2009-04-23 / Front Page

Proposed bike path will connect islanders

By Erin Tiernan

It might get a little easier to enjoy Jamestown's natural beauty in the future. The Bike Path Design Committee presented a preliminary plan Monday night to the Town Council for construction of a public pathway that would connect the north end of the island with the commercial downtown.

The proposed 10-foot wide paved bike path would allow easier travel for north end residents into town, connecting them to restaurants, the library and retail shops, as well as offer residents an opportunity to embrace the island's environment.

Councilman and member of the Bike Path Design Committee Robert Sutton said the proposed area for the bike path is the center of the island where most conservation efforts have been focused to protect the land, farms and natural resources.

"The bike way is an important element of how people will get back the enjoyment of that environment," said Sutton. "The path can easily become a part of that without impacting it negatively."

The Rhode Island Department of Transportation recognized the need for a safe bike path in 2008 and has money available. Two separate routes have been identified so construction can be completed in phases as funding becomes possible.

The proposed east island route begins by North Pond, the town's reservoir, along an existing maintenance road and heads toward Eldred Avenue and the soccer fields. The route will connect to East Shore Road and end at Taylor Point where parking is available.

The north route, heading into town, is proposed to head south along the east side of North Main Road. At the water plant, the path will cross to the western side of the road and a raised boardwalk will allow the path to cross over the creek. Continuing along North Main Road, the path will connect to the ball fields and schools from Westwind Drive.

Due to heavy traffic and narrow shoulders along the sides of North Main Road, the design committee is working with local property owner Joe Dutra to see if the path can cross the Dutra's Farm to Weeden Lane and provide a safer course.

The proposed bike path design crosses over freshwater and saltwater wetlands, but Sutton said he thinks the pathway can be constructed with minimal impact to the surrounding environment's micro and macro elements and provide a safe route for people to bike and experience those natural resources.

Teen Employment

A teen work force will offer a summer job program for local teens to be hired by Jamestown residents for minimum wage.

Collaborating with the Teen Center Coordinator Debra Tungett, Councilwoman Barbara Szepatowski is working to create the employment opportunities for local teens this summer.

She said teenagers had approached her complaining of the lack of jobs available in retail and restaurants this year.

Through the program, teens will offer services such as window washing, lawn mowing, gardening, local party services and cleanup, cat and dog care and feeding, car washing, and help residents with other odd jobs. Jamestowners interested in hiring teens must register with the Teen Center and pay a $10 application fee. Teens will also need to complete an application, free of charge, with the Teen Center.

Police Chief Thomas Tighe also expressed interest in the idea. He suggested requesting a portion of the town's stimulus money to create a program where local teens who had previous negative encounters with police to work at the police station and with officers to encourage more positive interaction.

Jamestown police will assist in screening residents who wish to hire the teens and teen participants will have to sign a contract agreeing to zero tolerance for drinking alcohol, smoking tobacco, bullying, or doing illegal drugs on or off the job site. They will also be required to volunteer with the Conservation Commission. Teens will need their own transportation and parental permission slips will be required for participation.

Around town

Jamestown Emergency Medical Services submitted changes to the council in its memorandum of understanding. The current agreement expires on July 1 and JEMS wants to clarify when they will be dispatched and define duties and responsibilities for better interagency coordination of the town's three emergency response services. JEMS and the fire department are volunteer services.

Sutton recommended allowing the JEMS administration to clear up organizational discrepancies without a large public discussion that could potentially discourage volunteers.

Following up on the condition of the 90-year-old tree in front of Town Hall, Town Administrator Bruce Keiser added his support to the Tree Preservation and Protection Committee's recommendations for its removal.

He explained that the 5-foot cavity of decay has weakened the tree's structure and heavy winds could cause it to collapse and injure a person or property.

"It's better to take corrective action now rather than wait for an accident to occur," said Keiser.

The council unanimously voted to remove the diseased tree and replace it with a magnolia tree. The tree committee decided a magnolia wouldn't interfere with any structures or displace sidewalks because magnolias do not have surface running roots. They plan to plant the new tree tomorrow, Friday, April 24, in celebration of Arbor Day.

In light of the request at the April 6 meeting to display the Armenian flag, councilors discussed adopting a policy to prohibit all flags not officially recognized by the U.S. government.

Town Solicitor Peter Ruggiero recommended against adopting any policy and said the council could decide based upon the request. He explained this could potentially open them up to legal action, but will allow the council show support to causes they wish to endorse.

Ultimately the council decided not to adopt a flag policy and commented favorably on displaying the Armenian flag in the future.

Councilwoman Barbara Szepatowski warned island residents to be weary of the recent increase of theft and break-ins in the community. "People in Jamestown have a feeling of security and don't lock their doors," she said. "We all need to remember that times have changed."

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