Islanders are taking ownership of the park. They are holding events there; they are using it and they have ideas for its future.
Tomorrow’s event serves as a “thank you” to Leadership Rhode Island as much as it is an acknowledgment of a community partnership that will bring more good things to Rocky Point.