Rhode Island Governor Gina Raimondo and Janet Coit, director of the Department of Environmental Management (DEM) chose Lincoln Woods State Park, the oldest state park in Rhode Island, which opened on President Abraham Lincoln‘s birthday 110 years ago, to announce an initiative to expand funding for Rhode Island’s parks and beaches.
A DEM study noted that Rhode Island has high park use and low investment compared with the rest of the nation – ranking 1st in visits per park acre but 47th in state spending per visit. The study called on the State to make investments in the park system, protect infrastructure, enhance programs, and bolster operations and staffing.
Rhode Island’s natural and public assets include 8,200 acres of parkland, 1,000 campsites, 400 miles of hiking and biking trails, 200 fishing spots, 25 parks, management areas, and nature preserves, and eight saltwater beaches. These attract more than 9 million Rhode Islanders and tourists a year. It is estimated that these assets add $315 million to the economy annually, generating nearly $40 million in state and local taxes and supporting nearly 4,000 jobs.
Over the past 15 years, budget and staffing cuts to DEM’s Parks and Recreation Division, combined with increasing visitor use, longer seasons, aging facilities, and expanded responsibilities, have hindered DEM’s ability to properly maintain the parks and beaches.
Raimondo’s budget proposal for 2020 would add $1.5 million in funding for DEM’s Division of Parks and Recreation. The funds would support an additional eight employees, most of whom would help regional managers better meet core service requirements like cleaner facilities and bathrooms to improve visitors’ experience.
The budget proposal also includes a business development office to seek out revenue-generating opportunities such as sponsorships and concession partnerships.
DEM Regional Parks Manager Tony Paiva began the press conference:
“Our beaches and parks are such a special part of who we are as Rhode Islanders, and we need to preserve them for future generations,” said Governor Gina Raimondo. “The study DEM commissioned recently makes clear that we’re not doing enough now. It’s critical that we commit to long-term investments in our parks and beaches. Let’s make sure our kids have the same opportunities that we did.”
“As Rhode Islanders, we’re incredibly lucky to have so many beautiful state beaches and parks to enjoy,” said First Gentleman Andy Moffit. “I’m proud that the work of the Outdoor Recreation Council was the first step toward realizing our vision for outdoor recreation through the Parks Initiative.”
“The Governor’s Parks Initiative will ensure that we invest in these incredible places that do so much for Rhode Islanders and for our economy,” said Director Coit. “This is a tremendous multi-year effort to increase staffing, adopt best practices, engage further with partners, and do more to realize the opportunities afforded by this magnificent system.”
John Togan from The Nature Conservancy Rhode Island:
John Marsland from the Friends of the Blackstone Valley Bikeway Patrol:
Larry Taft from the Audubon Society of Rhode Island:
Director Janet Coit:
Director Coit announced that DEM will kick off a series of community listening sessions to solicit ideas on how to improve our parks system. She encourages Rhode Islanders to attend these sessions to learn more about the parks report and the Governor’s parks initiative. Sessions will be held as follows:
Wednesday, February 20
4 p.m. to 5 p.m.
Westerly Town Hall Council Chambers
45 Broad Street, Westerly
Monday, February 25
4 p.m. to 5 p.m.
Lincoln Woods Nature Center
Lincoln Woods State Park, Lincoln
Thursday, February 28
6 p.m. to 7 p.m.
Narragansett Community Center
53 Mumford Road, Narragansett
A fourth session will be held in Bristol, with details to be announced at a later date.
UpriseRI is entirely supported by donations and advertising. Every little bit helps:
Become a Patron!