PROVIDENCE – Thursday morning, the R.I. Department of Environmental Management completed the purchase of the remaining 82 acres of land at Rocky Point Park from the U.S. Small Business Administration.
“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.”
Funding for the $9.65 million sale was provided through an Open Space bond approved by voters in 2010. The newly purchased land will be used to create a new coastal state park will “benefit Rhode Islanders for centuries,” according to a DEM release.
The closing was attended by Gov. Lincoln D. Chafee, DEM Director Janet Coit, U.S. Sens. Jack Reed and Sheldon Whitehouse, U.S. Rep. James R. Langevin, Warwick Mayor Scott Avedisian and Mark S. Hayward, district director of the U.S. Small Business Administration.
“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 Chafee in a statement. “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.”
Due to public safety concerns associated with cleaning up the area and current “unsafe conditions,” Rocky Point will not be immediately open to the public. DEM said it plans to use a combination of state and federal resources to clean up the site and make it fit for the public.
In a DEM release, Coit said she was optimistic that DEM would be able to secure funding and noted that Chafee’s 2014 budget proposal includes $2.5 million dedicated to clean-up efforts.
The state’s environmental agency said it plans to work with the city of Warwick and other partners to restore the property and open up access to the land by boat. Possible features of the future park include: walking paths, fields, fishing access and “other recreation amenities.”
“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 Avedisian in a statement. “This purchase represents more than a decade of patience, perseverance and hard work from many people who were determined to preserve this iconic property.”
DEM said it hopes to keep some of the well-known elements of the former amusement part, including 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 in 2007.
“Today we are closing one chapter of Rocky Point’s history and opening another. This is truly a landmark acquisition,” Reed said in prepared remarks. “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.”