PORTSMOUTH — Taking the first step in developing a waterfront park at the end of Bristol Ferry Road, the Town Council Monday night voted unanimously to authorize Town Planner Gary Crosby to apply for more than $250,000 in grant money to make the area safe and accessible to the public.
The development of Mt. Hope Park began after the town and the Aquidneck Land Trust (ALT) purchased about 5 acres of property — including approximately 1.5 acres of dry land jutting out into Mt. Hope Bay — for $900,000 in January 2016. Of that amount, $600,000 came from town funds allocated in the previous budget for bonding. The remaining $300,000 came from ALT.
ALT has a conservation easement on the land, which will be dedicated for use as a public park. There are no major plans other than to clean the area up, repair an old seawall and dock, plop down a few benches and perhaps install a gazebo, officials have said.
Mr. Crosby will be applying for a R.I. Department of Environmental Management (RIDEM) Green Space Recreation Acquisition and Development Grant, which caps out at $300,000. The deadline is Dec. 1 and the grant award will be announced next spring.
The grant is for the first phase of the project, under which no major structural changes are planned. “The main goal here is to open up the park so the public can gain access,” said Council President Keith Hamilton.
The dilapidated seawall, for instance, will cost more than $600,000 to repair at some point. But for now, jersey barriers, plexiglass, fencing and other methods will be used to keep the public safe in phase one.
haUnder ALT’s conservation easement, only six parking spaces (one designated for the handicapped) will be on site. A 120-foot wave attenuator on the west side of the property is not intended to be used as a tie-up dock for residents, but could be used by first responders in the event of emergencies.
The total “hard cost” of the phase-one work is about $274,000, but the Department of Public Works could contribute about $21,000 worth of work as in-kind services, Mr. Crosby said. That leaves the cost at $252,000, with the town responsible for coming up with 20 percent of that, or about $63,000, he said.
The master plan for the park was presented by Craig Ferreira, senior planner for Horsley Witten and project manager. More information can be found at www.mthopepark.com and on Facebook at “mthopepark.”
Glen Park concerns
In other business Monday, the council voted unanimously to direct Town Administrator Richard Rainer Jr. to work with the Glen Park Working Committee to address members’ concerns about maintenance at the park.
The motion also directed the administrator to help the group coordinate with the new recreation director on new procedures in scheduling events at the town-owned site off Glen Road.
The action was taken after the council heard from Rosemary Davidson of the Glen Park panel, who said the five-member group of volunteers is concerned about the physical upkeep of the property.
“What we have is not being properly maintained,” said Ms. Davidson, adding that the small group of volunteers can only do so much. “The buildings are rotting before our eyes. Maintenance needs to be constant or else the cost increases by the day.”
As one example, she pointed to the “sheep shed” located in a field on the south side of the property. Local teenagers have taken it over and made fire pits, which pose a safety hazard, she said.
“You go down there you’ll see couches, chairs and graffiti on the walls,” said Ms. Davidson. (Brian Woodhead, acting director of the Department of Public Works, said the couches have since been removed.)
“We urge you to help us accomplish what is needed to ensure Glen Park remains a beautiful pastoral setting for all to enjoy,” Ms. Davidson told the council. “Many do not have a clue as to what is needed to keep that park beautiful.”
Melville mail issues
Mr. Rainer gave a brief update on the local post office’s recent decision to stop delivering mail door-to-door to businesses in the Melville district, citing safety concerns.
Businesses at the marina were recently notified they would need to pick up their mail at the post office on Chase Road. According Mr. Hamilton, the post office is delivering mail to the main post boxes on the left side of the Melville complex, but not the right side.
Mr. Rainer and Richard Talipsky, the town’s director of business development, have met with Melville business owners, who said they’d like to meet with postal officials. According to Mr. Rainer, however, the post office has declined to meet with the businesses.
Congressman David Cicilline’s office is looking into the matter.
The matter has been turned over to to congressional inquiry.
“This completely goes against the old adage — neither sleet nor rain nor snow will stop us from our appointed rounds,” Mr. Hamilton said.
The council voted unanimously to re-appoint Barbara Chase to the Glen Manor House Authority.
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