Council backs numerous efforts to improve parks throughout East Providence

Approves two appropriations for certain, supports two others in future

By Mike Rego
Posted 12/8/21

EAST PROVIDENCE — The City Council at its two most recent gatherings, including its regularly scheduled December 7 meeting, approved significant funding for proposed improvements at four parks …

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Council backs numerous efforts to improve parks throughout East Providence

Approves two appropriations for certain, supports two others in future

Posted

EAST PROVIDENCE — The City Council at its two most recent gatherings, including its regularly scheduled December 7 meeting, approved significant funding for proposed improvements at four parks located throughout East Providence.

Last week, the council unanimously (5-0 vote) backed a pair of appropriations: $100,157 for the installation of lights at the George S. Lima Sr. Memorial Park at Hull Street Playground and $25,000 for improvements and repairs at the Kevin Robinson Memorial Skate Park at Onna Moniz-John/Central Avenue Park.

Both expenditures are being funded through the current Capital Improvements allocation of $2,796,905 approved by the council as part of the city’s overall Fiscal Year 2021-22 budget.

At-Large member Bob Rodericks was the initial sponsor of the Lima Park ordinance, later adding Ward 2 member Anna Sousa, in whose district Hull Street is situated, as a co-sponsor.

Rodericks said the effort to improve Lima/Hull Street was similar to those made recently in other areas of the city to the Little League diamonds at Pierce Field and the Kimberly Rock Complex. As well, he said other municipalities around the state have numerous lighted fields to by locals and that could potentially be rented out for tournaments, something here in East Providence “we’ve never really had that.”

Rodericks added the council and the administration of Mayor Bob DaSilva should be aggressive in addressing upgrades to parks because it has been lacking in the recent past and “while we can do it with monies available, grant funding available…We’re not supplanting other things or raising taxes, so let’s do it.”

The upgrades to Robinson Memorial Park, named for city native and deceased BMX superstar known to most as “K-Rob,” were necessary, in the words of lead sponsor and Ward 3 member Nate Cahoon, because the apparatus for skateboarding and bike riding have been “constantly in use” since they were initially installed five years ago have “started to show expected wear.”

Of the figure allocated, Cahoon said it was asked “how much it would cost to bring it back up to speed and $25,000 was just about the right amount.”

The ordinance was co-sponsored by Rodericks and, likewise later, by Sousa, in whose district the Moniz-John/Central Avenue Park is located.

Sousa said the expenditure was an “example of the investment in the parks that needs to done on a consistent basis,” while Rodericks said the community “owed” the allocation to K-Rob’s memory for all of the contributions and donations he made to the city during his lifetime.

At the second of two meetings held last month, November 16, the council supported the administration's efforts to apply for Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management Recreation Development Grant Program monies to fund two other initiatives.

The council agreed to commit the city to match $150,000 in funds potentially allocated by RIDEM for improvements to the Kent Heights Playground and $44,000 in matching funds for the design and installation of a splash pad for the Providence Avenue Park in Riverside off Bullocks Point Avenue.

According to City Planning and Economic Development Director Bill Fazioli the matching monies would also come from the FY21-22 Capital Budget.

The preliminary Kent Heights upgrade plan includes the construction of a “fútsal” (soccer) court, rebuilding and expansion of the existing footpath, installation of ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) accessible playground equipment and “crowning” of the land. Fazioli said much of the grassy open space at the location, which Rodericks reminded residents long ago once served as East Providence’s town dump before even the Forbes Street landfill was opened, does not drain properly.

The grant would also allow for the hiring of a landscape architect to consult on any proposed changes. Fazioli said the process, if approved by RIDEM, would include state and local permitting, review by the city Planning Board and “community engagement.” Fazioli added the final design for the drainage portion of the project may require the council to approve additional funds or it could possibly be done by parks department personnel in-house as has been the case with other similar endeavors.

Cahoon, who represents the area on the council, said, “I think this is sorely needed and a long time coming,” adding the Kent Heights park has “not been touched in real long time” and that the basketball and tennis courts have “taken a beating” over the years.”

Of the potential Providence Avenue splash pad project, Fazioli said the aim of the administration was to “replicate the success” of like efforts in recent summers at the Moniz-John/Central Avenue Park and at Pierce Field.

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