TO THE POINT: A portion of the former Rocky Point Amusement Park site, where picnic benches, signage, bike rack and a new railing have been installed.
COURTESY CITY OF WARWICK
By Rebecca Keister PBN Staff Writer
Now that control of the land has been decided, the next step is determining what type of public use and amenities to allow on 120 acres of prime waterfront land that was once home to the former Rocky Point Amusement Park in Warwick.
“Rocky Point has a special connection to Rhode Islanders of all kinds. This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to build a park on 120 acres of spectacular coastal property,” said Janet Coit, director of the R.I. Department of Environment Management. “We’re looking at different [opportunities] on how to put together [the best plan] for public use and enjoyment.”
To that effect, Gov. Lincoln D. Chafee and the DEM on May 7 held the first of what most likely will be a handful of public forums to seek input from residents on the development of the Rocky Point property. Nearly 400 people attended.
The Rocky Point Foundation, the nonprofit organization that lobbied to have the state save the land, sponsored the forum.
DEM in late March completed the purchase of the remaining 82 acres of land on the property from the U.S. Small Business Administration. Funding for the $9.65 million sale was provided through an Open Space bond approved by voters in 2010.
Forty-one acres of shoreline property at Rocky Point were previously purchased in a city/state/federal partnership for about $4 million in 2008.
Rocky Point had been a Rhode Island destination since the mid-1800s, first as a place for nature walks, and later as an amusement park, concert spot, home to the Palladium (a banquet and wedding facility), and a place to watch a baseball game, fish and dine on clam cakes and chowder.
When Rocky Point amusement park went bankrupt in 1995, the property was closed to public access. Warwick opened the 41 acres to the public as a park in 2011.
To accommodate visitors for passive recreation the city built an asphalt walkway along the shore, a parking lot near the entrance to the former amusement park and planted native trees with the help of donations. The city also demolished some small cottages.
Next comes a cleanup of decaying buildings on the 82 acres that have remained off limits to the public.
Chafee included $2.5 million in the fiscal 2014 budget for that task and Coit said clean up begins – first with demolition of the Shore Dinner Hall, the Palladium, and Windjammer, this summer.
John Howell, owner and publisher of the Warwick Beacon and chairman and president of the Rocky Point Foundation, was one of the biggest public lobbyists in getting the bond question on the state ballot almost three years ago.