Memorabilia was on display at the Rocky Point public forum Tuesday. Photo by Kim Kalunian, WPRO News
By Kim Kalunian, WPRO News
An ice skating rink. A Coney-Island like boardwalk. A full-fledged amusement park.
These were just some of the ideas that were tossed around Tuesday night at a public forum devoted to the future of Rocky Point.
Now that the state officially owns the 82-acres of shoreline, the Rocky Point Foundation and Department of Environmental Management are looking for ideas from residents about what to do with the space.
Hundreds of people turned out to brainstorm at Rhodes on the Pawtucket, taking Sharpies to the maps of the park laid out on the tables. Some marked down their ideas, while others voiced their concerns about things like traffic backups and a lack of sewers.
One man, a Warwick resident who didn't wish to give his name, said teens used to urinate on his front lawn as they waited in lines of traffic heading into the park. He doesn't want to see "rock 'n' roll" bands that would draw big crowds like that back at Rocky Point, but said he woulnd't mind "Lawrence Welk" type musicians.
William Lopes from Warwick said he’d like to see the old salt water pool turned into an ice rink in the winter and a dance floor and music pavilion in the summer.
“That’s a great way to remember the old pool right there,” he said.
Alex Gorgone from Providence had an expansive idea to turn the park into “an economic driver.”
He envisions using 40 acres for an amusement park with modern day attractions while using the rest of the land for open space and shops.
“I’m thinking a retail area which includes a ‘Taste of Rhode Island’ similar to Epcot’s World Showcase [in Disneyworld],” he said. “As well as 40 to 50 acres of walking trails and recreational parks.”
Governor Lincoln Chafee, whose father John Chafee was passionate about the environment and preservation of areas like Rocky Point, voiced some ideas of his own.
“I’d like to see a ferry system between Colt State Park [and Rocky Point],” he said. “It would be a terrific way, not only to go back and forth between the parks, but to enjoy one of the best pieces of estuary water in the world: Narragansett Bay.”
John Howell, the President of the Rocky Point Foundation, said he was “fearful” more than 500 people would show up to Tuesday night’s forum, but estimated roughly 400 came through the doors.
“I think there are so many memories here,” said Howell of the Park. “There’s this continuum, this link to the past as well as to the new generation.”
When Howell asked how many people present remembered Rocky Point Park first hand, nearly every hand in the room shot up.
Howell said a lot of people would like to see the park reincarnated into an amusement park; he said there’s a group of about 36,000 people who are part of an online movement to recreate the Rocky Point of yore.
For Howell, who has been instrumental in making the Warwick park public again, the plans for Rocky Point don’t need to be concrete, they just need to fit the current needs of the community.
“I don’t think it’s necessarily a question of the land, I think it’s more a question of the people,” he said. He said the land should be used in multiple ways over the years, leaving it to a group or committee of overseers to decide what activities would be done and when.
“There are a lot of possibilities,” he said. “And that’s what I think is so exciting about this, is that you take all of those ideas and say, “Ok, it’s not a process of narrowing it down to five ideas, but how do we make it happen so that most of these ideas can come to life?”
If Chafee’s proposed state budget is approved this spring – the budget has $2.5 million earmarked to Rocky Point renovations – demolition at the park could begin as early as this summer.
The iconic Palladium and Shore Dinner Hall would be demolished, at least partially, as well as several cottages.
Howell said people have expressed concern about tearing down some of the oldest structures, and he agrees some of them should be preserved.
“You don’t wipe it clean” he said. “When you tear down the Shore Dinner Hall, you could leave a wall…so if you have a wall that’s left there, people can say, ‘Oh yes, that’s where the Shore Dinner Hall was.’”
Howell said the iconic arch, observation tower and pieces of the Skyliner would also likely be saved.
“You want to save some of the old parts and also bring in some of the new elements as well,” he said.
An award-winning journalist and theater critic - and a performer at heart. Kim covers everything from politics and breaking news to food and theater.