PROVIDENCE – Department of Environmental Management Director Janet Coit, in partnership with The Nature Conservancy today joined Governor Lincoln Chafee, members of Rhode Island's Congressional Delegation, federal officials and others at a ribbon-cutting ceremony for the reconstructed Galilee Boat Ramp in Narragansett. Since January, a reconstruction project has been underway to provide boaters and anglers with improved access to the Galilee facility, which is one of Rhode Island's most popular boat ramps.
"The Port of Galilee is one of our state's premiere natural assets, and a popular fishing and boating area," said Governor Lincoln D. Chafee. "The improvements made at the Galilee Boat Ramp expand shoreline and fishing access for boaters and anglers including those who are physically challenged. Now, even more Rhode Islanders and tourists can enjoy the beautiful coastal waters and prime fishing grounds off Galilee."
Improvements made at the Great Island Road facility include a new, double-lane, 60-foot wide pre-cast concrete boat ramp with two adjacent rows of floating docks. The project also included the elevation and expansion of an existing fixed pier walkway to provide access to the pier and floats for boaters with disabilities. The new double-lane system with added floats will greatly increase the efficiency and ease of use of the facility, and is expected to reduce wait times for users of this busy boat ramp.
"DEM is excited to make the beautifully reconstructed and enhanced Galilee Boat Ramp available to the public," said DEM Director Janet Coit. "The innovative new dock system allows boaters and anglers – regardless of their physical limitations – to easily board their boats and enjoy the beauty and the recreational opportunities that Block Island Sound and Rhode Island waters have to offer."
The two boat ramps previously located at this site were demolished in order to make way for the new ramp. The original boat ramp was developed as part of the Galilee North Basin Development project in the late 1980s, and a second launching lane was later installed in the early 1990s.
The new facility in Galilee is similar in design to the boat ramps at Haines Memorial State Park in East Providence and the Mt. Hope Boat Launch in Bristol.
Along with the reconstruction of the Colt State Park Fishing Pier, this is the second project to move forward as a result of a five-year partnership between DEM and The Nature Conservancy. The partnership aims to create and improve public access sites for fishing, boating, and hunting throughout Rhode Island.
"We're so happy to be a supporter of this effort to provide all Rhode Islanders access to the beautiful coastal waters of our state," said Terry Sullivan, state director for The Nature Conservancy, Rhode Island Chapter.
"This is one of the most popular boat ramps in the state and now it is also one of the most accessible and state-of-the-art. I am pleased federal funds were put to good use to help pay for these upgrades and ensure boaters of all kinds have access to the water. This is a time of year when we see a big increase in traffic at our boat ramps, so I am glad DEM was able to get this project done as quickly, efficiently, and effectively as possible," said Senator Jack Reed, the Chairman of the Appropriations Subcommittee on Interior and Environment, which oversees the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
"Shorter wait times and more access for boaters will make it easier for Rhode Islanders and tourists alike to enjoy our beautiful coastal waters," said Senator Sheldon Whitehouse. "I congratulate Director Coit, The Nature Conservancy, and everyone who saw this project through."
"I am thrilled to help celebrate the grand opening of the Galilee Boat Ramp Improvement Project, an initiative that will increase public access for fishing, boating and other recreation to the benefit of Rhode Islanders and tourists visiting our beautiful coastline," said Congressman Jim Langevin. "I am particularly pleased that this project, funded in part through federal grants, improves accessibility of piers and boat ramps for boaters and visitors with disabilities."
Dr. Deborah Rocque, deputy regional director for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service said, "The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is proud to support efforts by the State of Rhode Island to provide boating opportunities for its citizens through our Wildlife and Sport Fish Restoration Program. Rhode Island is a leader in conserving lands for wildlife and creating opportunities for people to fish, boat, and enjoy nature. This legacy is the result of contributions from the sportsmen and women of Rhode Island and the dedicated fish and wildlife professionals of the department."
Recreational boating and fishing are ingrained in our culture here in the Ocean State. They are also important economic drivers for our economy. 54,000 boats use Rhode Island waters each year, including more than 40,000 registered in Rhode Island. The total value of the marine recreational fishing industry in RI is $219 million, and more than 1,900 jobs are tied directly to the industry (Fisheries Economics of the United States by NOAA Fisheries 2011).
"The Galilee ramp is used by thousands of recreational anglers each year, and we are pleased the renovations are completed. We are also proud of the fact that federal sportfishing funds and our own recreational fishing license money has paid for the project," said Steve Medeiros, president of the RI Saltwater Anglers Association.
The accessible boat ramp was designed by DEM Planning and Development staff, and the contractor for the $723,814 project was Narragansett Dock Works of Narragansett.
DEM received 75 percent of funding for the project from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Sport Fish Restoration program through a tax on motorboat fuel. State funding includes $100,000 from Rhode Island's Salt Water Fishing License Receipts.