By MARTHA SMITH
Special to the Standard
NORTH KINGSTOWN – Last week the state’s Board of Governors for Higher Education voted to approve the federal government’s gift to URI of a small waterfront parcel on Allen’s Harbor, adjacent to the municipal marina.
Although the school has used the 1.8-acre site for 20 years – most recently as a base for its Ocean Engineering program – and some research vessels employ a dock there, the area has a rundown appearance.
At present, it resembles a rust-encrusted graveyard containing huge piles of corroded iron linkage and an enormous, pocked and scarred Quonset hut. Last Sunday, refreshment vendors at the marina noted that “you can’t miss” the site separated from their property and the roadway by chain-link fence, also rusted, because it’s an eyesore.
“The buildings are nothing to write home about,” concedes Robert A. Weygand, the university’s vice president of administration. “The Quonset hut is used to store ship’s equipment and materials, there’s a trailer we got free that’s a gathering point” for student’s receiving instruction in marine sciences, a bulkhead and a docking facility.
The tract is in a high-rent neighborhood, however, on a side street near the Port of Davisville where cars are imported from diverse locations and parked in vast lots. Under NORAD (North Atlantic Distribution), Davisville has become the nation’s seventh-largest car importer.
While the port maintains high-level security, the modest property soon to join URI’s
accumulated acreage isn’t so fortunate. Earlier this month an employee who is responsible for the compound reported to NK police that three propellers – one bronze and two stainless steel, valued at a total of $400 – had been stolen from an outdoor storage pallet preparatory to being auctioned.
He said thieves could have gained access from the water side of the property which is less secure than the western portion bordering Bruce Boyer Street, a paved road that loops past the marina and the RI field station. The water side is also shielded from street view by a stand of overgrown shrubs and vegetation at the southeastern end.
Despite its current derelict appearance, the site figures prominently in university plans. “What’s extremely valuable,” says Weygand, “is the potential of the land for further improvement for research and collaboration. It gives us a wonderful port facility for going out into Narragansett Bay and doing various testing and other kinds of scientific research.”
Desiring to offload its responsibility for the land, the federal Department of Education is deeding it to URI free – as long as the property is used for educational purposes. After 30 years of annual reviews, the university will assume full, unencumbered ownership.