The value of Rhode Island’s network of beaches and parks, green spaces, and waterways goes beyond beautiful places and recreational opportunities for public enjoyment. This network is important to the state’s economy and ability to attract people and businesses. The health of Narragansett Bay and our local waters is central to our environment, way of life, and economy in Rhode Island. Each year, our state beaches and parks delight millions of visitors and generate jobs and revenue that support state and local economies, while our farms support the continued growth of our vibrant food sector. This proposed bond invests in our state beaches and parks, outdoor recreation, farmland and forested land, water quality, and community resilience.
STATE BEACHES, PARKS & CAMPGROUNDS: $40 MILLION investment for major capital improvements to state beaches, parks and campgrounds and development of a park on the former I-195 lands in Providence. Improvements will likely include new or upgraded facilities at Goddard Park beach, Roger Wheeler Beach, Scarborough State Beach, Misquamicut State Beach, Brenton State Park, and state campgrounds. Rhode Island’s state park network attracts upwards of nine million visitors each year and hosts high-profile national and international events such as Newport Folk and Jazz Festivals. They also are an important contributor to the state’s economy and ability to attract new people and businesses to Rhode Island. Each year, our parks contribute an estimated $312 million of economic output and support over 3,700 jobs. This proposed bond’s once-in-a-generation investment in our beaches, campgrounds, and parks will fund needed improvements and ensure that our children and grandchildren can enjoy the best Rhode Island has to offer.
CLEAN WATER & DRINKING WATER: $15 MILLION in matching funds for the Clean and Drinking Water State Revolving Funds to ensure our drinking and recreational waters – including Narragansett Bay – are clean and safe. Matching funds will unlock close to $74 million in federal funds and an additional $175-$250 million in private sector capital. This infusion will create jobs and support a variety of projects including drinking water and wastewater treatment upgrades, stormwater quality improvements, combined sewer overflow abatement projects, water distribution system upgrades, and repairs to aging sewers.
LOCAL RECREATION: $4 MILLION in matching grants to create new and improve existing community parks and recreation facilities. Studies show access to green space improves health, promotes stronger social ties, and enhances neighborhood satisfaction and pride. Previous grant rounds received requests totaling twice the available funds. Since the inception of the program in 1988, DEM has awarded 519 grants totaling $73 million in investments in all 39 of RI’s cities and towns.
NATURAL & WORKING LANDS: $3 MILLION to conserve forested land and farmland. This program will protect farmland, enabling farmers to stay in business and keeping land productive – that supports our local food system and provides jobs. Since 2010, we have leveraged nearly 75% partner funding on farmland projects. This program will also protect forested lands and the associated economic and ecosystem benefits. Rhode Island forests provide significant air quality benefits to the state, play an important role in keeping Rhode Island’s waterways safe and clean, and sequester 500,000 metric tons of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere each year. In addition, Rhode Island’s forest-based recreation economy generates approximately $375 million annually.
MUNICIPAL RESILIENCE PROGRAM: $7 MILLION to help local communities restore and improve resiliency of vulnerable coastal habitats, rivers and stream floodplains, and infrastructure. This investment will fund matching grants up to 75% to directly support Rhode Island’s cities and towns to identify top hazards, improve community resiliency, and strengthen public safety in the face of increased flooding and more frequent and more intense storm events driven by climate change. The Municipal Resilience Program has already been successful in identifying strategies and providing action grants to implement projects in five communities. This funding will unlock additional resources for those communities and allow 20 additional municipalities to participate in the program over the next two years.