Fort Getty fees should be raised gradually
Jamestown is a rare place occupying an environmental niche that is amazingly beautiful and requires careful stewardship. After Native Americans, the population began as fishermen, farmers and people who catered to summer residents. Our history is as guardians of a place where few lived year round and where our numbers doubled in the summer. We now house a greater number of year-round residents who have migrated to this small island because of its peaceful nature.
This migration has not always been positive. It has created a rift between people whose families have served this island for decades, some even a century or more, and newcomers who believe they are more entitled by virtue of the purse strings they pull.
The issue of Fort Getty has recently become a battle zone for this divergence of philosophical differences.
The grounds at Fort Getty were deeded to Jamestown with the proviso that it remains a park serving all residents of Rhode Island. We have opened our island to nonislanders who make an annual pilgrimage to our beaches for summer recreation. Suddenly we want to turn them out.
While I agree that the campgrounds at Fort Getty seem out of hand in their sprawl and clutter, it is our fault for not being attentive to the situation. We should make changes in the management of this area both physically and fiscally. We, and our guests, would find this change easier to swallow if it came in smaller increments.
In these economic times, a 22 percent increase in any bill is overwhelming. While I concur that we have not been charging enough for the privilege of camping on this island, it would be less shock if the fee was raised in smaller increments over three years. We should continue to re-evaluate the amount to keep in line with similar Rhode Island facilities on an annual basis after that.
Likewise, I would favor making changes to Fort Getty’s footprint in a gradual way. We need a “master plan” that outlines which things will be addressed in these next few years and defines the goals for the park’s future. While I favor affordable instructional and recreational programs for island youth, I know others have different goals.
Since the purveyance of the park falls within the operations of the Recreation Department, I feel we should be looking more to them for guidelines, and less to the Town Council.
I believe we should bring staff on board to oversee just our parks. We need someone who can manage before, during and after the season, and who will be present on site daily during the season.
The previous council was accused of moving on this issue “too quickly,” “too slowly” and “without foresight.” It created a negative electoral environment and resulted in an entirely new council. I’m looking for the new council to show they are ready to pursue a more judicious pace and not make errors they faulted the previous council with.