City and Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management officials, along with members of the public met at City Hall on Wednesday night for a workshop to discuss the proposed fixed pier at Fort Adams State Park.
The 240-foot pier and wave fence would be constructed north of the Alofsin piers near the Visitor’s Center. The project is a part of Phase III out of IV in the improvement and renovation of Fort Adams. Spurred by the necessity to revamp the site to accommodate special events, such as last summer’s America’s Cup races, the Fort has undergone repaving and drastically upgrading its facilities. The final phase will be to realign the roads within the park to accommodate bicycle and pedestrian traffic.
RIDEM officials said the project will be funded through capital funds and will benefit not only the park, but Newport and the state as well.
Having the new pier will enhance public access to the waterfront, expand the capabilities of the water taxi service while also reducing traffic, increase protection of the Alofsin piers, as well as increase visibility of Fort Adams and Sail Newport as hosts to large scale sailing and marine events, officials said.
A completed economic study showed the pier would bring in “significant” money for Rhode Island as well as new businesses.
Amenities will include marine utilities, a shaded area with benches, special use managed by Sail Newport, and educational opportunities linking the historic aspect of the Fort with Newport’s maritime history.
The next step will be for RIDEM to sample the soil at the site before finalizing the design. Officials said once bids come in, a year-long construction period is estimated to begin next September.
Brad Read, of Sail Newport, said the pier is an “absolute benefit for Fort Adams as a destination.”
He said three upcoming events were only possible because of the new infrastructure.
“These people rent, buy and spend money while they’re here.”
The possibility of the SS Oliver Hazard Perry occupying the pier periodically was also a main talking point of the workshop. The educational tall ship could partner with Salve Regina University, Fort Adams and Sail Newport and would be open to the public.
The tall ship would not be tied up every day, but would act an educational opportunity for students not just in Newport, but around the state.
City Councilor Kathryn Leonard also spoke at the workshop representing neighborhood surrounding Fort Adams. While she praised the work done so far on the project, she raised possible concerns, including after-hours use of the facilities, whether or not the pier would be used for fishing and the impact of the quality of life for residents during specials events, if there were to be loud music or excessive noise.
Several other members of the boating and maritime community came out to the workshop to express their support of the project.
Matt Gineo, President of the Newport Maritime Alliance, said the Board of Directors met last week to endorse the project.
“It’s the best thing to happen to the harbor,” he said, adding that the board could not think of any possible negatives.
Terry Nathan, President of the International Yacht Restoration School, also said he was “very supportive” and that he saw the pier as another important advancement. His only concern was retaining the moorings, he said.
Moving forward, an application will be submitted to the RI Coastal Resources Management Council. If approved, it will go to the City Council, who will pass it to the Waterfront Commission. Once it passes the commission, it will go back to the Council for approval.