Association embarks on a new year to improve the island
The Jamestown Shores Association held its first meeting of the year last night. The purpose of the meeting was social in nature, according to Co-President Ann Gagnon, with members getting together to discuss which issues are most important to them as they move forward this year.
“The purpose of the association is to be a cooperative group serving not only its members, but all residents of Jamestown,” Gagnon said, “and to support any matter that will enhance the lifestyle of residents in a friendly, neighborly atmosphere. To be involved in all issues affecting the environment, and all concerns that come before the government that are deemed beneficial to all of Jamestown.”
“Our concerns are clean water, septic issues, flood and drainage, and of course Lyme disease,” she added. “We have a Meet the Candidates Night whenever there is an election coming up.”
Among the organization’s most important concerns are the conservation lots that were returned to the Town of Jamestown for stewardship. These are lots that proved to be unbuildable for the owners, and were either purchased by the town or taken in lieu of unpaid real estate taxes. Some of the lots are presently being managed by organizations like the Conanicut Island Land Trust.
The association is also concerned with the care and upkeep of the Jamestown Shores Beach, which is now widely known as Head’s Beach. Originally the beach was provided strictly for the original residents of the Jamestown Shores subdivision, but it has since been opened up as a public beach. As such, the responsibility for its maintenance belongs to the town, but the neighborhood residents are still concerned with its upkeep.
The other pressing issue concerning the association is the protection of the island’s groundwater. Studies have shown that all of Conanicut Island’s drinkable water comes from rain and snow that falls on the island, and protection of this resource is of ultimate importance to all of the residents of the island.
Jamestown Shores is a subdivision that was laid out by Federal Land Building and Development Corporation in 1946. The neighborhood encompasses an area that is roughly bordered by Seaside Drive on the west, North Road on the east, Capstan Street on the north and Watson Farm on the south. Approximately 60 percent of Jamestown’s residents live in this area, and a comparable percentage of the island’s schoolchildren.
According to Gary Girard, a longtime Jamestown Shores resident and a past president of the association, in 1950 a group of about 12 to 14 neighbors, Girard’s parents among them, decided to band together to address their common concerns. An early concern was a toll of 90 cents each way on the old Jamestown Bridge. There were group discounts available, and the fledgling group was able to take advantage of them.
Among the other issues that the association has addressed over the years is the improvement of the area roads, which were originally dirt roads that were oiled over. There was no electricity in the Jamestown Shores area until the neighbors, led by Girard’s father, made a deal with the electric company to bring power to the area.
Shortly after the association was formed, the members decided that they would like to have a clubhouse where they could meet. They acquired some property, and then held raffles and bake sales to raise money to construct their building. In addition to being used as the association’s clubhouse, the building had a number of other uses over the years. In the late 1960s and early 1970s, the Jamestown Recreation Department used it to run summer programs. The Girl Scouts and Boy Scouts also used the building, and it was even used as a chapel for Sunday services. Eventually the association sold the building.
As more and more year-round residents moved into the area, more improvements were needed, and the Jamestown Shores Association spearheaded the effort to get them. In the 1990s, when the federal government was auctioning off land that included Head’s Beach, the Town of Jamestown bought it to make it a public beach.
In the late 1990s, the association opened its membership to any resident who lived north of the creek. “We did this because everyone north of that had wells and septic [systems], which is a big deal,” Girard said. “They had the same issues. We’re always interested in wells and well pollution, and septic and septic controls. They’re all neighborhood issues.”
At the turn of the century, the association voted to open the membership to the entire island, though most of the members still live in Jamestown Shores, or north of the creek.
Annual membership dues for the Jamestown Shores Association are $10. Next month’s meeting will feature a speaker from the Coastal Resources Management Council.