2012-06-28 / Front Page

American boat currently in first by a small margin

BY KEN SHANE

The America’s Cup World Series is in Newport this week, and local and state officials are taking all of the necessary steps to ensure that Jamestown is not overrun by visitors hoping to get a view of the event from Fort Wetherill.

Official racing begins Thursday, June 28, but the largest crowds are expected on Friday, Saturday and Sunday. Fort Wetherill offers prime vantage points of the starting line – particularly if the prevailing southwest wind is in place – from the boat basin and from the cliffs above. For that reason, the Jamestown police, state police and the state Department of Environmental Management will closely monitor the number of cars and spectators at the fort.

According to Robert Paquette, chief of the parks division for the DEM, his department will bring in additional rangers from other areas to patrol the park. The number of spectators in the prime viewing areas will be limited, and once those areas are full, Jamestown police will be informed, and they will close down access to the area.

“Arrive early, because the spaces will fill up quickly,” Paquette advised potential spectators. “Once we fill up we will not accommodate anyone. We’re concerned about safety. That’s our largest concern.”

Jamestown Police Chief Ed Mello has been working closely with the logistics subcommittee of the state America’s Cup World Series Host Committee to ensure a problem-free weekend for Conanicut Island. Mello said that he plans to add police officers at various intersections in town to control traffic during the busiest hours. Mello said that the Police Department and the state Department of Transportation will work together.

“They are deploying a number of those digital-message boards along Route 138,” he said. “There are two keys locations that we’re looking at on Route 138 eastbound, just prior to both exits. In the event that Fort Wetherill becomes full, we’ll be able to change that message to divert traffic into satellite lots in Newport.”

Mello also said that police offi cers will enforce temporary parking bans during the event. Through Sunday, in addition to normal restrictions, no parking will be allowed from noon until 6 p.m. on Fort Wetherill Road, Dumpling Drive, Newport Street and Racquet Road. There will also be parking bans on those days and times on Walcott Avenue, from Racquet Road south to the end of the street; on Blueberry Lane, from Walcott Avenue 300 yards east; and on Highland Drive, from Walcott Avenue 300 yards south.

“The viewing capacity at Fort Wetherill far exceeds the parking capacity,” Mello said. “There is parking at [Fort Wetherill], so we don’t want people parking on the street. We have to have a way of managing the viewers there, and that’s how we’re going to do it.”

According to Mello, there will be extra officers on duty from both the Jamestown and North Kingstown police forces.

While the authorities are concerned about the influx of visitors to the area, Jamestown residents are of primary concern. Mello said that the actual racing will be limited to a few hours in the afternoon. Based on that schedule, he recommended that local residents should take that into account when they plan to do any driving.

Many people in Jamestown recall the difficult situation that occurred when the Queen Mary 2 visited Newport in 2005. According to Mello, steps have been taken to avoid a recurrence, particularly the plan to divert traffic when Fort Wetherill reaches capacity.

Town Administrator Bruce Keiser has also been working with the logistics team for the last few months. Keiser said that the basic strategy is to provide the public with information as they cross the Jamestown Bridge. Toward that goal there will be a state police officer at the base of the bridge, along with a digital-traffic sign, which will indicate whether or not there is any parking remaining at Fort Wetherill.

“If there is no capacity remaining, drivers will be informed by both a digital readout and the state police officer to continue on to one of the satellite lots in Newport,” Keiser said. “We’re hoping that by providing information people are not going to risk coming on the island and risk not being able to park at Fort Wetherill.”

Keiser said the capacity for viewers at Fort Wetherill is very limited, as is the parking, particularly at the fishery facilities. Police officers and DEM staff will turn away any cars that turn up after capacity is reached. There will be no other designated parking anywhere in Jamestown for the purpose of watching the race.

“We will have an additional seven officers, beyond our normal staffing, to ensure that people aren’t parking along any public rights-of-way where there is no parking,” Keiser said. “To sum up, we will have additional manpower, both from the town and the state police, and DEM to control crowds and provide information.”

Keiser added that the state will pay for all overtime for police offi cers.

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