2012-06-21 / News

Panel discusses possible ACWS crowds

Conservationists want protection assured
BY MARGO SULLIVAN

Is Jamestown ready for the hordes of tourists expected for the America’s Cup World Series? Town Councilor Ellen Winsor, liaison to the Conservation Commission, said she has some concerns that town officials have not adequately prepared for the impact on conservation resources.

“I’m a little concerned about the World Series,” she said at the June 14 meeting. Two months ago, Winsor emailed Town Administrator Bruce Keiser and asked to gather the Conservation Commission and the Public Works, Fire and Police departments. The groups never met, and now the event is right around the corner, with practice races starting this week. (The event runs June 26 through July 1.)

She said that Keiser was due to deliver a report on the preparations during Monday’s Town Council meeting, and she wanted to alert the commissioners about the upcoming discussion.

Winsor referenced the fact that Fort Wetherill has been mentioned as a good vantage point to watch the races. No admission fee will be charged there, unlike at Fort Adams in Newport where race enthusiasts will need to buy a ticket.

There has been some concern about crowds arriving. Police Chief Ed Mello said previously at a Harbor Commission meeting that the Jamestown police will deal with crowd control. He suggested the officers might restrict the number of people allowed into Fort Wetherill.

However, Commissioner Michael Brown told the conservation panel he was doubtful there would be a problem. Brown said the races are spread out over several days, and therefore, he wouldn’t anticipate the crush of people who have swarmed over the island at past events, such as the fireworks display when the Queen Mary 2 was in the harbor, which was an event compressed into a couple of hours.

Brown also said the America’s Cup World Series has not sold as many advance tickets as organizers had hoped, and that may indicate the crowds are not, in reality, going to descend into Jamestown.

Conservation Chairwoman Carol Trocki said she would attend the June 18 Town Council meeting. She said she wanted to be ready to raise questions if Keiser’s plan did not address protecting the conservation resources that might be vulnerable.

In other business, with summer visitors expected to swell the downtown streets to see the Tall Ships and other attractions, the conservation commissioners said they hope to peddle a few trail guides, available in 2012 in two new locations: Cumberland Farms and West Side Liquors.

Commissioner Ted Smayda said he wants to add the Mobil station and the library to the list of shops where consumers can snap up the guides. The plan is to clear out the entire trail guide inventory by summer’s end, he said.

“I was hoping to exhaust our supply this summer,” Trocki said, and added that the trail guide could stand updating.

Commissioner Michael Brown suggested the next trail guide might be an app for a mobile phone. “It might be cool to do a modern version on the iPhone,” he said.

Trocki said the commissioners could discuss the options when they were closer to reprinting the trail guide. The original grant to produce the trail guide came from the state Department of Environmental Management. Smayda estimates the commission sells about 400 trail-guides annually – or roughly one a day.

“They fly out the door in the summertime,” Trocki said. According to Smayda, so far the commissioners have banked $2,213 from trail guide sales.

In other news, the Conservation Commission agreed to defer any discussion of the wind turbine until July – or after the Planning Commission has met again to discuss the issues. At its May meeting, the conservation panel said it was having second thoughts about its decision not to object to the Taylor Point turbine. Those concerns are due to questions that came up at a planning meeting about the length of the turbine’s blades. There is a possibility the turbine will encroach on conservation open space, the commissioners said previously.

The Conservation Commission also discussed the status of Mackerel Cove. Commissioner Patrick Driscoll, who has been spearheading the effort to restore the beach dunes, was unable to attend the June 16 meeting. But according to Trocki, state geologist John Boothroyd has agreed to visit Mackerel Cove and offer suggestions that might help save the beach. Trocki said she recently contacted Boothroyd, who is a Jamestown resident. Trocki also showed the panel maps of Mackerel Cove. The shoreline is indeed eroding, she said, as verified by aerial maps comparing the shoreline in 1939, again in 1975, and again in 2003.

“Mackerel Cove is getting narrower,” she said.

She suggested Boothroyd could help the commissioners determine a plan based on “what makes sense geologically” for Mackerel Cove.

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