PROVIDENCE – The creation of a new coastal State park at Rocky Point that will benefit Rhode Islanders for centuries has now become a reality. This morning, in a closing held at Warwick City Hall, the Department of Environmental Management completed the purchase of the remaining 82 acres of land at Rocky Point from the U.S. Small Business Administration, as Receiver for Moneta Capital. Funding for the $9.65 million acquisition was provided from the Open Space bond approved by Rhode Island voters in 2010.
Rhode Island Governor Lincoln Chafee has been a supporter of the preservation of Rocky Point since the days when he was the Mayor of Warwick. "This has been a long process, but I am proud to say that the State of Rhode Island is now able to preserve Rocky Point for future generations," said Governor Lincoln Chafee. "This iconic property, one of Rhode Island's most beloved natural assets, holds many special memories of the past, and we will need to carefully plan for its future. The Chafee Administration will continue to work collaboratively with the City of Warwick to develop the best possible use of Rocky Point for the people of Rhode Island."
"Two years ago, Rhode Islanders in every city and town across our beautiful state voted to create a new coastal park at Rocky Point, and today is their day to celebrate," said DEM Director Janet Coit. "The people of Rhode Island made this happen, and DEM is eager to see the public enjoy this special place for generations to come."
Because of public safety concerns and the issues associated with cleaning up the site, Rocky Point will not be immediately open to the public. In its current state, the property poses unsafe conditions. The Department expects to use a combination of state and federal resources to clean up the site. DEM Director Coit is optimistic that the Department will be able to secure federal funding for the remediation of the property. She also noted that Governor Chafee has included $2.5 million for the clean up of Rocky Point in his 2014 budget proposal. DEM looks forward to making portions of the property available for public access within the next 12 months.
The future development of Rocky Point Park will be a collaborative process, involving many stakeholders and partners. The State will seek public-private partnerships to minimize the use of State resources while maximizing return to all, explore Federal funding opportunities for parkland development, and build on the success of its partnership with the City of Warwick.
"We have a great working relationship with the City of Warwick and look forward to working jointly with Mayor Avedisian and the City to address issues of security, clean up and public access," said DEM Director Coit. DEM will work with the City of Warwick and other partners to restore the property for public benefit and open up access to the land by boat. Possible features of the new coastal park include a system of walking paths, fields, fishing access, and other recreational amenities. Rhode Island's natural resources continue to be powerful drivers for economic development and tourism and sources of great pride for its residents. These natural assets play a big role in the state's tourist economy by providing opportunities for the public to enjoy the great outdoors, and at the same time bring revenue to the local economy.
"This is a fantastic day for the City of Warwick, the State of Rhode Island, and the thousands of people who hold Rocky Point near to their hearts," said Warwick Mayor Scott Avedisian. "This purchase represents more than a decade of patience, perseverance, and hard work from many people who were determined to preserve this iconic property. We are very grateful, too, to the voters who overwhelmingly approved the bond to make the purchase possible. The City looks forward to continuing our partnership with the Department of Environmental Management and other stakeholders to restore Rocky Point, which is such a vital part of our state's history and culture."
DEM recognizes that Rocky Point holds many special memories of the past for generations of Rhode Islanders. Development of a new coastal state park will feature remaining elements of the former amusement park, which may include the base of a stone observation tower, Rocky Point arch, and the base of the circle swing, if they are deemed structurally sound.
Forty-one acres of shoreline property at Rocky Point were previously purchased in a City/State/Federal partnership effort in 2007. Over the past several 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.
"Today we are closing one chapter of Rocky Point's history and opening another. This is truly a landmark acquisition. Now, every Rhode Islander owns a piece of Rocky Point. This is a special place and we want to ensure future generations can share this beautiful area with their families," said Senator Jack Reed, who, as a member of the Appropriations Committee, secured two Congressional earmarks 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 the funding he originally secured would remain available.
"Rocky Point provided wonderful memories for so many of us in Rhode Island and is an important part of our heritage," said U.S. Senator Sheldon Whitehouse. "Today's events ensure this historic property will be preserved for future generations so new memories can be created for years to come. I was honored to help support this project."
"This closing is a monumental step toward restoring a site that means so much to Rhode Islanders," said Langevin. "Acquiring the remainder of Rocky Point demonstrates an understanding of its value to our state as well as an acceptance of responsibility to take care of the land in a way that will preserve its status as a source of pride for generations to come. I'm committed to continuing to support this effort."
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 efforts of District Director of the US Small Business Administration, Mark S. Hayward that enabled the State to acquire this historic property for all Rhode Islanders to enjoy.
"The State has just finalized securing ownership of the property, and we want a discussion with the public on the development of this special area that is part of our history," said Director Coit. "Moving forward, DEM will seek input from the public as we shape the future vision of Rocky Point Park." The Rocky Point Foundation, a non-profit group that with help from Save The Bay, spearheaded the voter campaign to approve the $10 million bond to purchase Rocky Point for a public park. In November 2010, over 65 percent of Rhode Island voters approved a $10 million bond to purchase the remaining 82 acres of land at Rocky Point for a public park. Noting that the Rocky Point Foundation received a legislative grant to generate public input on the park's development, Director Coit said this will be the first of many opportunities to hear from the public as DEM moves forward to create a new state park for residents and visitors to enjoy for generations to come.