Cleanup opens new vistas at Rocky Point
The Midway has reappeared from the overgrowth, but it’s nothing like it used to be.
The smell of cotton candy and clam cakes was gone and,
in place of the clanking of chain-driven rides, the screams of riders and the music of the carousel was the rumble of a front end loader that kicked up a flume of dust near where the House of Horrors stood.
There were few spectators to this burst of activity on a shoreline piece of property that was home to one of Rhode Island’s favorite amusement parks for 135 years – Rocky Point. The park closed in 1995. In 2007, the city, with the help of state and federal funding, bought 41 acres of coastline from court appointed receiver, the Small Business Administration. Three years later, voters approved a bond issue to buy the remaining 82 acres and preserve it for public access. This week, crews started the cleanup up with the clearing of brush. Trees to be saved were marked and fenced off. The removal of asbestos, and demotion of the Windjammer, Palladium and Shore Dinner Hall, is not expected to start for another two weeks, said Michael Garofalo, superintendent of the project, for HK&S of North Kingstown.
“We’re moving right along,” Garofalo said Tuesday.
So far, nothing unexpected has been encountered. He said a crew of about 20 is working on asbestos abatement and another five are manning equipment clearing the brush and starting the leveling process. When finished, the grounds will be graded and seeded. Foundations for many of the rides will be gone, as will the debris piles left behind when, at the city administration insistence, the Small Business Administration leveled about 50 Midway structures. Some park icons will be left standing, including the arch, the tower for the swing ride, stanchions for the Skyliner ride and the stone observation tower.
On Tuesday, twisted steel rails, like contorted snakes, lent an eerie feel to the scene of busy heavy equipment and crews in brightly colored vests and hard hats. The ground was littered with chunks of broken concrete, glass and a red plastic ring – a souvenir from the bottle toss in the arcade.
According to the $2.4 million contract, HK&S has 75 days to complete the cleanup. Under a separate $660,000 contract, the company has 90 days to remove the remaining Rocky Beach cottages and grade and seed that area.
Garofalo, who is from Wakefield, Mass., never visited the park when it was running, but he has witnessed the passion and the love for the place. He said he mentioned to a neighbor what he was working on and there was instant recognition.
“There’s always a connection,” he said.
Carmino “Cap” Paliotta, who heads the DEM crew that is on site, has seen the same thing. He’s talked with people who have stopped by to check progress on the cleanup and, invariably, they get into sharing memories about the park. In the course of overseeing the work for the state, Paliotta reports he has picked up tickets and other items strewn about the property and given them away.
“You would think I had handed them a million dollars,” he said, even though the items would have otherwise gone to the landfill.
But there have also been some acts of vandalism. The porta-johns on the property were pushed over and the plastic curtains, designed to contain asbestos from the Palladium, were cut up the day after being installed.
No matter how interesting the developments at the park, Paliotta warned people to stay off the state land. He cautioned that the property has a number of open drains and the rubble poses hazards.
DEM is hoping to open the property to the public sometime this fall, although that timetable may be difficult to achieve since the cleanup started about a month later than projected.