Four years after voters approved a bond issue enabling the state to purchase 80 acres of Rocky Point, work will begin on clearing the property in the first steps of making it once again accessible to the public.
Yesterday the state opened bids for a two-phase cleanup that, if completed on time, could have the chain link fence separating city and state property down by late this summer.
Two Rhode Island companies bid to cleanup the park property, JR Vinagro of Johnston and HK&S Construction of North Kingstown. Each company bid on two phases of the project, demolition and cleanup on the site of the amusement park that closed in 1995 and the removal of the remaining Rocky Beach cottages on the north end of the 80-acre property.
The Vinagro base bid is $2,856,402 and the cottages $383,154.60. The HK&S bids are $2,404,976 and $660,000, respectively.
The work calls for demolition of the Shore Dinner Hall and the Windjammer and Palladium, which structurally are beyond the point of saving. In addition piles of debris, the remnants of buildings that once lined the amusement park midway, will have been removed. The foundation of the Cliff House that burned will be filled. Cement pads where rides once operated will be broken up. The metal tank, now perched on the rocky ledge near the park entrance, will come down. And sections of asphalt where thousands of cars once parked will have been torn up.
But it’s still going to have a Rocky Point feel.
According to Lisa Primiano, deputy chief of DEM’s state land acquisition program, many of the park’s icons will stay. The arch with the turnstile entrance near its base will remain, as will the Skyliner stanchions, the base of the circle swing ride and what remains of the stone lookout tower. Much of the parking lot north of the Palladium, with grass and even shrubs pushing through the cracks, will stay. The road from the back end of the park will also stay.
The demolition and cleanup work to be done is spelled out in 1,000 pages of bid specifications.
No cost estimates were put on the work, although $2.5 million has been budgeted for the job. Primiano expects a bid could be awarded in the next month.
She said the contract calls for demolition of the Shore Dinner Hall and Palladium, plus the cleanup of park debris to take 75 days. The contract allows for 90 days for the removal of the cottages. With removal of the structures and debris, the contractor is to grade and seed the site.
Primiano said she has a vision of what a cleaned up park will look like with the exception of the site of the Shore Dinner Hall. That building is built into the rocky ledge and once removed portions of its foundation walls will need to remain to stabilize the area.
The bigger picture of how the park is to be developed has likewise to still come into focus.
“How do we move ahead with park changes acceptable to the neighborhood?” asks Primiano.
She imagines some sections of the park will basically remain untouched.
“The ledge and all that is always going to be a wilderness area of sorts,” said Primiano.
But more than paths, woods and open fields with vistas of the bay are envisioned for the park. With so many people with fond memories of the park in its heyday, there is demand to bring back some of the rides – if not permanently, then for part of the summer. That suggestion was made frequently during a public forum hosted by the Rocky Point Foundation and attended by more than 300 people last May. The state acquired the park from the Small Business Administration and took title to the property last March.
At the forum there were lots of other proposals, from building a shellfish hatchery in the southerly corner of the park to a restaurant with a takeout window for clamcakes and chowder to campsites and a new pier with a ferry connecting service to Colt State Park across the bay in Bristol and island parks.
Primiano said the DEM has not developed a timetable for development of a park master plan.
“We’re doing one thing at a time,” she said, explaining the DEM needed to first know how much the cleanup would cost before committing to a master plan.
But plans are being looked at. The foundation, a non-profit organization created in 2009 that lobbied to place the park bond issue on the 2010 ballot, is active in soliciting ideas for the future of the park and in facilitating that discussion.
As a part of that effort, foundation member George Shuster, opened communications with Rhode Island School of Design professor Scheri Fultineer. RISD hosted a series of three lectures where leading park designers from across the country talked about projects they had worked on. Fultineer’s master students are following up with proposals for Rocky Point.
“The Rocky Point Foundation was thrilled to have nationally-recognized park designers explain the innovations being used in contemporary parks throughout the country. We’re looking forward to entering the formal master-planning phase for Rocky Point Park, and we think the precedents set by those designers will be extraordinarily helpful in the Rocky Point planning process,” Shuster said in an email.
Shuster expressed the foundation’s appreciation to Professor Fultineer at RISD for “connecting the academic and practical sides of park planning, and we welcome RISD’s continued involvement as we determine what’s next for the Rocky Point property.”
Primiano said DEM has been following what RISD is doing. She said the state needs to work through the cleanup first and that the planning phase will come next, but that at the moment, “We do not have funds specifically for that.”
“Our focus is to get it clean and open for some public use,” she said.