Natural and scenic landscapes will be preserved and all citizens will have easy access to well-maintained parks, forests, wildlife areas and historic sites. Open space and recreational opportunities will be improved in both rural and urban settings.
Rhode Island's 420 miles of coast, 330,000 acres of forests and 60,000 acres of farmland, are vital to healthy ecosystems that sustain a high quality lifestyle for people and habitat for wildlife. Most Rhode Islanders are within a five-minute drive to an open space where they can take part in activities such as hiking, hunting, biking, fishing, swimming, and camping. Tourists who visit Rhode Island to take advantage of natural and historic resources generate approximately 2.1 billion dollars each year.
The environmental impact due to loss of open space is apparent. During this century, more than 44 species of plants and at least 9 species of animals no longer thrive due to conversion of natural habitats to developed land. Over the last decades, 50 percent of coastal wetlands were lost. 75 percent of the state's water comes from surface water reservoirs that are threatened by development.
Open space is decreasing rapidly as residential and commercial populations shift southward and shoreward onto larger plots of land and into larger buildings. Since 1970, Rhode Island's population has increased by only five percent, but an additional 55,000 acres have been developed for residential and commercial purposes. Rhode Island is number six in the nation in terms of the rate at which land is being developed. In 1999, the Department significantly increased acquisition efforts, planned and completed major overhauls, renovations and expansions of recreational facilities, built new infrastructure to increase public access to recreational areas, published materials about recreational resources and hosted numerous special events at recreational areas.
In 1999, the Department helped protect approximately 1,600 acres, compared to 575 acres in 1998. Governor Almond is calling for protecting at least 35,000 more acres by 2010. The passage of a $50 million bond issue in November 2000 is crucial to protect open space. It is anticipated that over 22 million dollars will be awarded to communities for land acquisition and development such as trail ways, beach facilities, mountain biking areas and recreational fields and courts. The balance will be used to protect environmentally sensitive land, agricultural land, and land for additional state park and recreational facilities. The state cannot buy enough land or development rights on its own to accommodate the need for open space. The state has more than doubled its dollars by matching them with federal, nonprofit and private contributions from The Nature Conservancy, Audubon Society of Rhode Island, land trusts and communities.
Major Renovations, and Expansions of Recreational
Facilities Bike Paths
Greenways and Trailways
State Parks and Beaches
The Department requested $1 million to repair historic structures at Fort Adams State Park in Newport. It is anticipated that the Fort Adams Trust and Fort Adams Foundation will match the state funds. In 1999, the George Wein and Festival Productions, the producers of the annual jazz and folk festivals at the park, gave the first $30,000 of their $90,000 pledge to the Department for renovations.
The Department built a new pavilion at Misquamicut State beach in Westerly, marking the completion of the renovations of the three south shore state beaches Scarborough, Roger Wheeler and Misquamicut. The Department will complete improvements to the parking lot at Misquamicut by Memorial Day 2000.
The continued viability of many state recreational facilities is in jeopardy due to inadequate funding for maintenance of these facilities. The Department is working to develop a Capital Management Plan to protect these assets.
Ensuring Public Safety through Patrol and Enforcement
Interior Department Recognizes Improved Access
Improving Public knowledge of Recreational Resources
and the Environment
In partnership with the Audubon Society of Rhode Island the Department continued to promote environmental education through naturalist programs at Beavertail State Park in Jamestown, Roger Wheeler State Beach in Narragansett and Lincoln Woods and a new program at Colt State Park in Bristol, as well as Audubon Society summer camps at Colt State Park and Lincoln Woods.