Improvements could be coming soon to Goddard Memorial State Park, following a significant increase in federal grant funding from the Land and Water Conservation Fund, which was announced Monday morning during a brief press conference on the shores near the Carousel Building that drew U.S. Senior Senator Jack Reed and officials from the state Department of Environmental Management (DEM).
The grant, administered by the National Park Service, is for $1.7 million and will be under the authority of DEM to allocate to Rhode Island municipalities through a competitive application process. The figure represents a significant increase over the $1 million awarded from the fund last year, said Reed.
“We understand in Rhode Island the value of these parks,” Reed said during the announcement. “They make recreation and open space accessible to all Rhode Islanders. You don't have to be a member of a club to go to a state beach. You don't have to be a special person to enjoy this beautiful coastline and enjoy this park. We're here to announce we're going to continue that effort with this $1.7 million.”
The money is not specifically earmarked for any project yet as Megan DiPrete, DEM Chief of Planning and Development, explained the department is still in the process of ironing our details and establishing the projected cost of certain proposals.
Two of those ideas put forth on Monday included making maintenance and accessibility renovations to the aforementioned Carousel House, or conducting restoration efforts on the Goddard pavilion building that was originally constructed in 1929, which sat in the background behind Reed and DiPrete during the conference.
Asked if DEM had any initial estimates in regards to the scope and cost of the proposed projects, or if the money will be solely delineated for projects at Goddard, DiPrete said DEM envisions that funding will “primarily be applied here at Goddard Park,” which she called a “crown jewel” of open space in the state, but that other open space endeavors should be discussed as well. In terms of the scope of potential projects, she imagined any renovation work should have a long-term range in mind.
“We don't want to just put patches on things. We want to imagine how these parks can provide services to Rhode Islanders for generations to come.” She mentioned how the Pavilion roof was already on DEM’s “radar,” as it is in need of repair. Another item mentioned in a press release regarding the grant announcement mentioned the possibility of a new concession stand.
Reed noted that securing Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) funding was no guarantee this year, as President Donald Trump’s proposed budget, per the release, “recommended essentially zeroing out LWCF funding. But Senator Reed, a member of the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Interior and Environment, which funds proposed LWCF projects, helped lead a bipartisan coalition of Senators to increase LWCF appropriations and permanently reauthorize the program as part of a comprehensive public lands and natural resource management bill that was signed into law this year.”
That bill, the Natural Resources Management Act, also protected more than 1.3 million acres of open space, including 2,600 miles of new national trails, according to Reed. According to the press release, Rhode Island boasts 8,200 acres of parkland, 1,000 campsites, 400 miles of hiking and biking trails, 200 fishing spots, 25 parks and nature preserves, in addition to eight, state-run saltwater beaches. These resources combine to create a $315 million economic engine for the state economy.
“We appreciate the leadership of Senator Jack Reed and our Congressional Delegation in securing this critical funding to upgrade Rhode Island parks and recreational facilities and preserve open space across our beautiful state," said DEM Director Janet Coit in the press release. “Rhode Island's parks, beaches, and green spaces are part of what make our state so special.”
Over the last half century, the release notes, the state has benefited from more than $71 million received in LWCF funding.