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RI Coastal Resources Management Council preserve, protect, develop, and restore coastal resources for all Rhode Islanders

Brown boathouse expansion results in improved public access at India Point Park

The saying goes that necessity is the mother of all invention, and Brown University and the City of Providence embody that colloquialism.

The university’s Department of Facilities Management and rowing team, along with the City of Providence, will improve the walkway along the Seekonk River at India Point Park as part of Brown University’s permit from the R.I. Coastal Resources Management to add more bulkhead, a new pier, ramp and floats at the Marston Boathouse.

“This collaboration was a win-win from the beginning,” said Danni Goulet, CRMC’s marine infrastructure coordinator, who worked on the project. “Brown needed to expand, and the city needed their walkway repaired. Everyone benefits from this project, and it satisfies our program requirements.”

According to the university, its rowing program has expanded significantly and the waterfront infrastructure has not kept pace. The limited space currently requires coach-operated boats or launches to raft alongside each other, which means coaches have to climb across multiple boats to reach the dock or the outermost vessel.

The CRMC at its June 12 meeting approved the university’s application to construct 139 linear feet of new replacement bulkhead along the seaward edge of its existing bulkhead; to maintain 80 linear feet of existing riprap revetment by removing remnant pilings and debris and adding more stone to repair the slope; renovate and expand the existing pier by 351 square feet; install a new 30-foot by 30-foot ramp and shift the existing end float 25 feet seaward; add a 240-square-foot float to the south side of the end float; and add two new floating docks with gangways on the interior side of the end float for additional launches.

All of this work, under the Rhode Island Coastal Resources Management Program (RICRMP or Red Book) required the submission of a public access plan (RICRMP Section 1.3.6 requires that commercial redevelopment projects and marina expansions submit a public access plan). Brown University originally submitted a variance, or relief, from the public access requirement because of limited space and security concerns with members of the public accessing their boathouse docks.

During the time that the proposed work was being evaluated by the CRMC professional staff, an opportunity presented itself, however. Staff worked with the university and the city to develop an off-site public access improvement plan, which is permissible under the section referenced above. Through this cooperation, the university will work with the city to relocate and repair an existing public walkway which has been damaged by tidal erosion at India Point Park, just south of the university project site.

“India Point Park is not only a neighborhood park for the surrounding community, but a destination for visitors from near and far,” said Wendy Nilsson, superintendent for the City of Providence’s Parks Department. “It offers the only expanse of Bay shoreline open to the public in Providence and serves more than 150,000 people annually. Restoring the shoreline, providing safe public access, and preventing further deterioration take a coordinated effort. The Providence Parks Department, Friends of India Point Park, Save The Bay, CRMC, Brown University, Providence Boating Center, and NOAA (National Ocean and Atmospheric Administration) are all key partners in this project that will ensure that the park will be more climate resilient and better able to endure the assault that nature will inevitably bring.”


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