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City seeks DEM grants for 6 recreation/open space projects

The city has a good idea where the state should invest more than $1.8 million of $5 million in open space and recreational bonds.

And, should the Department of Environmental Management (DEM) look favorably on all six grant requests, residents could expect a Conimicut Point boat ramp; an Apponaug Civic Plaza; a lacrosse field at City Park; improvements to the in-line hockey rink at City Park; open space in Apponaug for passive recreation; and new playground equipment at the Bishop Playground on the corner of Benefit and Washington Streets.

The list of applications was compiled after the city’s nine council members were asked to submit requests for projects in their wards, Richard Crenca, assistant principal planner, explained this week. Not all council requests resulted in an application.

“We had multiple requests from some,” Crenca said. Ward 6 Councilwoman Donna Travis suggested funding to repair and make improvements to the in-line skating rink in City Park and the skateboard park on Oakland Beach Avenue. The choice was made to go with the in-line skating rink.

Under the grant program, DEM provides 50 percent funding to acquire, develop or renovate outdoor recreational facilities. Applications fall into small and large categories, with small grants being up to $75,000 and larger ones to $400,000. There are also historic park development/recreation grants with funding up to 90 percent of a maximum $100,000 award.

The deadline is next Friday and DEM is expected to announce awards early next year.

Last Wednesday, the City Planning Board endorsed the grant package, clearing the way for its formal submission.

In addition to board support, grants have also received the backing of local neighborhood associations.

Conimicut boat ramp

In a letter to the DEM, Virginia Barham, president of the Conimicut Village Association, says that a boat ramp at the Point would provide rapid access to the Bay by fire and rescue personnel.

“A functional boat ramp will significantly enhance the safety of both residents and visitors,” she says. While safety is a priority, Barham also sees a ramp enabling more residents and visitors to enjoy this section of Narragansett Bay. She noted that the closest ramp is at Oakland Beach, three to four miles away.

The city is applying for $400,000. The funds would be used to replace the existing concrete ramp that is buried in sand on the north side of the point at the end of Shawomet Avenue. The project would include access to the ramp from the park, with additional parking and a safe surface for the ramp. The city’s share would come in the form of in-kind services from the Department of Public Works.

While the Fire Department has boats stationed at Cole Farm, Pawtuxet and Oakland Beach, Chief Edmund Armstrong said an improved Conimicut ramp would “help us a lot.” The department launches boats from the beach now, but since the ramp is buried in sand, there are delays launching and hauling the inflatable boats.

Apponaug civic plaza and open space

These projects relate to the Apponaug Circulator project and are part of the plan to bring new development and pedestrian traffic. The plaza, for which the city is requesting a $100,000 historic park/passive recreation grant, would be in front of the former Apponaug Mill Sawtooth Building that the state owns. The plaza would include benches, tables, landscaping and a fountain, providing passive recreation for residents, visitors and people working in the village.

A second half of the village application would be for $400,000 to transform about an acre of state property on the north side of the bypass. As part of the road project, Hardig Brook [also called Apponaug River] that now flows through a culvert would be opened up. That work will also result in two ponds. The grant would be used to preserve the area and open it to passive recreation. Yesterday, Mayor Scott Avedisian called the two Apponaug projects a “priority” with the changes to the village with the new traffic circulation plan to be completed by 2017.

Lacrosse field

This grant request is for $150,000 to build a lacrosse field in the open space across from the dog park in City Park. In addition to a 60-by-100-yard field, there would be small bleacher seating and a restroom in the area that would serve the area.

In-line hockey rink

In the same area as the dog park is the in-line hockey rink that was originally two tennis courts. The city is requesting a $300,000 grant to refurbish the rink, including resurfacing, new boards and the repair of fencing. The rink gets heavy use by recreation and formal leagues.

Bishop playground

This $75,000 grant would replace aging playground equipment at the corner of Benedict and Washington Streets. The playground also has a basketball court and walking paths. Applications will be reviewed and scored by the eight-member Rhode Island Recreation Resources Review Committee, made up of state and local government officials and representatives of non-profit agencies. According to the DEM, the committee uses an Open Project Selection Process (OPSP) developed as part of the 2009 Statewide Comprehensive Outdoor Recreation Plan. Applications will be evaluated and scored on the criteria of the OPSP. The highest scores will be forwarded to DEM Director Janet Coit for review and approval. DEM expects to announce the grants in January.

“One of the most important things DEM does is to provide funding for recreation development and open space protection through its grant programs, and we encourage municipalities to apply for these matching funds,” Director Coit said in a statement.

Under the last round of grants for recreation acquisition and development, in 2012, out of 44 applications received, 35 projects in 23 communities across the state were funded. The grants provided funding for 16 small recreation development projects, 13 large urban and suburban projects, and parkland grants to six communities to acquire 137 acres of land to be used for park development.

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