Workshop on Fort Getty not biased
It’s great that so many people are talking about Fort Getty. Over 100 people participated in the town’s Fort Getty workshop a month ago. And on a beautiful Saturday afternoon in June, 35 folks ventured indoors to the library to talk about the future of the park. The Friends of Fort Getty is a group of people of different opinions, all of whom care about the park.
In her Viewpoint last week, Valerie Malloy called herself a Friend of Fort Getty. As a fellow member of that ad hoc group, I was dismayed by the tone of her remarks. She describes folks with whom she disagrees as “elitists” and “special interests.” She dismisses the workshop and the residents who voted in it as “biased.” The workshop was open to the public and the people who came to participate are the people who care. That’s not biased, that’s a requirement for democracy.
I know we all use rhetorical flourishes to make a point. I do it myself, especially in reference to elected public officials. But Malloy’s assertions do an injustice to the facts. For many years, Fort Getty has delivered between $250,000 and $325,000 in net revenue per year to the town’s general fund. This money is not specifically targeted for the Parks and Recreation Department. Three quarters of the revenue comes from 84 seasonal RV campers, some of whom also pay to keep their boats at the park. Last year, all but two of the boats parked at Fort Getty belonged to campers.
This revenue represents between 12 and 16 cents on the tax rate. If it didn’t exist, the average Jamestown homeowner would pay between $40 to $60 more in taxes. This past year, the Town Council put $100,000 in the budget for the Fort Getty Capital Improvement Fund, so the average homeowner paid an extra $20 to specifically support this effort.
Town Engineer Mike Gray developed a list of Fort Getty improvements and costs for the Town Council. They include $330,000 for electrical upgrades to the RV campsites and $253,000 to extend the water main to the park. The cost for improving water lines to individual RV campsites depends on who does the work, the Department of Public Works or a private contractor. If done by a private contractor, Gray estimates it would cost $450,000.
Mallory states that, “Reliable sources say the much promoted sailing center would be more like a big bucks quasi yacht club.” In fact, the town just received an offer from Meg Myles and Hannah Swett of the Conanicut Island Sailing Foundation, a local nonprofit, to start a small sailing program at Fort Getty. Free sailing for anyone who comes one evening per week, and there will also be programs about windsurfing and paddle boarding. Starting small to see how it goes, they aren’t asking for a building, just enthusiasm to be out on the water. For an island community, that seems like a great idea.
Fort Getty is a jewel and worthy of our attention. In our Friends of Fort Getty meetings, we have found there is no need to call people names or dismiss their ideas. Fort Getty is too important to leave anyone out of the discussion.
Friends of Fort Getty