RI voters to decide open space ballot question

PROVIDENCE, R.I. – There's not much around the former Shooters nightclub at Providence's India Point. Graffiti covers the old nightclub, and instead of the throbbing pulse of techno music the prevailing sound now is the rumble of nearby traffic on Interstate 195.

Neighborhood activist David Riley says this prime piece of real estate by the head of the Narragansett Bay can be put to better use.

"People assume, I've got to go Newport to get on the bay,'" Riley says. "It's not true. This could be a huge public destination, a huge economic and civic asset if it were developed so the public could get on the bay right here in Providence, in downtown Providence."

And it could be, if voters pass Question 4 on the ballot. It calls for spending a little more than 3 million dollars to turn this place into open space and use it for recreation. Riley says that it turn would help boost the economy.

"We envision a restaurant, a public marina, an events space - this would be an ideal place for public and private events, rent it for weddings, for corporate events, charitable events, festivals, markets," he says. "What you need is a lot of reasons for people to come here."

Further down the coast of Narragansett Bay, Warwick's Rocky Point amusement park was THE place to go during the 20th Century.

The park closed in 1995, leaving the future of the site uncertain. The city of Warwick acquired 41 acres of shoreline there a few years ago. Question 4 would help preserve another 81 acres as open space.

The remaining one and half million dollars would go toward improvements and renovations at Fort Adams State Park in Newport.

It's a 15 million dollar bond on the ballot, but by the time Question 4 is paid off, it will cost the state 26 million dollars. Despite Rhode Island's miserable economy, there is no organized opposition to Question 4. That has supporters optimistic.

WRNI called the taxpayers' group, the Rhode Island Statewide Coalition, to see if it has any concerns about the cost of Question 4. The call was referred to John Torgan of the environmental group Save The Bay.

"The fact that the head of the state's good government taxpayer group is referring you to Save the Bay for a perspective on the open space bond says a lot about how broad the support is in Rhode Island for this measure," Torgan says. "It's not a lot of money, and yet it's an investment in a major public asset that will be economic assets and recreational assets for future generations."

One rap on Question 4 is that the plans for Rocky Point and India Point are more conceptual than specific, and that details will be finalized only after voters cast their ballots. But if voters approve the question, supporters say, the money can be used only for open space and recreation at the intended sites.