Letter: State has a history of misusing precious properties

Posted 3/25/21

My wife Gail and I have walked in Colt State Park with a small group of other health-conscious Bristolians for nearly three decades. Our trip through this beautiful park takes us by the massive Colt …

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Letter: State has a history of misusing precious properties

Posted

My wife Gail and I have walked in Colt State Park with a small group of other health-conscious Bristolians for nearly three decades. Our trip through this beautiful park takes us by the massive Colt Barn, modeled after those in France’s Loire Valley. Here Colonel Samuel Colt kept his prize animals.

The March 18 Phoenix contained a photo by Richard Dionne, Jr. depicting the final touches of a $2 million renovation of this historic structure. We applaud that project because of our support for historic preservation. However, the project’s downside disappoints us.

The unimaginative Department of Environmental (Mis) Management uses this architectural barn for a small park office while its vast remainder is dedicated to the storage of picnic tables and equipment. Can’t these state bureaucrats and technocrats find a more publicly beneficial use for this jewel in the setting of Colt State Park?

Our request to put a Rhode Island Heritage Hall of Fame Museum in that building was summarily denied by DEM in 2017. This characteristic misuse of a state historical asset reminds us of the reason why our attempt to revitalize the Allens Avenue waterfront in Providence failed. DEM sold State Pier No. 1, adjacent to our development, to a tenant for $1.138 million in 2009.

A year later the tenant, after blocking rezoning to mixed use, flipped the property to a huge scrap metal company for $12.8 million. This transaction netted the tenant a profit of $11.5 million via the resale of state land that had been held in trust by DEM. This spin was not only for the land and dock. State Pier No.1 was Rhode Island’s Ellis Island, where 84,000 Southern Europeans, mainly Portuguese and Italians, had arrived in America.

We had proposed a Rhode Island Ethnic Heritage Museum for the site. Now, thanks to DEM, it is a toxic and unsightly scrap yard blighting the waterfront and obstructing its development.

Patrick and Gail Conley
Bristol

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