Tight squeeze: Tiverton gets new boat ramp


A driver had best be adept at backing a trailer before attempting the new Tiverton boat ramp beneath the Sakonnet River Bridge.

So say some who have taken a look at the facility that was built recently in the vicinity of the former Sakonnet Boathouse kayak shop on Riverside Drive property used more recently by the state as a staging site for bridge construction. The ramp had not yet been opened for public use as of Monday.

"Tiverton's new canoe ramp," a passing truck driver remarked as a Times photographer snapped pictures of the ramp last Thursday.

The ramp measures 12 feet wide by 60 feet long, says state Department of Transportation spokesman Bryan Lucier. BuiIt as part of the bridge project at a cost of $554,000, it includes a fishing pier and two floating docks that are six and seven feet wide respectively.

"There are five handicapped parking spaces at the fishing pier, five parking spaces just north of the RIDOT field office, two 'get ready' spaces before the ramp and two 'tie down' spaces after the ramp. Across Riverside Drive, there are 20 more parking spaces, 10 for vehicles with trailers and 10 for vehicles without," he added.

The site was chosen, Mr. Lucier said, because it had the necessary state-right-of-way and sufficient parking space for trailers and vehicles.

"The water is also deeper on the Tiverton shore at this site, which used to be a marina facility and fishing dock that served lobster boats," Mr. Lucier said.

He added, "We also considered the fact that the Tiverton side was more commercial in nature compared to the Portsmouth side which has residential homes and did not offer any areas for parking.

With the town's only other public ramp well to the south at Fogland, boaters have long asked for a ramp in the Tiverton Basin area. As part of the bridge project, the DOT pledged to provide such a ramp when it no longer needed that stretch of water for bridge work.

But some boaters who have contacted the Sakonnet Times are less than thrilled with the result.

Some, though not all, appreciated the amount of parking, but all complained that the ramp's narrow width makes backing down with a wide trailer difficult.

• It looks hard hard to back down but it's also going to be tricky to nose into," said a Tiverton man. "You'll have to line up perfectly in a side current that can be really bad."

• It’s so narrow, that the users are going to have to be pretty well skilled at backing down straight," wrote a Little Compton resident. "I’ve used many ramps in this state in 30-plus years of trailering my boat to work and this ramp leaves me wondering — what were they thinking? I even wonder about opening the vehicle’s door once on it."

• Said Tiverton resident Tom Mills, "I call to your attention the new boat ramp under the east end of the new Sakonnet Bridge. It is so narrow and poorly designed that it's almost useless. In my opinion a huge waste of taxpayer dollars and an example of how screwed up the RIDOT or whoever designed it is."

• Bob Parent said he was looking forward to a new ramp with ample parking and handicap access. "Well I was at Riverside Bait the other day and asked where the new ramp is. They laughed and pointed to the south. Funny I didn't see it when I drove in .. It's not very user friendly. At 11 feet wide and minimum parking it certainly is disappointing. As for the handicap accessibility I don't see how that's going to work. It's beautiful in appearance, it looks expensive, but it is in my opinion a token ramp best suited for kayaks. Before the bridge, quahoggers used the ramp at Riverside Bait and there was enough parking for those who worked the waters. Now the parking is limited, the ramp is difficult to use, and there is no longer parking for the Riverside Bait ramp … Poor location for a ramp, terrible design, and a waste of state $$$."

Mr. Lucier, however, said the design meets standards "outlined in the Design Handbook for Recreational Boating and Fishing Facilities, issued by the States Organization For Boating Access and followed by the R.I. Department of Environmental Management.

Regarding ramp width, that handbook only states that, "Launching ramps intended for multiple simultaneous launchings should be divided into lanes generally 12 to 20 feet wide and free of obstructions.

It also states that ramps should "provide maneuvering room ample enough to allow vehicle-trailers to line up with the launching ramp." Ramps should also have  no more than a 12 to 15 percent slope.

Most states set limits of 8.5-foot widths for trailerable boats and about the same for their trailers (for that reason many boats are precisely that wide. But commercial boat haulers can get permits to tow wider boats — and they often launch them at public ramps.


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Jim McGaw

A lifelong Portsmouth resident, Jim graduated from Portsmouth High School in 1982 and earned a journalism degree from the University of Rhode Island in 1986. He's worked two different stints at East Bay Newspapers, for a total of 18 years with the company so far. When not running all over town bringing you the news from Portsmouth, Jim listens to lots and lots and lots of music, watches obscure silent films from the '20s and usually has three books going at once. He also loves to cook crazy New Orleans dishes for his wife of 25 years, Michelle, and their two sons, Jake and Max.