For some Conimicut Point residents, unpaved roads is a way of life that they would just as soon keep, even if it is a bumpy and muddy ride.
Among the two miles of undeveloped roads owned by the city, Coldwell Street is one of several dirt roads in the area and one environmentalists suggested be closed because of its proximity to a salt marsh. Others suggest it be paved.
According to Councilman Joseph Solomon, there are no plans to pave those streets due to restrictions set by Department of Environmental Management (DEM) and Rhode Island Coastal Resource Management Council (CRMC).
“It isn’t possible to pave the road because there are no funds in the budget to pay for it.” Solomon said. “All coastlines are protected environmental areas and there are limitations for what can and cannot be done.”
Other roads such as Point Street, Old Mill Boulevard and Shawoment Avenue that are also near marshes and the bay were paved years before restrictions were set in place, says Solomon.
Streets in Conimicut Point are not paved due to constant flooding and erosion caused by the salt-water marsh close to the area. In addition to Coldwell, Elgin Street and Forest Street are other undeveloped roads.
To residents like Leslie Derrig, vice president of the Conimicut Village Association, preservation of these dirt roads is imperative to protect the bay from harmful crude oil that would leak into the marsh from asphalt. She says due to the constant water flow on the various undeveloped roads, if paved, the asphalt will breakup and lift, eventually ending up in the bay.
Derrig says in the past, the city had brought in fill from other land sources to help grade roads throughout the area. She claims the fill had plant seeds not native to the area that has introduced vegetation that is choking out native species.
Also of concern is a loss of shoreline.
“I have lived in this area for 13 years and we already lost 40 feet of coastline,” Derrig said. “Protecting what is left of the coast is important to most of the community.”
CRMC spokesperson Laura Dwyer says all of the residents who bought property on Conimicut Point were aware of the plans not to pave the roads. A disclosure statement was provided to homeowners upon purchase stating they will most likely never be paved.
Some of the residents who have recently moved in the area are trying to have the city pave surrounding dirt roads, even though they were aware of the situation surrounding them.
Derrig says those who value the environment in which they live would never allow pollutants to invade their neighborhood.
There are 11 miles of undeveloped streets in Warwick with 395 miles that are paved. Acting Director of Public Works David Picozzi says the city hasn’t tried paving the roads because of the restrictions. There is a concern of accessibility for safety officials if having to use those roads.
“We have had to evacuate the area recently due to flooding and you need all the roads possible,” Picozzi said. “Our concern is environmental and the roads’ accessibility to the community.”
Picozzi said that Save the Bay sought to have Coldwell closed this spring and that there was a neighborhood meeting about their request. Picozzi said he opposed the suggestion on the basis of access by public safety vehicles. As for the road’s condition, Picozzi said a portion of the road was graded fairly recently and grading occurs on an as-needed basis.
If the city did decide to pave the roads, according to Dwyer, it would require CRMC approval. There would be multiple regulatory hoops to jump through.