2007-04-26 / News

Memorial benches at Wetherill add viewing comfort for visitors

By Michaela Kennedy

Ft. Wetherill State Park has some new additions at its most scenic point. Memorial benches accent the top of the park's hill along the cliff overlooking the water. The benches help to make life a little more comfortable for visitors enjoying a relaxed view of the mouth of Narragansett Bay.

The state division of parks and recreation, part of the Department of Environmental Management, has installed memorial benches at three state-owned parks in recent years.

"We try to put them in places where people can sit and enjoy some really great views," said state parks superintendent Steve Wright. At present, benches have been introduced at Colt State Park in Bristol and Ft. Adams in Newport, as well as Ft. Wetherill.

Wright said that for many years, requests for memorial trees poured into the DEM office. "We were inundated with families who have enjoyed our state beaches or parks. We did not want to turn anyone away, but every tree needs a plaque and it was getting out of hand," Wright said. The bench program has now replaced tree plantings for memorials.

The state recreation department came up with the bench program as an alternative to tree plantings in the last three years or so, and the idea blossomed. State workers went on to research and identify the hardiest materials for the outside benches. "We decided on cast iron, with heavy baked-on enamel," Wright said. So far, the longevity of the seats has been good, with little worry of vandalism.

A remembrance touches the hearts of people who have memories of going out to the state parks with their mom or dad, Wright continued. The benches provide comfort for those who made the purchase when they see others enjoying them also.

Wright explained the process of ordering a memorial bench. A family member contacts the state parks office and is given information on how to order the bench. The family then meets with the supplier of park equipment. "Once they've made the purchase, we will install them. The family agrees on the location," Wright said. The state provides the concrete foundation.

The program has become so popular that state park managers are considering other possible sites for bench installations. State sites such as Goddard Park, East Bay Bike Path and Lincoln Woods may soon see benches of their own.

The park managers are also keeping a close inventory on the number of bench installations, however. Wright warned that with so many requests coming to the parks office already, the program may quickly become saturated.

The state parks superintendent stressed the importance of visual beauty, noting sensitivity to the view corridor and what people enjoy. "There's a fine line between a comfortable place to relax and visual pollution," he remarked. "Landscape is very important, and generations of people come to visit."

Inquiries for the memorial bench program start at the state parks management level. For information, Steve Wright may be reached by telephone at 222-2632 or by e-mail at riparks@earthlink.net. For general information about Rhode Island state parks, visit online at www.riparks.com.

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