The Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management (DEM) and Warwick Mayor Joseph J. Solomon today held a ribbon-cutting event to celebrate the completion of a new timber fishing pier at the iconic Rocky Point State Park in Warwick. Financed by RI Capital Plan and Green Economy Bond funding, the $1.8 million project provides anglers of all abilities with access to one of the state’s prime fishing areas.
“Public access to clean, safe, and attractive recreational facilities is a public good,” said Governor Gina M. Raimondo. “Being active outdoors is important for our physical and mental health. I hope that Rhode Island anglers will enjoy this new fishing pier at Rocky Point, cast a line into the waters of Narragansett Bay, and appreciate the beauty of our state.”
“Expanding shoreline and fishing access is core to our mission at DEM and we’re thrilled that the new pier will enable anglers, regardless of their physical abilities, to experience the joy and bounty of fishing on Narragansett Bay,” said DEM Director Janet Coit. “I hope that the public will benefit from this recreational investment and asset for decades to come.”
“I have been involved with efforts to preserve Rocky Point for two decades and it has truly been a labor of love. Previously, as Council President, I was proud to support the City of Warwick’s acquisition of the land at Rocky Point, which was a long, complicated process. I convened a special meeting of the Warwick City Council to grant permission for the State to purchase the remaining portion of the land at Rocky Point, and I also docketed legislation for the easement needed to build this pier. Now, as Mayor, I am very gratified to continue making improvements at our iconic park, and to stand with my partners from state and federal offices to officially open the fishing pier at Rocky Point,” said Mayor Joseph J. Solomon. “We have, working together, ensured the preservation of Rocky Point for the public so that generations of Rhode Islanders can continue to enjoy it. This project is just the latest in a series of enhancements that I have championed at our beloved park, and it is one multiple investments I am making in Warwick’s open spaces and recreational opportunities.”
The new fishing pier features a 280-foot-long, T-shaped pier with a shade structure, benches, railings, and solar lighting. Railing heights vary to allow people of all ages and abilities to enjoy access to Narragansett Bay.
The fishing pier moved forward as a result of a partnership between DEM, the City of Warwick, The Nature Conservancy, and others to create and improve public access sites for fishing and boating. The project provides saltwater fishing access less than 10 miles from Downtown Providence, advancing a key element of this coastal public park. The fishing pier also complements a variety of recreational opportunities at Rocky Point State Park, including walking, bird-watching, rock climbing, a youth fishing camp, DEM’s popular “Come Clam With Me” workshops, and open spaces for picnics as well as family-focused events like Food Truck Nights and Movie Nights run by the City and other gatherings.
DEM Director Coit noted that DEM works in close partnership with the Rhode Island Saltwater Anglers Association (RISAA) to promote recreational fishing and introduce the sport to young Rhode Islanders through its popular fishing camp at Rocky Point State Park. Fishing is an important part of Rhode Island’s social and cultural fabric and an important driver for the state’s economy. Rhode Island’s marine recreational fishing industry contributes $420 million to the state’s economy and supports over 4,000 jobs.
“This new pier will provide a safe place for recreational anglers to catch fish and hopefully teach fishing to our children and grandchildren,” said Stephen Medeiros, Executive Director of RISAA.
Located along Warwick Neck and overlooking Narragansett Bay, the 124-acre Rocky Point State Park property is one of Rhode Island’s most beloved natural assets and has a 150+ year history of being a popular summer attraction for Rhode Islanders and visitors. Over the decades, attractions at Rocky Point have come and gone – nature trails, a ferry pier, the end of a trolley line running from Providence through Buttonwoods and Oakland Beach, an observation tower, hotels, clambakes, restaurants, swimming pool, rides, games, and concerts – but the attraction of publicly accessible land so close to Providence has been a consistent draw since 1850.
In March 2013, following voter approval of a $10 million bond in 2010 that was spearheaded by the Rocky Point Foundation with help from Save The Bay, DEM acquired 83 acres at the site of the former Rocky Point amusement park, creating Rhode Island’s newest state park. The state’s parcel on the interior of the park was integrated with the 41 acres of shoreline at Rocky Point that was bought by the City of Warwick with the help of state and federal funding in 2007.
“When Save The Bay joined the effort to acquire 82 acres of the Rocky Point Park site in 2010, we hoped it would once again become a place where Rhode Islanders could access, use, and enjoy Narragansett Bay,” said Jonathan Stone, Executive Director of Save The Bay. “We congratulate the DEM on completing this important project, which enhances Rocky Point and offers residents of Warwick and visitors alike a new way to appreciate the Bay and the shore.”
The contractor for the fishing pier project was ACK Marine & General Contracting LLC of Quincy, MA, and the engineering company was Pare Corporation, based in Lincoln, RI.
The project is another example of Governor Raimondo’s and DEM’s commitment to invest in Rhode Island’s system of parks and beaches – which, according to a recent study, rank 1st in visits per park acre but 47th in state spending per visit. DEM is leading the Governor’s multi-year initiative to increase staffing at state parks and beaches, offer new amenities to users, adopt best practices, engage further with partners, and do more to realize the opportunities afforded by this magnificent system. Rhode Island’s natural and public assets are magnets, attracting more than 9 million Rhode Islanders and tourists a year. They’re also an engine that adds an estimated $315 million to the economy, generating nearly $40 million in state and local taxes and supporting nearly 4,000 jobs a year. However, more visitors (a 37% increase in beach visitation from 2010 to 2017), far fewer employees (full-time staffing in DEM’s Parks and Recreation Division has dropped by 67%, to 42 FTEs from 123, since 1989), longer seasons, and aging facilities are hindering DEM’s ability to meet some park users’ expectations.