NEW: State’s Bid to Purchase Rocky Point Approved
Wednesday, February 13, 2013
In a court hearing today, the United States District Court for the District of Rhode Island approved the state’s offer to buy the 82-acre property for $9.65 million, beginning a 30-day appeal period that could allow Rhode Island to officially close on the property in March.
Funding for the purchase will come from a $10 million Open Space bond voters approved in 2010.
"The Court's decision today brings the State of Rhode Island significantly closer to successfully acquiring and preserving this iconic property," Governor Lincoln Chafee said in a statement. "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 (DEM) Director Janet Coit. "DEM is eager to see the public enjoy this special place now and for generations to come."
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 will get an environmental assessment of the site and expects to work with the city of Warwick and use a combination of state and federal resources to clean up the site.
Chafee has included $2.5 million for clean up of the property as part of 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," Coit said.
The state will likely be unable to open public access to the property until the fall as it cleans the site up but the DEM says features of the new “coastal park” may 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," Warwick Mayor Scott Avedisian said. "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 has opened the park to the public in increments by developing a public parking area, a waterfront walkway, installing landscaping, and demolishing vacant derelict summer cottages.
The news was met with excitement from U.S. 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 the site.
"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," Reed said.
"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," U.S. Senator Sheldon Whitehouse added.
Langevin said that, as a person who grew up in Warwick, he spent “many happy days” at Rocky Park and the site has always remained special to him.
"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,” he said.
Congressman David Cicilline, meanwhile, says he expects the decision to be a big help to Rhode Island’s economy.
"I am pleased to learn that the sale of Rocky Point to the State of Rhode Island was approved today,” he said. “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."
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