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Clean Air
Clean and Plentiful Water
Livable Communities
Healthy Ecosytems
Viable Resource
Open Space
Watersheds
Open Space

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
Biking is an increasingly popular sport in Rhode Island. An estimated 800 to 1000 bikers use the Blackstone Valley Bikeway each day during biking season. The Department completed design for four more miles of the Blackstone Valley Bikeway in 1999. It will ultimately connect with bikeways in Massachusetts and link with the East Coast Greenway, a pedestrian and bike path that will run from Maine to Florida.

Greenways and Trailways
Last year, the Department awarded 25 grants worth $2.433 million for communities and nonprofits to acquire open space, develop land for recreation and promote continuity of open space by acquiring land adjoining protected areas. The Department awarded Greenway Grants for projects in Providence, Westerly, South Kingstown, Cumberland, Cranston, Central Falls, Block Island, Bristol, Barrington, Aquidneck Island, Middletown and Burrillville. In Portsmouth the grant will be used to preserve thirty acres of old-growth American beech forest, with some trees that are 200-300 years old. In Bristol the grant will be used to acquire and enhance twenty acres of marshland, woodland and open meadow with nature trails, boardwalks and scenic overviews. In 1999, the Department approved seven of the 11 trail grants for projects in 1999 in: Foster, Barrington, Bristol, West Warwick, Providence, South Kingstown, Jamestown and Aquidneck Island. The City of Providence grant will be used to build the Woonasquatucket River Greenway, a 4.4-mile linear park that will include a bikeway and pedestrian path and other recreational improvements.

State Parks and Beaches
The ten state parks, four camping areas, fourteen beaches and three major forestry sites in the park system operated by the Department attract more than five million people per year. In 1999, the Department completed designs and construction at state recreational facilities in Jamestown, Newport, Woonsocket, and Warwick and completed plans for restorating three abandoned buildings at Fort Wetherill State Park in Jamestown for the new Aquatic Resource Center. The Department completed plans for new beach facilities at World War II Memorial Park in Woonsocket to be built in summer of 2000, making quality recreational facilities available to the urban, multi-cultural population there. At Goddard State Park in Warwick the Department completed plans for an equestrian center. The projects are funded by the Champlin Foundation, the Rhode Island Capital Fund, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, state bonds and Federal Land & Water Conservation Funds.

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
DEM protects public safety and natural resources through enforcing regulations. Vehicle and safety violations rose sharply in early 1999, due to warm weather and resultant high attendance. The Director authorized changes to strengthen public safety without new hiring, including deputizing full time park supervisory and providing more environmental police details to major parks and South County facilities at peak times. Environmental Police Officers made 511 arrests, and issued 1,558 warnings in 1999. The Department collected $66,478 in fines for illegally taken fish and game, and $12, 297 from seizure and sale of equipment used in illegal activities. In response to many complaints from the pubic about jetskis, the Department held five public meetings to solicit public opinion about personal watercraft.

Interior Department Recognizes Improved Access
In 1999, the U.S. Department of the Interior awarded the Annual Department of Interior Civil Rights Award to the Department for outstanding accomplishments in providing handicap access. The Department enhanced access by adding courtesy docks, concrete ramps, and parking areas at the boat launch facilities at Colt Park in Bristol and Bold Point in East Providence.

Improving Public knowledge of Recreational Resources and the Environment
To help the public explore Rhode Island waterways in small non-motorized boats, the Department added to its roster of guides the Rhode Island Water Trails Guide, a forty-page booklet of maps and information on boating areas, access and safety. Funding was provided by the Champlin Foundation.

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.