PROVIDENCE – The United States District Court for the District of Rhode Island has just approved the State's offer to purchase the remaining land at Rocky Point in Warwick for the development of a future State Park. The U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA), as Receiver for Moneta Capital, presented the State's offer to purchase the 82-acre property for $9.65 million to the federal District Court for final approval at a hearing held this afternoon in Providence.
Today's Court approval begins a 30-day appeals period, and therefore a closing on the property is at least a month away. Funding for the purchase will be provided from the $10 million Open Space bond approved by Rhode Island voters in 2010.
"The Court's decision today brings the State of Rhode Island significantly closer to successfully acquiring and preserving this iconic property," noted Governor Lincoln Chafee. "Rocky Point, one of Rhode Island's most beloved natural assets, holds many special memories of the past. I look forward to it becoming available for all Rhode Islanders to enjoy."
"The creation of a coastal park at Rocky Point that will benefit Rhode Islanders for centuries is now just a small step away," said Department of Environmental Management Director Janet Coit. "DEM is eager to see the public enjoy this special place now and for generations to come."
Director Coit said that once the state secures the land, it will be DEM's responsibility to develop a work plan and secure funding to clean up and remediate the property so that it can be made available for public recreation. The Department has contracted to get an environmental assessment of the site, and expects to use a combination of state and federal resources – in close collaboration with the City of Warwick – to clean up the site. Governor Chafee has included $2.5 million for clean up of the Rocky Point property in his 2014 budget proposal.
"We have a great working relationship with the City of Warwick and look forward to working jointly with the City to address issues of security, clean up and public access," Director Coit noted. Because of the issues associated with cleaning up the site, public access to the property may not be available until the fall. Following the clean up, DEM will work with the City of Warwick and other partners to restore the property for public benefit. Possible features of the new coastal park include a system of walking paths, fields, fishing access, and other recreational amenities.
"We are obviously very pleased with the Court's decision, which is one of the final hurdles before the state can purchase the remaining Rocky Point property," said Warwick Mayor Scott Avedisian. "The City is very excited to work with Director Coit and other stakeholders to develop a comprehensive plan for the park. Thousands of people have visited our shoreline property since it opened nearly two years ago and we're eagerly waiting for the day when the rest of the park will be available for Rhode Islanders to enjoy for years to come."
Forty-one acres of shoreline property at Rocky Point were previously purchased in a City/State/Federal partnership effort in 2007. Over the past three years the City of Warwick, under the leadership of Mayor Scott Avedisian, has made tremendous strides in opening the waterfront portion for public use by developing a public parking area, a waterfront walkway, installing landscaping, and demolishing vacant derelict summer cottages.
The acquisition of the City's 41-acre parcel was made possible through the efforts of many parties including Senator Jack Reed, who obtained a $2.2 million federal grant for the purchase. Senator Reed, Senator Sheldon Whitehouse, and Congressman Jim Langevin were early proponents of public access to the Rocky Point property. In November 2010, Rhode Island voters approved a $10 million bond to purchase the remaining 82 acres of land at Rocky Point for a public park. This effort was spearheaded by a non-profit group called the "Rocky Point Foundation" with help from Save the Bay.
"This is another important step toward a truly landmark acquisition. Rocky Point is part of our history and we want to ensure future generations can share this beautiful area with their children," said Senator Jack Reed, who, as a member of the Appropriations Committee, secured two congressional appropriations which totaled $2.2 million in federal funding for the preservation of Rocky Point. When efforts to sell a portion of the property came up short, Reed worked with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) to ensure that the funding he originally secured would remain available.
"Many Rhode Islanders cherish their childhood memories of Rocky Point Park. Today's decision ensures that the park's natural beauty and pristine shoreline will be enjoyed by generations to come," said U.S. Senator Sheldon Whitehouse. "I was proud to work with the delegation to secure funding to preserve this historic landmark, and I congratulate Governor Chafee and DEM Director Janet Coit on the Court's approval of the sale."
"Growing up in Warwick, I spent many happy days at Rocky Point, which remains an historic venue and a very special place for me," said Congressman Langevin. "I am proud to have worked with my colleagues in the congressional delegation as well as our state and community partners to see Rocky Point restored and preserved as a State Park so the public can once again enjoy its recreational opportunities and scenic views of the Narragansett Bay."
"I am pleased to learn that the sale of Rocky Point to the State of Rhode Island was approved today. This decision will help boost Rhode Island's important tourism economy by establishing a coastal park consisting of 120 acres of land for nature trails, fishing access, and many other forms of recreation," said Congressman David Cicilline.
In addition to recognizing the overwhelming support of the public and federal, state and local officials to secure the Rocky Point property, Director Coit said she appreciates the progress the state has made with the Small Business Administration to acquire this historic property for all Rhode Islanders to enjoy.
The Rocky Point property in Warwick has a 150+ year history of being a popular summer attraction for Rhode Islanders and visitors. Over the decades, attractions at Rocky Point have come and gone – nature trails, a ferry pier, an observation tower, hotels, clambakes, restaurants, swimming pool, rides, games, and concerts – but the attraction of 120 acres of land for public use within 10 miles of downtown Providence has been a consistent draw since 1850. In 1995, the operation of Rocky Point as an amusement park ceased. Soon thereafter, the United States Federal District Court appointed the SBA as Receiver for Moneta Capital.