NORTH KINGSTOWN – Ryan Park, a 350-acre public park on Oak Hill Road, was recently selected to receive an $88,000 upgrade courtesy of the Rhode Island Departments of Environmental Management (RIDEM) and Transportation’s (RIDOT) recreational trail grants. The program, which is federally funded, this week awarded $1.4 million in grants to 22 projects that will improve quality and conditions of trails and public parks across the state.
“Our state’s vast network of recreational trails enhances the enjoyment of Rhode Island’s tremendous natural resources and provides an opportunity for people of all ages to enjoy nature and get fit by taking a walk or a hike in a peaceful, relaxing setting,” said Governor Dan McKee. “It is a pleasure to award these federal grants to develop new recreational trails and hiking paths and make needed upgrades to existing facilities in communities across Rhode Island.”
As part of the project, Ryan Park will now receive trail markers, improvements to the pedestrian crossing signage near the ballfields, bicycle racks, trailhead improvements, kiosks, vegetation maintenance and trimmings, trail resurfacing, interpretive markers and pet waste stations. The funding also includes limited clearing to incorporate a loop for the North Kingstown cross-country team.
On AllTrails.com, a popular website for hiking that provides maps and other user-generated information, a frequent complaint pertaining to Ryan Park was its lack of trail signage. There is a 2.1-mile loop at the park and other, smaller trails that split off from the main path. The space also includes a large pond, athletic fields, boat-ramp access, a playground and picnic tables.
“These grants will enhance and upgrade existing nature trails and hiking paths and create new opportunities for public trail access sites throughout Rhode Island,” said Lt. Governor Sabina Matos. “Spending time in nature is not only good for the body, but for the mind. Time spent outdoors has been proven to reduce stress and anxiety, and being able to provide that for Rhode Islanders will only go to improve our residents’ quality of life.”
“Rhode Island is fortunate to enjoy a strong network of active municipalities and non-profit organizations seeking to provide new and expanded opportunities for Rhode Islanders to explore the beauty of our state’s natural areas and woodlands,” said RIDEM Acting Director Terry Gray, PE. “DEM and DOT staff work closely with Federal Highway Administration representatives to support these many wonderful projects.”
The grants will provide up to 80 percent of the cost for eligible project components that promote and enhance trail-based recreation. The grant application period opened last winter and the Trails Advisory Committee, which includes representatives of trail user groups as well as State agencies, conducted detailed analyses of each proposal before selecting awardees.
Under the program, Forth Wetherill in Jamestown will also receive improvements - $99,000 for trail improvement. An additional $67,600 was awarded for the development of an environmentally sensitive and handicap-accessible boardwalk totaling 450 feet over a wet area at Hull Cove in Jamestown. Beaver Flood Trail in Hopkinton is set to received $58,000 for a similar project. The Richmond Rural Land Preservation Trust will receive about $76,000 for construction of an access road and parking area from Chelsea Farm to Sailea Preserve. $48,000 is being put toward the restoration of an approximately 18-mile segment of the Narragansett Trail, a 44-mile long hiking trail in the Wood-Pawcatuck watershed. The project also will improve parking and signage at Narragansett trail, Canochet Preserve trail, and Hoxie Farm trail in Hopkinton.
Finally, Greene Nature Trail in Warwick will receive $85,000 for safe pedestrian access - expanded paved parking and pathways, overlooks and picnic areas, benches, educational and way finding signage and fencing and bollards.
According to RIDEM, outdoor recreation in Rhode Island generates $3.3 billion per year and supports 36,000 jobs.
RIDEM’s Green Space programs – which include Recreational Trails, Outdoor Recreation, and Local Open Space grants – fund land conservation, recreational land acquisition and development, and recreational trail development and improvements statewide. Rhode Island’s historic parks, bikeways, and green spaces provide opportunity for public enjoyment – in addition to improving the health of the environment, strengthening the state’s climate resilience, and supporting the economy.