2010-09-23 / Editorial

What should we do with our jewel in the rough?

We are fortunate that Conanicut Island is home to three wonderfully scenic waterfront parks: Ft. Wetherill, Beavertail and Ft. Getty. Of course, the first two parks are state owned and, for the most part, are fairly well utilized as public open space.

The third property, Ft. Getty, is owned by the Town of Jamestown and over the years has become somewhat of a white elephant. A recent community survey reflects that public opinion is varied as to what the town should do with the park. Ask 10 different people and you will likely receive 10 different opinions. Should the park continue as a campground or should camping be downsized? Should we build a community event center for indoor activities? Should we construct a community sailing center at the park? Maybe we need an outdoor amphitheater. Are there new sources of revenue that could be generated by the park?

At present, the park serves as a summer home to a number of seasonal campers and has an outdoor pavilion that is available to the public. Ft. Getty also provides water access to the public with a boat ramp and a wooden pier. There are also several nature trails.

In the 1990s, the Town Council tasked a committee with drafting a master plan for the park. That plan remains the subject of much discussion as to whether it represents a future for the park that the community desires.

If Ft. Getty is to continue as a campground, the facility will require serious capital investment. A $1 million bond would offset the $100,000 annual net that the town would realize from the campground over the coming decade.

The possibility looms large that Ft. Getty might become home to a town-owned wind turbine. The FAA recently rejected Taylor Point as a possible site for a community wind turbine. There is no doubt that a wind turbine would have a huge impact on the park.

It has been suggested that the town should conduct a community-wide charrette concerning the future of Ft. Getty. Such a charrette would be similar to the discussion that we had in Jamestown over the new zoning ordinance and our “vision” for the town in the years ahead. Many people participated in that collective effort.

We need an earnest give-and-take over the future of Ft. Getty. The property is a true jewel in the rough and is under-utilized by island residents. What do you think?

— Jeff McDonough

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