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HOPKINTON - The Rhode Island Welcome Center, which sits on the northbound side of Route 95 in between Exits 2 and 3, was officially closed on Thursday, Sept. 29.
According to a letter from Rhode Island Economic Development Corp. (RIEDC) Executive Director Keith Stokes to both the Rhode Island Senate and House of Representatives, the Welcome Center was closed because of funding shortages and a decreasing number of visitors
â€śThe Welcome Center has served Rhode island visitors extremely well for many years by providing information and resources to help make their trip to the Ocean State fun and memorable,â€ť the letter said, â€śbut technologies like the new Visit Rhode Island Mobile App and the stateâ€™s tourism website (www.visitrhodeisland.com), developed by the tourism division, have allowed travelers to find places to go and things to do online which has lead to a steady reduction of foot traffic coming through the facility.â€ť
The Welcome Center rests on state-owned property, so while it was managed by RIEDCâ€™s Tourism Division, it was funded through a Rhode Island Dept. of Transportation (RIDOT) allocation, according to the letter. That allocation was scaled back in the stateâ€™s most recent budget, which allowed the Welcome Center to stay open as long as it did, but it is not sufficient in keeping the center open moving forward.
Also according to the letter, the closure of the Welcome Center resulted in the elimination of three full-time and three part-time positions.
State Representative Brian Patrick Kennedy (D-38, Hopkinton, Westerly) was disappointed by the decision to close the Welcome Center.
â€śItâ€™s a new era for travelers utilizing computer and cell phone technology,â€ť he said, â€śbut itâ€™s sad to think that Rhode Island will be one of the few states in the country without an official welcome center rest area.â€ť
For more information, pick up a copy of The Chariho Times.