2012-09-27 / News

‘The Rock’– although not as historic as once thought – is safe

Town officials say boulder was moved there in 1979
BY KEN SHANE

For the last few month there has been a lot of discussion about a certain rock that is lying near the town beach at East Ferry. As it turns out, the rock may not be quite as historic as previously thought.

The story began when Hurricane Irene, by then a tropical storm, visited the area in 2011. As a result of the storm, the East Ferry seawall that protects Jamestown from flooding as a result of storm surge was damaged. The seawall in the Dumplings area was also damaged, but it was determined that the repairs there could be made by the Public Works Department.

However, the damage at East Ferry was more severe. In May, the Town Council began seeking bids from outside contractors to repair the wall. At the same time the council determined that the cost of the project would be divided evenly between the town’s general fund and the Harbor Commission, and that the cost would not exceed $500,000.

The project went out to bid in early August, with a deadline for submission of Aug. 28. That’s when things began to get interesting. At a Town Council meeting, Town Engineer Mike Gray mentioned that a certain rock was in the way and the contractor wouldn’t be able to being work. He said that something would have to be done about it.

“Because of its size, we put it in the specifications for the construction of the new wall,” Gray said. “We didn’t want it to be a change order. Essentially we asked that the contractor be aware of the rock, and that they must either move it or do whatever they have to do to construct the new wall.”

The reaction to the possible destruction of the rock was quick and somewhat overblown. Council President Michael Schnack went so far as to compare the rock in question to Plymouth Rock – although he admits he was kidding with his remark. When Gray reiterated that the rock had to be dealt with, Schnack asked him to change the plan for the repair. Gray agreed to seek alternatives.

At the same meeting the council voted to award the bid to Cardi Corporation of Warwick at a price of $398,805. Cardi was not the lowest bidder, but Gray said that he had disqualified two lower bidders because they “had not been responsive” to bid specifications. It was hoped that work could begin by Sept. 28.

Last week it was reported that Gray was trying to determine if it was feasible to move the large boulder. Meanwhile, according to Rosemary Enright of the Jamestown Historical Society, no photos could be found of the rock in its present location from the late 1800s or the early part of the 20th century. Since then, the reason for the absence of any photographs has become apparent.

According to former Public Works Director Steve Goslee, the rock in question was uncovered during sewer construction in East Ferry, and moved to its present location during the final cleanup of that work. Goslee estimates the date as August 1979.

It is thought that the rock was originally dug up just south of the BankNewport location on Conanicus Avenue during the sewer project, and removed to its present location by Gilbane Construction, the company doing the sewer work, using a large backhoe. Gray confirmed Goslee’s information.

So it has now become apparent that the entire history of the rock in question in its present location is just more than 30 years. Although the rock really isn’t famous (Top photo) A bird’s-eye view looking north at East Ferry in 1920. The stone is absent in the photo. (Middle photo) Adam Donaldson of Baltimore plays on the rock as a child growing up in Jamestown in the early 1980s. When visiting his grandparents on Pemberton Avenue, Donaldson’s 4-year-old son plays on the boulder. (Bottom photo) From left, Jose and Jayda Rios watch from the rock as the Lynx scuttles into East Harbor earlier this month. after all, Gray is confident that it will not be destroyed, but merely moved so that the contractors can begin work.

“I’m confident that it can just be pushed aside,” Gray said. “We had to make them aware of the rock so that we didn’t get hit with a change order later. When we put the bid package together it just made them aware that there is a large rock there.”

In case anyone remains concerned, Gray reiterated that the intention is not to destroy the rock. He said that he does not think that the contractor would want to go through the expense of splitting the rock, or breaking it up somehow.

“They just want to move it,” Gray said. “But we needed to make sure that they were aware of it so that there is the ability to deal with it. They’ll just move it so that they can excavate for the footing and put in the new wall. The intention of the project was never to get rid of the rock.”

Technically, it is possible, although highly unlikely, that the contractor will choose to destroy the rock, even though that option doesn’t make sense economically. So it appears that the not-so-old rock is safe for the foreseeable future, which will be a relief to a number of concerned citizens who were fearing the worst.

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