Path to the past - Unveiling new Rocky Point kiosks
Senator Sheldon Whitehouse stated the obvious Friday and had everyone laughing. They could relate to what he was talking about.
Whitehouse, along with Senator Jack Reed, Governor Gina Raimondo, Mayor Scott Avedisian, DEM Director Janet Coit, Michael Ritz of Leadership Rhode Island and Kevin Casey of Sweeney Real Estate, was seated in the bright sun beneath the arch at Rocky Point. In front of them in the shade of a tent were a number of elected officials as well as the public. And beyond the tent was the view that is the allure of Rocky Point.
“I think there are a lot of places where they would say, ‘Okay, there’s some new kiosks going in at a park and some new signs and we’re going to get both senators, the governor, the whole city council – what’s going on? This does not make sense,” asked Whitehouse.
“It makes sense if you know Rhode Island. It makes sense if you know how people love Rocky Point. It makes sense if you know that your one excuse as an adult to eat cotton candy was to pretend that you were holding it for your kids when they went on the rides,” he said.
The event was much more than the official unveiling of 10 pathway signs that Leadership Rhode Island’s 2016’s MUII class – Team 8 – took on as a community project after meeting with the mayor. Avedisian highlighted city, state and community efforts to save the park for public use after it closed in 1995 and its principal owners filed for bankruptcy. He talked about successful events at the park including movie nights, a fishing camp and a food truck night. As for park developments, he disclosed plans to paint the rusty stanchions of the Skyliner ride, completion and opening of the parking lot off the Palmer Avenue entrance in about two weeks and DEM’s construction of a pier at the site of the former pier by next summer.
It was also a celebration of a location that holds memories for so many and how people and organizations have come together to use and benefit the park. Speakers spoke of Rhode Islanders’ personal affection for Rocky Point.
“I remember as a kid, once a summer, we got to go to Rocky Point. We would pile in the car with our friends, we came to Rocky Point, I went on the Spider until my stomach couldn’t handle it anymore and it was the best way to spend a summer in Rhode Island,” said Raimondo. Following the press conference, Raimondo marveled at the beautiful day and those swimming just offshore.
“It’s a crime that I didn’t bring my suit,” she said.
“The history of this place connects our grandparents with our children. These signs do an amazing job of giving some interpretation and sense of place for new people,” said Coit, who wore a summer dress and wide-brimmed straw hat, which she removed on reaching the microphone.
“We all have fond memories,” said Reed “This was the place in the 1960s – and I’m dating myself – where you had your first ‘semi-date.’ Just coincidently, four girls from your school would show up here at 2 in the afternoon on a certain day, and four boys would show up and, we weren’t dating, but there was a certain interchange.”
The signs may well trigger some of those memories with pictures of many of the rides and details from the park’s history. Funding was provided by sponsors including the Almon Family, Barrington Books, Claflin, Dave’s Marketplace, Gilbane, Pannone, Lopes, Deveraux and O’Gara, LLC and the Providence Warwick Convention & Visitors Bureau (PWCVB). To Casey, a member of the Leadership Rhode Island team that took on the project, the signs are an accomplishment.
“We had great participation from our teammates and I’m proud of what we’ve done. The project is all about connections…The signs connect visitors to the amazing past, they make them reflect on the views of the present and even allow us to dream about what’s to come in the future,” he said.
“It’s a great example as to what can happen when good people come together with good intentions and for the right reasons,” said Avedisian.