2006-05-11 / Editorial

Viewpoint

A plan for Ft. Getty

On Monday, May 8, the Master Plan for Fort Getty was presented to the Town Council. The work of Landscape Architect Donald Sharp, in consultation with the Fort Getty Master Plan Committee, the plan is a bold first step towards renewing and reclaiming this extraordinary piece of property for the citizens of Jamestown.

In the 50 years that the town has owned Fort Getty, there has never been a coherent physical plan for the site. The Fort Getty Recreation Area, as it is now called, developed in an ad hoc fashion. Its roads and several structures date from the U. S. Army's use during World War II. The stone gate was built by German prisoners of war. Volunteers built the Rembijas Pavilion. Eagle Scout Drew Johnson created the Kit Wright Nature Trail. In the 1970s, when campers began to claim the hillside, the Town Council provided tire rims for campfires and soon thereafter the recreation department began to supervise and manage the facility. The RV campground, which dominates the park in summer, now contributes over $300,000 a year to the town of Jamestown's General Fund.

In 1994, the first Fort Getty Master Plan Committee offered several proposals, many of which were implemented. The most recent committee took the effort further, writing a critique of current conditions, developing a plan, and also providing a schedule and method by which to implement that plan. Essential to the task was a design that would interpret the town's hopes for the park. As the chair of the current Master Plan Committee, I believe Don Sharp has done a masterful job in helping us clarify and realize our goals.

The intent of this plan was clear: to improve access and use of this area for Jamestowners, primarily, as well as other users. We wanted to create a park of which Jamestown could be proud. To do so requires the reorganization of the RV campground. Currently, from Memorial Day to the beginning of October, the RV park sprawls all over the hill north of the batteries. The plan proposes shifting the campground to the east side of the hill and condensing it. The campground, which has suffered from neglect by the town, would have new electrical and water hookups, a separate access road and landscaped amenities. The west side of the hill, which is essentially the top of the hill, would become a park, a green space with views west, south, and north of Narragansett Bay. The current road that brings you into the park would be extended from the area by the Rembijas Pavilion to the current western-most road of the campground leading down to the boat ramp and pier. Other roads at the top of the hill would be eliminated. Tent camping would be re-organized and expanded to two sites, one near the batteries at the top of the hill and the other by the park's entrance.

This re-organization of the physical space is the major component of the plan, but it also includes many other features. It calls for the renovation of the Rembijas Pavilion and Battery Whiting, both of which could become facilities that bring in significant revenue. It includes new restrooms and upgrades to existing facilities, such as the gatehouse, as well as the creation of a maintenance facility for the recreation department, which currently keeps its equipment on the lawn by the park's entrance. Repairs to the boat ramp are currently proposed by the harbor commission, but the plan goes further to recommend a sailing facility to be located near the ramp. The pier would be upgraded and its outer reaches reserved for fishing. Parking would be reorganized and both the south and west facing beaches would be protected. Trees and shrubs would be planted throughout the park.

The town has already begun some of these efforts. Earlier this year, the town planner applied for a grant from state Department of Environmental Management for improving parking, restrooms, and protecting the beaches. Over the past 10 years, Fort Getty has contributed millions of dollars to the town of Jamestown, and received very little in return. It is a resource that pays for itself and a resource that deserves our attention. Please help us to make it a park of which we can all be proud.

Mary Meagher,

chairwoman, Fort Getty Master Plan

Committee

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